MONTREAL (JTA) — Canada inaugurated a national Holocaust memorial in Ottawa as its government reportedly readied itself to formally apologize for turning away 900 European Jews from its shores on the eve of the Holocaust.
The National Holocaust Monument — a stark, stylized Star of David in form — took a decade to complete at a cost of $7.2 million split between private and public donors.
“May this monument remind us to always open our arms and our hearts to those in need,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday at the opening.
The unveiling of the memorial, which is located across from the Canadian War Museum, is being seen as historic. Canada was the sole Allied nation not to have a national Holocaust memorial.
An Ottawa university student in 2007 noted the lack of a national Holocaust memorial and worked toward legislation that made the monument possible.
According to news reports, some survivors were disappointed that at the monument’s official launch, Trudeau did not deliver a hoped-for formal apology for Canada turning away the M.S. St. Louis in 1939.
Cuba and the United States also denied entry to the refugees and, after they returned to Europe, about one-quarter of those on board died in the Holocaust.
There is a memorial to the ship at a war museum in Halifax, near the harbor where it was not allowed to dock.
Trudeau indicated in an interview with The New York Times in June that his government would consider a formal apology, with other sources reporting that it was still working on it.
“[W]e express deep appreciation to all who played a role in making this monument a reality,” the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants said in a joint statement.
“May it always serve as a caution of the dangers of unchecked evil and the unspeakable cost of silence in the face of anti-Semitism and hatred.”