Canadian responses to Nazi Germany focus of new book
June 11, 2012 | Jewish TribunecloseAuthor: Jewish Tribune
Name: Jewish Tribune
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Davida Ander Tribune Intern
TORONTO – It is no coincidence that the book launch for Nazi Germany, Canadian Responses: Confronting Antisemistism in the Shadow of War fell the eve before June 6, the day the MS St. Louis turned back to Europe in 1939 after being denied entry to several countries.
With no place to go and supplies dwindling, the ship docked in Belgium and nearly one-third of the 937 abandoned passengers met their deaths in the Holocaust.
Canada was among the countries that refused the St. Louis refugees. Instead of welcoming them and providing safe haven, Canada officially responded with silence.
Canadians were not oblivious to the circumstances in Germany, when word of the St. Louis reached them. Nor were they uneducated when Canada attended the Nazi Olympics three years earlier in 1936, according to Harold Troper, a professor at the University of Toronto and coauthor of the novel None is too Many, a historical exploration of the official barriers that prevented Jewish refugees from entering Canada.
Four out of the eight academic writers for Nazi Germany, Canadian Responses presented their original findings at the launch at the York Research Tower last Tuesday.
Troper explained that when the Canadian Olympic Committee voted to accept the invitation to attend the German Olympics, they did so with knowledge of the public enthusiasm surrounding the annual Nazi Nuremberg rally six weeks earlier. At the rally, the antisemetic Nuremberg Laws were announced, laws that stripped Jews of their German citizenship and prohibited marriages and sexual relations between Jews and Germans.
Some members of the Canadian Olympic Committee had attended the rally, and they had seen the festivities, the parades and the hype.
“What they saw at Nuremberg gave them confidence that Germany could throw a party in Berlin that would be second to none: order, pageantry, the likes of which the world had never seen before,” Troper said.
He and Richard Menkis, a professor at the University of British Columbia, discussed their research, which began as part of an exhibition on the 1936 Olympics, for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Doris Bergen, the Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Toronto, brought insight about social death and isolation of Jews, as well as the deadly consequences of the Jewish statelessness imposed by the Nuremberg Laws.
“Stateless people, of course, are and were the least desirable immigrants. Why? Because they could not be sent back to any country in the world. No one would take them,” Bergen said.
Michael Brown, a professor at York University and former director of the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, discussed the antisemitic statements made by Canadian academic leaders at the time. Brown also highlighted Arthur Eustace Morgan, then principal of McGill University, who, Brown said, refused to sanction formal student exchanges with Germany, turned down offers for free student trips to Germany and refused an invitation from Heidelberg University.
Ruth Klein, editor of the book and the national director of advocacy for B’nai Brith Canada, said that the assembly of the book led her to see “how you can take the message of the Holocaust and adapt it to different audiences so that it finds resonance with many different groups, whether it’s students, other ethnic groups, an academic audience, or government.”
The book is the final step in a three-part series of projects initiated by the National Task Force (NTF) on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
The other projects by the NTF include a high-school student resource on Canadian Immigration Policies called Welcome to Canada, an accompanying teacher’s guide, and a DVD When Canada Said No, examining the Canadian government and society at the time of the St. Louis.
Funding for the projects was provided by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the B’nai Brith Foundation.
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