In 1939, 937 men, women, and children found themselves in a nightmare on a ship in the Atlantic. They had sailed from Nazi Germany on the MS St. Louis to seek refuge in the West. But, because they were Jews, Cuba, the United States, and Canada all turned them away.
Returning to Europe, they faced the full impact of the Holocaust; many of them dying. This was a dark stain on our history. One we need to be reminded of. One we need to understand. One that will – hopefully – never be repeated.
Last night, Julie and I attended the Ottawa Jewish Youth Library’s book launch where we were introduced to the book So Near, Yet So Far: Clara’s Voyage on the MS St. Louis. Four speakers connected to the project, which was in part sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Embassy, spoke to the audience.
Author Sara Lowenthal read her poignant and powerful children’s book. Illustrator Nicholas Jackson described how he created pictures to faithfully tell this story to young readers without frightening them. Artist Michoel Muchnik shared his interpretation of the nine-foot bas-relief mural of the MS St. Louis that hangs in the Jewish Youth Library and which he created for this launch.
But, most memorable of all, was Herbert Karliner, now over 80 years old, who told the story of what it was like to be a 12-year old boy on the MS St. Louis. He was one of the survivors.
Sometimes there aren’t words to do justice in telling someone else’s story, and this was one of those times. I can’t possibly convey to you how his personal story made all of us part of the reality of this voyage and his life following.
Four people shared their stories – more than 200 left the auditorium with memories they’ll not forget.
You can read more about the MS St. Louis project on the U.S. Embassy’s Education & the Arts blog.