Canada to apologize for turning away Jews fleeing Nazi Germany

Canada will apologize for refusing to admit Jewish asylum seekers fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said (AFP Photo/Lars Hagberg)
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Ottawa (AFP) - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he will apologize for Canada's refusal to admit Jewish asylum seekers fleeing Nazi Germany just months before the start of World War II.

On May 13, 1939 the ocean liner MS St. Louis departed Germany with 907 German Jews aboard and crossed the Atlantic Ocean "desperate for safety and refuge from persecution," according to a statement from Trudeau's office.

The passengers however were not allowed to disembark at the ship's first destination, Cuba, and were subsequently denied entry in the United States, and Canada -- due to "discriminatory 'none is too many' immigration policy of the time," the statement read.

Forced to return to Europe, many of the passengers were sent to concentration camps, and 254 died in the Holocaust.

The date for the apology on the floor of the House of Commons has not yet been set.

"When Canada denied asylum to the 907 German Jews on board the MS St. Louis, we failed not only those passengers, but also their descendants and community," Trudeau said in a statement.

The apology "will not bring back those who perished or repair the lives shattered by tragedy," the prime minister acknowledged.

"But," he added, "it is our collective responsibility to acknowledge this difficult truth, learn from this story, and continue to fight against anti-Semitism every day, as we give meaning to the solemn vow: 'Never again.'"