News release

Maritime Museum Exhibit on Tragic Voyage of MS St. Louis

On the 71st anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic will open an exhibit commemorating a human rights tragedy with Canadian connections that occurred at the beginning of the Holocaust. The special year-long exhibition on the voyage of MS St. Louis opens on Monday, Nov. 9, at 7:30 p.m.

In late May 1939, 907 German Jews fled Nazi Germany aboard the Hamburg-America ocean liner St. Louis. Turned away by Cuba, the United States and then Canada, the ship was forced to return to Europe where 254 of the passengers were later killed in Nazi death camps.

"It is fitting that this exhibit opens on the anniversary of Kristallnacht," said museum curator Dan Conlin. "That traumatic event compelled thousands of German Jews to seek refuge, including those who bought passage aboard St. Louis."

Kristallnacht was an attack on Jewish people in Nazi Germany on the night of Nov. 9 and 10, 1938. Jews were murdered, sent to concentration camps and property was destroyed.

The museum worked on the project in close partnership with the Atlantic Jewish Council.

"While the exhibit evokes painful memories of a much less tolerant time, it is necessary to do so to ensure that a similar event never takes place again," said council executive director Jon Goldberg.

The fateful 1939 voyage of St. Louis was made famous by the book and subsequent movie Voyage of the Damned. Few people, however, know the ship had a close connection to Halifax. This city was a regular port of call for MS St. Louis as she made both her maiden and final voyage to Halifax.

In mid-June 1939, St. Louis was two days away from Halifax when efforts were made to provide sanctuary for the 907 Jewish refugees to enter the port. Unfortunately, indifferent and anti-Semitic officials in Ottawa sealed the passengers' fate by refusing an appeal by Canadian academics and clergymen to let the ship dock.

The exhibit includes the document trail of this tragic injustice including the original secret telegram, on loan from Library and Archives Canada, that refused the ship entry to Canada. It also features a rare selection of ocean liner documents about St. Louis, including an anti-Semitic postcard written by a passenger who travelled aboard the ship after the infamous refugee voyage.

The exhibit opening is presented in combination with the Atlantic Jewish Council's Dignity Day Ceremonies.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is located at 1675 Lower Water St., Halifax.

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On Monday November 9th the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic opens an exhibit commemorating the refugee voyage of MS St. Louis, a human rights tragedy with Canadian connections that occurred in the spring of 1939.

The opening, at 7:30 p.m., is presented in combination with the Atlantic Jewish Council's Dignity Day Ceremonies.

In late May 1939, 907 German Jews fled Nazi Germany aboard the ocean liner St. Louis but were turned away by Cuba, the United States and Canada, forcing the ship to return to Europe where 254 of the passengers were later killed in Nazi death camps.

The exhibit includes documents on loan from Library and Archives Canada detailing the Canadian trail of this injustice. It also features rare documents about St. Louis.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is located at 1675 Lower Water Street, Halifax.

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Media Contact:

Gerry Lunn
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic 902-424-8793 E-mail: