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MS St. Louis survivor says Canada’s apology ‘a good thing,’ but it won’t salve emotional scars




Sol Messinger doesn’t like to talk about his childhood, but he forces himself to because he thinks it’s important that people know what he survived.

Born in Germany in 1932, Messinger is the child of Polish immigrants who had moved to escape the growing anti-semitism and deteriorating economic situation in Poland. They had no way of knowing then that, like so many others before and during World War Two, they’d soon be running for their lives.

« Very early in my life I realized some people didn’t like us because we were Jewish, » Messinger says. « I used to play in the courtyard of our building when I was 3 or 4, until one time kids started beating me up and calling me a dirty Jew. »

As the situation worsened in Germany, Messinger and his family were among a group of 900 Jews who secured passage out of the country in 1939. Their ship, The MS St. Louis, was headed to Cuba.

Every passenger onboard had paid for visas to settle there, and many already had family waiting for them in Cuba. They made the two-week voyage safely, but despite doing everything right, they’d never set foot on the island.

Sol Messinger, one of the Jewish refugees aboard the 1939 voyage of the MS St. Louis, looks at family photos at his home in Buffalo, N.Y., as he reflects on his family’s narrow escape from the Nazis during WWII. (Perlita Stroh/CBC)

« As they weighed the anchor in the harbour, we were immediately depressed and scared because we knew something wasn’t right — and we knew if we went back to Germany we’d have nothing to go back to, we’d be put in a camp. »

The ship’s captain tried to reassure his passengers, but after a few days of uncertainty he informed them that Cuba had reneged on its commitment to admit all but 29 of the refugees. Cuba revoked the visas of the rest of the passengers and refused to allow them to disembark.

Negotiations to settle the refugees elsewhere began immediately, but the United States refused to accept any passengers. And on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will offer a formal apology in the House of Commons for Canada’s refusal to offer sanctuary.

  • WATCH: The story about the MS St. Louis and Canada’s apology Wednesday on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

Messinger will be in Ottawa to witness it first hand. Although he welcomes the Canadian apology, Messinger adds that it doesn’t erase any of the pain of what his family experienced.

« Emotionally, I can’t say it [the apology] does anything for what we went through, but intellectually I think it’s a good thing, » he says.

Sol Messinger reflects on the luck that helped him survive the holocaust, while looking at an iconic photo of a Jewish boy surrendering to Nazi officers in the Warsaw Ghetto. 1:01

Escape by sea

« To be so close to safety and to be turned away, » says Messinger, « those events left a mark on me. To this day, travelling is very hard on me, I get very anxious … when I travel no one is chasing me to kill me, but you can’t get past those feelings. »

Messinger is one of the few remaining survivors of the MS St. Louis who is old enough to really remember the voyage.

« I had my 7th birthday on the ship, » says Messinger. « So I remember a lot, but I remember a lot from before then, too. I remember the night the Gestapo came for my father before we left Germany … you can imagine I was scared out of my mind. »

Refugees arrive in Antwerp on the MS St. Louis on June 17, 1939, after being denied entry to Cuba, the United States and Canada. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)​​Messinger was just six when his father was arrested in his home and deported back to his native Poland. He says the incident made his parents decide they had no choice but to try to leave Europe as soon as possible.

The task of arranging visas and passage was left solely to his mother, and Messinger says he has no idea how she did it. « You can imagine going to Nazi offices for a pretty Jewish woman was not an easy thing, but she did all of that. »

In fact, Messinger’s mother was able to secure visas for her family as well as passage on the MS St. Louis, but she refused to leave Germany without her husband.

« He wrote her a letter from Poland, » Messinger says. « He told her that if she didn’t go with me on that ship, whether he was back or not, she would have my blood on her hands — in those words. »

As fate would have it, Messinger’s father managed to slip back into Germany to get on the MS St. Louis with his family, and they departed together in 1939.

Messinger and his parents got so close to freedom that he even remembers spotting his extended family on a small boat near the ship as it anchored in the Havana harbour.

« I saw my cousin, who already was there — she was like my sister, and I yelled out to her, » he says. « We were that close. »

No safe haven

After the ship was refused entry and headed back to Europe, Messinger said the captain deliberately took his time getting back, sailing across the coast of Florida. He was sure that a country in the region would relent and accept a ship full of refugees headed back to a war zone.

He was wrong.

After several weeks in limbo, four European countries agreed to take the ship’s refugees — England, France, Holland and Belgium.

Messinger’s family was sent to Belgium. They landed there in June of 1939 and immediately set out for France on foot.

« My father heard on the radio the Germans were 10 miles outside of Belgium, » he says. « We started walking to France hundreds of miles away, which was insane but we had no choice. »

Police guard the gangway as officials board the German liner MS St. Louis on its arrival in Antwerp on June 17, 1939. The ship had been at sea for more than a month at that point, carrying 937 mainly German-Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution. (Gerry Cranham/Fox Photos/Getty Images)The family made it as far as a little village in the Pyrenees, where they lived among its residents. The voyage was arduous and dangerous, and Messinger says those memories are still vivid in his mind.

« I remember we stopped a few times on the way, » he says. « My mother would lie on top of me as shots rang out around us, and there were German planes overhead. »

Although the family lived in relative safety for months in France, in October of 1940 they were arrested and sent to a detention camp.

​​Messinger and his mother were again separated from his father there. They slept in barracks on the ground without blankets, were infested with lice, and went hungry.

« For dinner we would have what they called a bowl of soup, » he explains. « It was water with some greasy spots. »

Messinger looks at a display of items connected to the WWII holocaust. He says they bring up difficult memories. (Perlita Stroh/CBC)

On Christmas Eve, Messinger and his mother escaped the camp. A few days later, his father did the same. Messinger says his parents took advantage of the guards getting drunk on the holidays and relaxing their watch.

The family returned to the French village they were in before, and resumed their efforts to secure a visa out of the country.

Since they were in a part of France that still had diplomatic relations with the U.S., they were eventually able to get visas and make their way to a ship in Portugal to set sail for New York.

« We got to New York on June 24, 1942, which I celebrate as my second birthday. For good reason, because I was really reborn that day, » he says.

Messinger holds a menorah that his family took with them when they fled Berlin in 1939. They managed to hold on to it throughout their journey until they reached the U.S. in 1942. (Perlita Stroh/CBC)​​Messinger and his family eventually settled in Buffalo, with members of their extended family, and he went on to enjoy a successful career as a pathologist.

Of the Jews who were turned away from Cuba on the MS St. Louis, 288 of the lucky ones were sent to England. Another 87 managed to leave Europe in 1940. Of those who didn’t find sanctuary, 278 survived the holocaust and 254 perished in concentration camps in Europe.

Messinger knows just how lucky he and his family were to survive.

« I feel very lucky I escaped — twice, » he says. « A friend of mine who lived in the French village near me, his family was picked up six weeks after we left and sent to Auschwitz. »

  • WATCH: The story about the MS St. Louis and Canada’s apology Wednesday on The National on CBC Television and streamed online


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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