The Arty Semite

Canada Remembers Holocaust Role With Daniel Libeskind Monument

By Josh Tapper

  • Print
  • Share Share

Daniel Libeskind’s ‘Wheel of Conscience’ in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Courtesy Canadian Jewish Congress.

The ill-fated voyage of the MS St. Louis, the Hamburg-based ocean liner intended to transport 907 mostly German Jewish refugees to Cuba in May 1939, has always played a central role in early Holocaust history, and not only because it unraveled, tragically, like a Hollywood drama. (Indeed, the story was made into a 1976 film called “Voyage of the Damned,” based on a book of the same name.) Rather, the episode exposed a peculiar unwillingness on the part of the United States and Canada to accept Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, even though Hitler’s anti-Semitism was already well known. Turned away at Havana, the ship unsuccessfully sought safe harbor in Florida and Nova Scotia before returning to Europe. Many of the passengers eventually died in the Holocaust.

In Canada, the story of the country’s anti-Jewish immigration policies has been recorded in the seminal 1983 book “None Is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948” by Irving Abella and Harold Troper. Yet the public’s awareness of the Holocaust tends not to linger on that aspect of history. On January 20, however, Pier 21, Canada’s Immigration Museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in partnership with the Canadian Jewish Congress, will unveil an MS St. Louis monument designed by New York-based architect Daniel Libeskind. Pier 21 was the entry point for over one million European immigrants to Canada, from 1928 to 1971.

Titled “Wheel of Conscience,” the monument is, in actuality, a giant mechanical wheel. The wheel’s face features an image of the M.S. St. Louis. Powered by four gears representing, from smallest to largest, Hatred, Racism, Xenophobia and Anti-Semitism, the facing will rotate, breaking up the ship’s image, revealing the names of the passengers.

“It’s a visceral experience,” Libeskind told the Forward. “Your anticipation of the ship gets destroyed. You’re an operator next to this engine that’s moving.”

The monument, tucked away in the Canadian Maritimes, marks a departure for Libeskind, who’s become something of an international celebrity with a portfolio of staggering deconstructivist buildings, like the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Crystal addition to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Libeskind, the son of Holocaust survivors, said the wheel deserves more than just aesthetic consideration. Viewers witness the “gears of hatred,” he said, and are asked to consider contemporary issues.

“It’s a wheel that’s all too real, even today,” he said. “Anti-Semitism is prevalent, expressed today as anti-Israel and anti-Zionism. The monument is there not just to look back on the doomed voyage, but to look at today’s legal procedures, today’s Durban conferences, things that promote xenophobia and hatred.”

Pier 21 will unveil the monument inside the museum’s Rudolph P. Bratty Permanent Exhibition. Just as the piece comments on present-day anti-Semitism, the museum hopes Libeskind’s wheel will shed some light on Canada’s unseemly anti-Semitic past.

The monument, said Carrie-Ann Smith, Pier 21’s manager of research, “provides us with an opportunity draw attention to the debate in Canada on the closed nature of immigration at the time, and acknowledges Canadian anti-Semitism, something previously not addressed in the permanent exhibit.”

Watch Daniel Libeskind discuss the ‘Wheel of Conscience’:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Wheel of Conscience, Voyage of the Damned, Pier 21, Royal Ontario Museum, None Is Too Many, Nova Scotia, Josh Tapper, Jewish Museum Berlin, Irving Abella, Immigration. M.S. St. Louis, Havana, Holocaust, Harold Troper, Exhibits, Halifax, Durban, Daniel Libeskind, Cuba, Carrie-Ann Smith, Canada, Books, Anti-Semitism, Adolph Hitler

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.