Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially apologized for his country’s 1939 refusal to allow entry to a ship carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees from Nazi oppression.
Trudeau made the statement at the House of Commons on Wednesday.
“We apologize to the 907 German Jews aboard the St. Louis, as well as their families,” he said. “We are sorry for the callousness of Canada’s response. We are sorry for not apologizing sooner.”
The St. Louis fled the Third Reich from Hamburg in May 1939 carrying 937 passengers. The ship arrived in Cuba, which would not accept the refugees.
They pleaded for help from the United States and Canada, but both countries refused to take the Jews, who were left with no choice but to return to Europe. The United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands and France took in a large number of the escapees, but another 254 wound up murdered by the Nazis.
Trudeau’s remarks came less than two weeks after an attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue which left 11 Jews, including one Canadian citizen, dead.
Trudeau noted that Jewish Canadians have called upon their government to offer more protection at synagogues and other locations.
“And I pledge to you all now: We will do more,” he said, adding that 17 percent of all Canadian hate crimes are conducted against Jewish people.