Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially apologized on Wednesday for his country's decision in 1939 to reject a ship carrying Jewish refugees fleeing National Socialist Germany.
MS St. Louis Jewish passengers sought a safe haven in Canada after being rejected by governments in Cuba and the United States. After being rejected by the Canadian government, the 907 German Jews had to return to Europe on board, where historians estimated that more than 250 were killed in the Holocaust.
"We used our laws to obscure our antisemitism, our antipathy. our grudges, "said Trudeau in Ottawa on behalf of his country. "We apologize for the mendacity of Canada's reaction. And we are sorry that we do not apologize sooner.
The Prime Minister also promised to do more against anti-Semitism. He found that after a mass shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jewish Canadians "feel vulnerable", eleven people died.
The October 27 massacre at the "Tree of Life" synagogue was described as the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in American history. One of the victims, 75-year-old Joyce Fienberg, grew up in Toronto and had connections to the city's Jewish community.
Trudeau said he heard shouts "to protect synagogues and other places threatened by hate-motivated crimes" Seventeen percent of all hate crimes in Canada are targeting Jewish people, "he added.
" Canada and Canadians will continue to stand with the Jewish community and proclaim the hate that incites such atrocious acts, "Trudeau said of the shooting in Pittsburgh," and these tragic events ultimately testify to the work we still need to do. "
The MS St. Louis was a German ocean-going vessel that set sail from Hamburg in May 1939. Only half a year before, the Nazis had launched a wave of violence against the Jews. The Kristallnacht attacks destroyed synagogues and Jewish businesses and led to the arrest and imprisonment of thousands of Jewish men.
The Jewish families aboard the MS St. Louis attempted to flee the persecution and attempted to find a safe haven in North America. The US State Department dismissed the ship, citing the annual immigration quota of the United States.
The ship sailed to Canada, where then Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King refused his asylum application.
The MS St. Louis eventually returned to Europe and the Jewish refugees dispersed throughout the continent. As National Socialist Germany expanded its reach, about 254 were captured and killed in death camps, the New York Times reports.  In 2012, the US State Department officially apologized for rejecting the MS St. Louis Jewish refugees.
The history of the MS St. Louis reappeared in the headlines in 2017 when a US Jewish educator launched a Twitter account calling the passengers of the ship later killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust , The Twitter account was a protest against the travel ban of President Donald Trump, which was directed against refugees. My name is Willi Dublon. The US rejected me today 79 years ago. I was murdered in Auschwitz #NeverAgain . Pic.twitter.com/XyIvIhCkpR
– St. Louis Manifesto (@Stl_Manifest) June 7, 2018
"We refused to help them could have done," Trudeau said during his apology on Wednesday. "We have helped to seal the cruelty of many places in places like Auschwitz, Treblinka and Belzec. We failed her.
Some former MS St. Louis passengers were present at the apology. One of them, Ana Maria Gordon, survived a Nazi concentration camp after returning to Europe.
Gordon told the Canadian press that the apology was "very significant" for them – even though she said the emotional scars of Holocaust survival are still deep
Gordon said she believes history is repeating today because "many people are discriminated against, starving, or running for their lives."
"We all need to help these people as individuals, communities, and as nations in every way we can," she said.