Book untangles Canada’s response to early Jewish immigrants

partial book cover of Nazi germany Cnadian Responses

book cover of Nazi germany Cnadian ResponsesWhy Canada acted as it did in the 1930s and 1940s in respect to keeping out Jewish immigrants and refugees is one of the main questions the book Nazi Germany: Canadian Responses attempts to answer.

The book, Nazi Germany: Canadian Responses: Confronting Antisemitism in the Shadow of War (McGill-Queen’s University Press), edited by L. Ruth Klein, will launch Tuesday, June 5 at 7pm on the 7th Floor of the York Research Tower, Keele campus. Everyone is welcome to attend.

York Professor Michael Brown, who teaches in York’s Department of Humanities, Department of History, as well as the Department of Languages, Literature & Linguistics in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, is one of four contributing authors to the book who will be at the launch. Brown is one of three editors of Note Written in Stone: Jews, Constitutions, and Constitutionalism in Canada (University of Ottawa Press, 2003).

Drew PinkertonThe other contributors attending the launch are professors Doris Bergen and Harold Troper of the University of Toronto and Professor Richard Menkis of the University of British Columbia.

Drew Pinkerton

The book explores the nature of Canada’s response to the plight of European Jews seeking refuge, and to anti-Jewish discrimination in Canada.

Nazi Germany: Canadian Responses takes off where the seminal work of  Irving Abella and Harold Troper in None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948, documenting the official barriers that kept Jewish immigrants and refugees out of Canada in the shadow of the Second World War, leaves off. Despite its critical acclaim, one haunting question remained. Why did Canada act as it did in the 1930s and 1940s?

To answer that question, we must have a deeper understanding of the attitudes, ideas and information that circulated in Canadian society during this period. How much did Canadians know at the time about the horrors unfolding against the Jews of Europe? Where did their information come from? And how did they respond, on both public and institutional levels, to the events that marked Hitler’s march to power: the 1935 Nuremberg Race Laws, the 1936 Olympics, Kristallnacht, and the crisis of the MS St Louis?

The contributors’ findings reveal that the persecutions and atrocities taking place in Nazi Germany inspired a range of responses from ordinary Canadians, from indifference to outrage to quiet acquiescence.

The launch is presented by York’s Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies and the Canadian Centre for German & European Studies at York.

The book is a project of the National Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research and is published by McGill-Queen’s University Press with the support of the Government of Canada and the B’nai Brith Foundation.

For more information, visit the Canadian Centre for German & European Studies website.