Confronting a Dark Past in Canadian History



By: SARAH BAUDER  
Published: January 19th 2011
in News » Local

Wheel of Conscience Monument

On May 15, 1939, 907 desperate German Jews fled Nazi persecution aboard the M.S. St. Louis, seeking asylum in the New World. In a heart wrenching tale, the luxury liner was turned away thrice: first by Cuba, then America, and then Canada. A top immigration official apparently explained to then prime minister Mackenzie King, “No country can open its doors wide enough to take in the hundreds of thousands of Jews who want to leave Europe; the line must be drawn somewhere.”

 

All three nations refused admission to the frantic passengers, who consequently returned to Europe where 250 men, women, and children were murdered in the Holocaust.

 

Blessedly, Canada is far different in this our brave new age; tolerant, humane, a cultural potpourri. On Thursday at Pier 21 in Halifax, the Canadian Jewish Congress will unveil a permanent monument chronicling the ill-fated St. Louis and its passengers, called the “Wheel of Conscience”.

 

"Had Mackenzie King, (Canada’s) prime minister of the day, granted permission for the MS St. Louis to dock in Canada, it would have docked in Halifax at Pier 21. These people would have been saved by stepping foot in Canada at Pier 21. So . . . it is the absolutely perfect place for this memorial to stand." stated Bernie Farber, chief executive officer of the congress on Monday.

 

The moving sculpture was designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, himself the child of Holocaust survivors.

 

"I said to him ‘Daniel, you are known for these huge projects, these incredible buildings that you’ve built, but here you’re building a small memorial,’ " Farber said.”And he said to me, ‘This may be the smallest project I’ve ever done, but in my heart it’s the largest.’ "

 

“The Wheel of Conscience” was described as thus: “So you have the small wheel called hatred, followed by a bigger wheel called xenophobia, followed by a bigger wheel called racism and then followed by an even larger wheel called anti-Semitism, and they are all rotating around, being led by the wheel of hatred,” Farber explained in an interview on Monday.

 

The memorial will be unveiled January 20th at 1 pm.



Related articles: (Monument, CJC, Wheel of Consience, Daniel Libeskind)
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