Justin Trudeau apologises for Canada's decision to turn away ship of refugees fleeing Nazis

Refugees on board the MS St Louis were sent back to Europe, where more than 250 died in the Holocaust


Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologised for his country’s decision to turn away a ship of Jewish refugees trying to flee Nazi Germany in 1939.

He told Canadian Jews “your country failed you” when the government decided to restrict Jewish immigration and refused the MS St. Louis, a German liner, permission to land.

The ship returned to Europe with 907 German Jews on board. Many had been fleeing the hostile environment following Kristallnacht, which had taken place six months previously.

More than 250 of the passengers later died in the Holocaust.

“In the years leading up to the war, Hitler tested the world’s resolve. He noted carefully as country after country proved itself indifferent to the plight of Jewish refugees,” Mr Trudeau told the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday.

“He watched on as we refused their visas, ignored their letters and denied them entry.

“With every pogrom, he tested the bounds of our humanity and the limits of our solidarity ... Adolf Hitler's test was one the Canadian government failed miserably.”

The MS St. Louis had already been turned away from Cuba and the United States before a group of Canadians tried to convince the government of then-Prime Minister Mackenzie King allow the ship to dock in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

But permission was refused and Canada admitted only 5,000 Jewish refugees in a 12-year period between 1933 and 1945.

Mr Trudeau said: “There is little doubt that our silence permitted the Nazis to come up with their own, ‘final solution’ to the so-called Jewish problem.

“We let antisemitism take hold in our communities and become our official policy.

“To harbour such hatred and indifference toward the refugees was to share in the moral responsibility for their deaths.”

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