Trudeau apol­o­gises for voy­age of the damned

The Australian - - WORLD -

OT­TAWA: Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau apol­o­gised in par­lia­ment yes­ter­day for Canada’s re­fusal to ad­mit Jewish asy­lum-seek­ers flee­ing Nazi Ger­many just months be­fore the out­break of World War II.

On May 15, 1939, the ocean liner MS St Louis de­parted Ger­many and crossed the At­lantic with 907 Ger­man Jews aboard, des­per­ate for refuge from per­se­cu­tion. The pas­sen­gers were barred from dis­em­bark­ing at Cuba, then de­nied en­try in the US and Canada be­cause of dis­crim­i­na­tory im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies of the time. Forced to re­turn to Europe, many were sent to con­cen­tra­tion camps, and 254 died in the Holo­caust. Their emo­tional jour­ney would later in­spire the 1974 book Voy­age of the Damned and a movie of the same ti­tle.

“While decades have passed since we turned our backs on Jewish refugees, time has by no means ab­solved Canada of its guilt or less­ened the weight of its shame,” Mr Trudeau told par­lia­ment. “To­day, I rise in this house to is­sue a long over­due apol­ogy to the Jewish refugees Canada turned away. We are sorry for the cal­lous­ness of Canada’s re­sponse. We re­fused to help them when we could have. We con­trib­uted to seal­ing the cruel fates of far too many at places like Auschwitz, Tre­blinka, and Belzec.”

Ear­lier, Mr Trudeau met with one of the sur­vivors of that voy­age, Ana Maria Gor­don, and her fam­ily to dis­cuss the need to con­tinue fight­ing anti-Semitism.

“We had a tragic re­minder just a few weeks ago that we need to con­tinue to work to­gether,” Mr Trudeau told re­porters, al­lud­ing to the mas­sacre of 11 peo­ple at a syn­a­gogue in the US city of Pitts­burgh on Oc­to­ber 27. The at­tack was be­lieved to be the dead­li­est anti-Semitic at­tack on US soil.

In Canada, in­ci­dents of an­tiSemitism — in­clud­ing ha­rass- ment, van­dal­ism and vi­o­lence — reached a record in 2017, dou­bling from the pre­vi­ous year to 1752, ac­cord­ing to Jewish ad­vo­cacy or­gan­i­sa­tion B’nai B’rith.

In par­lia­ment, Mr Trudeau called on all Cana­di­ans to “stand up against xeno­pho­bic and an­tiSemitic at­ti­tudes that still ex­ist in our com­mu­ni­ties, in our schools, and in our places of work”.

“Holo­caust de­niers still ex­ist. Anti-Semitism is still far too present,” he said. “Dis­crim­i­na­tion and vi­o­lence against Jewish peo­ple in Canada and around the world con­tin­ues at an alarm­ing rate. Sadly, these evils did not end with World War II.”

PIC­TURES: REUTERS, AP

Clock­wise from main image: Justin Trudeau apol­o­gises in the House of Com­mons yes­ter­day; meets sur­vivor Ana Maria Gor­don in his of­fice; Ms Gor­don as a four-year-old on the MS St Louis; the St Louis re­turns to An­twerp, Bel­gium, af­ter be­ing re­fused en­try to Canada, the US and Cuba in 1939

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