Jewish-Canadian Community Projects

The MS St. Louis
Courtesy Eiran Harris collection,
Canadian Jewish Congress Charities
Committee, National Archives

During World War II, the MS St. Louis was a ship that carried over 900 Jewish refugees from Germany. The passengers were unable to find refuge in North America and, after returning to Europe, many perished in the Holocaust. During that same period, as a result of Canada’s wartime policies, nearly 2,300 men were interned as "enemy aliens" in camps across Canada. These were mostly Jewish refugees from Austria and Germany.

The St. Louis: Ship of Fate — Exhibit

Recipient: Atlantic Jewish Council, Halifax

The council created a travelling version of its successful exhibit, St. Louis: Ship of Fate, which was launched in 2009 in partnership with the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Canada’s refusal of the MS St. Louis refugees.

The travelling exhibit itself was bilingual; a website, featuring educational, marketing and evaluation materials is partly bilingual — materials produced by third parties are in their original language only.

The project also included planning, obtaining agreements with at least two museums in major Canadian centres to show the exhibit for at least three months, transportation, marketing, an exhibit launch, educational programming, and evaluation.


None is Too Many: Memorializing the MS St. Louis

Recipient: Canadian Jewish Congress, Ottawa

The congress’s project commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the MS St. Louis incident, when 937 Jewish passengers fleeing Germany on the eve of the Second World War were refused refuge in Canada. The project comprises a historical monument at Pier 21 in Halifax harbour; teaching materials, called the St. Louis Educational Program; and a national youth essay‑writing contest themed “70 years later: What are the lessons of the MS St. Louis for twentieth century Canada?”

The Fortunate Few: The Story of the 5,000 European Jews admitted to Canada between 1933 and 1947

Recipient: Jewish Immigrant Aid Services, Toronto

This project comprises a bilingual documentary film, a bilingual classroom educational booklet and flip-card personal profiles of Jewish immigrants. It brings to light the experiences of the estimated 5,000 European Jews admitted to Canada between 1933 and 1947 despite the anti-Jewish immigration policies epitomized by Canada’s 1939 refusal of entry to the 937 Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis.

Commemorating the MS St. Louis

Recipient: Jewish Youth Library of Ottawa

This project created a series of products commemorating the MS St. Louis incident: a 20-page bilingual commemorative booklet; a permanent exhibit in the form of a mixed-media mosaic mural and wall-mounted photographs of the ship and its passengers; and a children’s book.

The exhibit is on display for the general public; schools are invited for formal guided tours. The commemorative booklet is distributed free of charge to visitors, Jewish schools, public schools, public and selected libraries.

Creation of a National Task Force on Holocaust Research, Remembrance and Education

Recipient: The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith, Toronto

This three-year project comprises a bilingual conference entitled “The MS St. Louis: Looking Back, Moving Forward,” held in Toronto on June 1 and 2, 2009, and the creation of the National Task Force on Holocaust Research, Remembrance and Education.

B’nai Brith also produced research to better understand the MS St. Louis incident and the historical context in which it occurred, and created educational materials for educators and high school students.


Radio Drama — The Voyage of the MS St. Louis, a Radio Diary / Radio Shalom raconte le MS St-Louis

Recipient: Radio Shalom. Montréal

The project consists of a radio drama and school program called “The Voyage of the MS St. Louis, a Radio Diary / Radio Shalom raconte le MS St-Louis.” Radio Shalom produced 14 one-hour episodes in English and French, which featured panellists and a listener call-in component. Listeners had the opportunity to participate in an open-line broadcast, while a host interviewed guests — descendents, survivors, museum historians and authors — familiar with the MS St. Louis incident about the restrictive immigration policies of the time. In addition, four students hosted two 30-minute episodes.

The audio recordings are archived on the Radio Shalom website, and may serve as reference material for schools or other researchers.


Not Wanted: The Tragedy of the St. Louis Era

Recipient: Stitch Media Inc., Toronto

An interactive, comprehensive web portal describes the MS St. Louis incident, the wartime measures that were enacted between 1939 and 1947 and the consequences of these policies for the Jewish-Canadian population. Stitch Media also created a short animated series to inform youth in Canada and worldwide about the lessons learned from the MS St. Louis era.

The portal enables educators to adapt the contents of the website into their lesson plans. Online features include functionality to run webinars/lessons within a virtual classroom with video, audio testimonies and animation.


Internment of Jewish Refugees in Canada from 1940 to 1943

Recipient: Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, Vancouver

The research for the project drew on the rich primary source materials of some of the 2,000 Jewish men interned as ’enemy aliens’ in Canada from 1940 to 1943. Testimonies of some of the few remaining eyewitnesses were recorded on video.

The project focuses on the little-known history of Jewish refugees, many of them adolescents, from Nazi Germany and Austria who sought asylum in Britain, only to be deported to Canada in response to Winston Churchill’s demand to “collar the lot.” The Jewish internees’ experiences in camps in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, where they were imprisoned alongside German, Austrian and Italian nationals, including Nazis, have never been told through a comprehensive exhibit.



Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund

The Government of Canada established the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund to support projects that commemorate the experience of all affected communities during that period. The fund is managed by the Shevchenko Foundation.

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