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Jewish Refugees in Canada: The Second World War

Jewish Refugees in Canada: The Second World War

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Published by Amanda Lee Gannon
Canadian History: Post-Confederation
Canadian History: Post-Confederation

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Amanda Lee Gannon on Mar 15, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/14/2013

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Gannon1
From 1933
 –
1939, Adolf Hitler was gaining power in Europe and everyindividual of Jewish descent was in danger of extermination. In Germany, life fora Jewish person was impossible. Countless numbers of people had been
“brutalized, murdered, or sent off to concentration camps.”
1
The only option forsurvival was to evacuate. Whether they were fleeing their country or continent,escape was their last chance. Countries such as Holland, France, and GreatBritain accepted some refugees, but soon their company was not welcome.
2
Thesearch continued, trying to gain safety within Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, andPanama. Latin America closed their doors, and the Jewish population had to findother places to go to. Even the United States and Canada were not welcomingtowards the Jews with offerings of a place for safety. The Jews who fled fromGermany were seen as enemy allies, and their existence was forbidden in manycountries around the world.
3
When the Second World War was declared onGermany on September 10, 1939, regulations were passed which prohibitedentry of people who previously belonged to countries that Canada was at warwith. Because there was no policy that differentiated between immigrants andrefugees, those fleeing endangerment in Europe were not allowed into thecountry. Those of Jewish descent who did make it into Canada, or have beenliving there all along, endured forced relocation into places referred to as
1
 
Irving Abella and Harold Troper, “’The line must be drawn somewhere’: Canada
and Jewish Refugees, 1933-
9,”
Canadian Historical Review 
60, no. 2 (April 2008):178.
2
Ibid.
3
Ibid., 179.
 
Gannon2
detention camps or Internment camps.
4
Other Jewish refugees were underconstant scrutiny. The way Canada treated Jewish refugees taints our image andshows the world that this country has a dark past. Canada is seen as amulticultural and accepting country today, but during the Second World WarJewish refugees fleeing from Europe were not accepted into Canada, and thosewho were, were not accepted into society. Anti-Semitism, economic difficulties,and federal policy caused many problems for Jewish refugees immigrating to orliving in Canada such as education, work, and internment camps.
 
Leading up to, and during the Second World War, life for the Jewishindividual had become impossible. The Nazis would stop at nothing to purify theGerman race and rid any person of Jewish descent. When Adolf Hitler becamechancellor in 1933, his main goal was to cleanse Germany of the approximateone percent of Jews that resided there. Jews lost citizenship, which banned themfrom schools, government positions, and access to the courts. Unnecessaryarrests occurred during any time of day. They lost all possessions includingpassports, money, and confiscation of property and business. Becauseeverything they owned was taken away from them, they were also subjected tohuge collective fines. While all of this was happening, acts of violence wereencouraged and often practiced.
5
Life was made impossibly miserable for Jewishpeople, so their only options were to emigrate or die. Because they had no
4
 
Monica Boyd and Michael Vickers, “100 Years of Immigration in Canada,”
CanadianSocial Trends
58, no. 2 (2000): 7.
5
 
Irving Abella and Harold Troper, “’The line must be drawn somewhere’: Canada
and Jewish Refugees, 1933-
9,”
Canadian Historical Review 
60, no. 2 (April 2008):180.
 
Gannon3
passports and lost all of their assets, they were not appealing to any country thatwas accepting immigrants at the time. Hundreds and thousands of Jews wereleaving for other countries such as Poland, France, and Britain. The massiveamount of people immigrating into countries was unwanted. Other countries thathad an anti-Semitism mindset started to support the ideas that the Nazi partywere conveying and tried to push the Jews out of their homes, providing onlytemporary relief.
6
The world tried to ignore the desperate plight of refugees, andCanada was no exception. In fact, when hundreds of thousands of Jewssearched for refuge from the Third Reich in the years from 1933 to 1939, Canadahad contributed to the least amount of accepted refugees, making room forapproximately four thousand people.
7
Just prior to the Second World War,Canada wanted nothing to do with Jewish refugees.
During the interwar years, Canada‟s attitude
towards refugees had notchanged, and the federal government in particular had very strong oppositiontowards immigration at the time. Canada did very little for the Jewish refugees.Widespread anti-Semitism was contagious, especially for senior bureaucrats andpoliticians who looked away from the desperate situation the refugees were in. In1939, a ship called the
St. Louis 
carried 907 German Jews who needed a placeto run away to. They were refused to land anywhere in North and South America.When the ship tried to come to Canada, F.C. Blair, Director of the ImmigrationBranch had stated, "The line must be drawn somewhere," and that marked the
6
Irving Abella and Harold Troper,
“’The line must be drawn somewhere’: Canada
and Jewish Refugees, 1933-
9,”
Canadian Historical Review 
60, no. 2 (April 2008):180.
7
Ibid., 181.

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