The Holocaust: Canada


Figure 1.--

Canada like 31 other countries participated in the Evian Conference which was held to address the problem of Jews attempting to find refuge from NAZI oppression (1938). Canada, a huge lightly populated country, refused to offer any additional level of Jewish immigration. Just before the War, both Canada and America refused to allow Jewish refugees aboard the SS St. Louis to land (1939). The ship was fiorced back to the Netherlands which was soon overrun by the Germans (May 1940). Canada during the War accepted only about 5,000 Jews. A very small number given the country's ability to accmodate refugees. Canada played a very important part in the Allied Workd War II victory, loyally supporting Britain during the War and assiting in the liberation of France and the Low Countries. This of course saved countless Jewish lives. A Canadian reader tells us that during the War, German Jewish civilians were interned in the same camps as Axis POWs. There are report that after the War, the Canadian Government made it difficult for Jewish refugees who survived the Holocaust to enter Canada. Some Jewish refugees were admitted. The Canadian government issued the Order in Council #1647 granting permission for 1,000 Jewish war orphans to enter Canada (1947). Canada's began liberalizing its immigration policies (1948). About 2 million immigrants were admitted to Canada in the decade following the War to assist in the country's booming economy. This included several thousand Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. The Germans during the War had committed a number of war crimes against Canadian soldiers. SS units had shot Canadian POWS in Normandy. The Canadians began some procecutions, but this was turned over to the British and there were no actual convictions. This was part of the shift toward resisting the Soviets by 1948. In fact some of the individuals involved managed to emigrate to Canada. One report suggests that Soviet agent Kim Philby working in British inteligence dreamed up an idea of using former NAZIs and NAZI sympathizers to set up an anti-Communist ring in Canada and then sabatoging their activities. As part of that effort the Canadians were incouraged to allow in Germans and displaced Balts with little scrutiny of their background. The result was that a number of war criminals obtained sanctuary in Canada, including individuals who had committeda range of war crimes. [Tesher] These charges were investigated by the Deschenes Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals (1986). Canada finally started to look into people's past connections to the Nazi party and especially the SS (mid-1990s). The Government went to court to have NAZI war criminals them forcefully returned to France or Germany.

Canadian Jews

Canada rather surprisingly has one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. Canada has the fourth largest Jewish community, exceeed only by that of Israel, the United States, and France. The number totals over 0.3 million. Canadian Jews are a relatively new community. At the time, France founded New France (17th century), there were very few French Jews and virtually none that were openly Jewish. French policy was to maintain New France as pitinely Catholics, even Protestants were excluded. France like most of Wesern Europe had expelled its Jews during the medieval era. The same was true of Britain which seized New France during the French and Indian Wars (1760s). The few Jews reached Canada at this time, but there were also few British Jews so the number was very small. German Jews began emigrating to America (early- and mid-19th century). Few chose to settle in Canada. Canada's Jewish community is primarily composed of Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated from Central and Eastern Europe. The motivating force was Tsarist pogroms, the same dynamic that drove Ashkenazi Jews to America. One of the most important immigrant groups during the late-19th century was Ukranians, an area of the Tsarist Empire with many Jews. Like other countries, Canada made little effort at the Evian Conferenceto to offer refuge to Jews fleeing the NAZI Holocaust (1939). Canada during the War accepted only about 5,000 Jews, a very small number given the country's ability to accmodate refugees. Canada did, however, play an important role in defeatig NAZI Germany during World War II. After the War, the Canadian Government did offer refuge to survivors of the Holocasust. There are today minority groups from all Jewish ethnic divisions are also represented, including Sephardi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, and a number of converts. It is the Ashkenazi, however, that dominate the Canadian Jewish community. Canadian Jews comprise the full range of Jewish cultural traditions including the wide spectrum of Jewish religious observance. Alhough an important part of the diaspora, Canadian Jews are only about 1 percent of the Canadian population.

Evian Conference

Canada like 31 other countries participated in the Evian Conference which was held to address the problem of Jews attempting to find refuge from NAZI oppression (1938). Canada, a huge lightly populated country, refused to offer any additional level of Jewish immigration.

SS St. Louis

Just before the War, both Canada and America refused to allow Jewish refugees aboard the SS St. Louis to land (1939). The ship was forced back to the Netherlands which was soon overrun by the Germans (May 1940).

Immigration

Anti-Semitism was wide-spread in Canada during the inter-War era. Not the virulent anti-Semtism of Europe, but more of a 'gentelemann's' form. It was most pronounced in Quebec. Anti-Semitism nay have been a factor in King's assessment of Hitler. He told a group of Jews that "Kristallnacht might turn out to be a blessing." His Government made no effort to open immigration laws to offer a haven to European Jews. As in the United States, anti-Semitism was deeply seated within the civil service. This was epitomized by Frederick Blair who was Canada's Director of Immigration (1937-43). Blair developed and rigorously applied strict immigration policies based on race and used them to sucessfully to deny Jews trying to flee NAZI Germany refuge in Canada, not only before the War, but during and after the War. The policies were supported by Prime-Minister King. Canada as a result of Blair's restrictive policies allowed less than 5,000 Jews into Canada (1933-39). This was an exceedingly small number given the country's ability to accmodate refugees. By comparison the United states admitted 200,000 Jews and Mexico 20,000. After the War this hard to understand policy continued. The Canadians accepted only 8,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors (1945-48). Two historians write, "That record is arguably the worst of all possible refugee-receiving states." [Abella and Troper] This meant death for many European Jews. Canada along with the United States refused to allow the ocean liner St. Louis carrying 907 Jews to dock. It was one of tragic examples of the unwillingness to assist Jews fleeing the NAZIs before the war. Some 44 prominant Canadians (including professors, editors, and businessmen) urged Prime-Mininister King to offer them sanctuary, but King adamently refused.

World War II

One Hitler launched the War and suceeded in defeating France, there was very little that could be done to save European Jews other than defeating NAZI Germany. And Canada played a very important part in the Allied Workd War II victory, loyally supporting Britain during the War and assiting in the liberation of France and the Low Countries. This of course saved countless Jewish lives. The Allies criossed the Rhine (March 1945). They soon began liberating NAZI concentation camps in northern Germany. Here they foundJewish survivors that had been evacuated from Poland as the Red Army neared concentratiion camps there. .

Internees

A Canadian reader tells us that during the War, German Jewish civilians were interned in the same camps as Axis POWs.

Post-War Refugees

There are reports that after the War, the Canadian Government made it difficult for Jewish refugees who survived the Holocaust to enter Canada. Some Jewish refugees were admitted. The Canadian government issued the Order in Council #1647 granting permission for more than 1,000 Jewish war orphans to enter Canada (1947). Thuis special program was the the War Orphans Project (1947-49). Some 1,123 Jewish orphans found refuge in Canada as a result of the program. The Canadian government required the Jewish community to assume full responsibility for their care. Finding foster homes, schooling and jobs for the orphans required a huge effort for Canada's relatively small Jewish population. At first call, people were hesitant to open their homes to these young people who had witnessed such terrible things. After several appeals, a sufficient number of homes were found. For many, these young people were seen as a renewed hope, the first tangible result of many years of efforts to open Canada's doors to Jewish refugees. Canada's began liberalizing its immigration policies (1948). About 2 million immigrants were admitted to Canada in the decade following the War to assist in the country's booming economy. This included several thousand Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

German War Crimes

The Germans during the War had committed a number of war crimes against Canadian soldiers. SS units had shot Canadian POWS in Normandy. The Canadians began some procecutions, but this was turned over to the British and there were no actual convictions. This was part of the shift toward resisting the Soviets by 1948. In fact some of the individuals involved managed to emigrate to Canada. One report suggests that Soviet agent Kim Philby working in British inteligence dreamed up an idea of using former NAZIs and NAZI sympathizers to set up an anti-Communist ring in Canada and then sabatoging their activities. As part of that effort the Canadians were incouraged to allow in Germans and displaced Balts with little scrutiny of their background. The result was that a number of war criminals obtained sanctuary in Canada, including individuals who had committed a range of war crimes. [Tesher] These charges were investigated by the Deschenes Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals (1986). Canada finally started to look into people's past connections to the Nazi party and especially the SS (mid-1990s). The Government went to court to have NAZI war criminals them forcefully returned to France or Germany.

Sources

Abella, Irving and Harold Troper. "'The line must be drawn somewhere': Canada and Jewish Refugees, 1933-1939." in Iacovetta, Ventresca, and Draper (eds). A Nation of Immigrants (1998).

Tesher, Ellie. "How Nazi War Criminals Got Into Canada," The Toronto Star (November 12, 1997).






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Created: 4:48 AM 2/9/2013
Last updated: 12:32 AM 3/2/2017