Nazi Ger­many, Cana­di­an Respons­es: Con­fronting Anti­semitism in the Shad­ow of War

L. Ruth Klein, ed.
  • Review
By – July 19, 2013

The sev­en chap­ters that com­prise Nazi Ger­many, Cana­di­an Respons­es: Con­fronting Anti­semitism in the Shad­ow of War explore Canada’s reac­tions to Ger­man anti-Semit­ic poli­cies in the 1930s and 1940s from a vari­ety of inter­re­lat­ed per­spec­tives. As L. Ruth Klein, the edi­tor, dis­cuss­es in the book’s Intro­duc­tion, in the spring of 1939, the near­ly one thou­sand, most­ly Jew­ish, pas­sen­gers on the St. Louis, which had sailed from Ger­many, were denied entry to Cuba and sought refuge else­where. Cana­da was one of the sub­se­quent coun­tries that did not open its doors to the St. Louis and the ship even­tu­al­ly had to return to Europe, where many of its pas­sen­gers per­ished dur­ing the Holo­caust. In the book’s Pref­ace, Alain Gold­schläger explores how the idea for the col­lec­tion was root­ed in a con­fer­ence that took place in Toron­to in 2009 that explored the peri­od in Cana­da that sur­round­ed the voy­age of the St. Louis. Based on these foun­da­tions, Nazi Ger­many, Cana­di­an Respons­es explores aspects of Canada’s atti­tudes toward Jew­ish immi­grants in Cana­da and the Nazis’ racial poli­cies in Europe before and dur­ing World War II

The list of schol­ars who have con­tributed to this vol­ume is impres­sive and the scope of their research, as well as the var­ied source mate­r­i­al that they exam­ine, makes this a fas­ci­nat­ing and his­tor­i­cal­ly impor­tant work. Doris L. Bergen explores the impli­ca­tions of Nazi racial poli­cies for Jew­ish cit­i­zens in Ger­many over a six year pre-war peri­od, as well as Cana­di­an respons­es to the sit­u­a­tion in Ger­many. Richard Menkis and Harold Trop­er exam­ine Canada’s involve­ment in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the reac­tions of the Cana­di­an press. Aman­da Gryzb dis­cuss­es how events in 1938 and 1939, includ­ing Kristall­nacht and the voy­age of the St. Louis, were exam­ined in Cana­di­an Eng­lish lan­guage media. Rebec­ca Mar­go­lis explores the Cana­di­an-Yid­dish press cov­er­age of the arrival of Iber­ian refugees in 1944, Michael Brown dis­cuss­es atti­tudes on Cana­di­an cam­pus­es in the 1930s, Nor­man Ravvin ana­lyzes respons­es to and rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the Holo­caust in Cana­di­an lit­er­a­ture by Jew­ish and non-Jew­ish authors, and James Walk­er exam­ines attempts by Jew­ish cit­i­zens to gain equal­i­ty in Cana­da before and dur­ing the war. 

As Klein explores in the Intro­duc­tion, despite the var­ied nature of these research areas, many com­mon themes run through the book. These include exam­i­na­tions of tex­tu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Cana­di­an atti­tudes toward and respons­es to anti-Semi­tism (be it in lit­er­a­ture or the press) and the con­nec­tion between the events that were occur­ring in Europe and Cana­da (be it by the Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment or dif­fer­ent groups with­in Cana­di­an soci­ety). With this lay­ered approach, Nazi Ger­many, Cana­di­an Respons­es makes an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to our under­stand­ing of this peri­od in Cana­di­an his­to­ry. Acknowl­edge­ments, bib­li­og­ra­phy, con­trib­u­tors, index, intro­duc­tion, pho­tos, preface.

Discussion Questions