The Wheel of Conscience

A man on either side of the monument pull back the fabric covering for the unveiling ceremony.
The Honourable Jason Kenny, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and Daniel Libeskind, architect, unveil the Wheel of Conscience on January 20, 2011.
© SteveKaiserPhotography.ca

Commemorating the St. Louis Voyage

The Wheel of Conscience is a memorial for 900 Jewish refugees aboard the M.S. St. Louis who were denied entry into Canada in 1939. The ship returned to Germany, where over one-quarter of its passengers died in concentration camps.

Designed by Polish-born architect Daniel Libeskin, the kinetic sculpture is a heavy steel wheel with four interlocking steer gears. Each of the gears is inscribed with a word: hatred, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism. As the smallest wheel—“hatred”—moves, it activates “racism”, which turns “xenophobia”, and finally “anti-Semitism”. The names of the M.S. St. Louis passengers are etched in glass behind the steel backing.

The monument was developed in partnership between the Canadian Jewish Congress and Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Libeskin—who is the son of Holocaust survivors—unveiled the Wheel of Conscience with  at the Museum in 2011.

The Wheel of Conscience sheds light on a dark moment in Canadian history. It is a potent reminder of the dangers of racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism.