Kleinmann Family Foundation
Eleventh Annual Cégep Holocaust Symposium

1939 Canada - European Community - Holocaust
William Lyon Mackenzie King
"None is Too Many," Canadian Jewish Congress, Archives

Canada was the last country to reject the plea of the St. Louis ship,
before it was sent back to Germany with all its desperate passengers.

Photo courtesy of the ushmm.org website

On May 15, 1939, nine hundred and seven desperate German Jews set sail from Hamburg on a luxury liner, the St. Louis.

They had been stripped of their possesions, hounded first out of their homes and businesses and now their country.

Their most prized possession was the entrance visa to Cuba each carried on board.

When they reached Havana on May 30, however, the Cuban government refused to recognize their entrance visas. None of the passengers were allowed to disembark. Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Panama were approached in vain, by various Jewish organizations. Within two days all the countries of Latin America had rejected entreaties to allow these Jews to land, and on June 2 the St. Louis was forced to leave Havana harbour. The last hope was Canada or the United States, and the latter, not bothering to reply to an appeal, sent a gunboat to shadow the ship as it made its way north.

In Canada, Prime Minister Mackenzie King felt, that this was not a "Canadian problem," ignoring the pleas of many influential Canadians. Frederick Charles Blair, director of the Immigration Branch of the Department of Mines and Resources said, "No country, could open its doors wide enough to take in the hundreds of thousands Jewish peolpe who want to leave Europe: the line must be drawn somewhere.

Of the more than eight hundred thousand Jews seeking refuge from the Third Reich in the years 1933-39 Canada admitted approximately four thousand.

The voyagers' last flickering hope extinguished and the Jews of the st. Louis headed back to Europe, where many would die in the gas chambers and crematoria of the Third reich.

(The St. Louis was a steamship whose passengers were Jewish refugees fleeing the horrors of pre-war Europe. It left Europe in the spring of 1939 destined for Cuba. Only 22 of the 1, 128 refugees were allowed to disembark. No country, including Canada and the United States, opened their doors to the refugees. The ship finally returned to Hamburg. Few of the passengers survived the war years.)

Photo courtesy of the ushmm.org website