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Anti-Semitism: Just Because We Can Canada Between the World Wars

Canadian History 235 Essay-Term Two

Ada Melnik 13841085 HIST 235 001- Discussion L1D Professor Robert AJ McDonald T.A. William Langford April 1st, 2010

After World War I, the world was adjusting to a new economic time and a new way of life. Political ideologies were questioned and new systems emerged in Europe, which shaped the course of the western world through the 20s and 30s. Fascism evolved in Italy in the 1920s under Mussolinis dictatorship and gave way to Hitlers own version of fascism in Germany, Nazism.1 In Canada, fascist movements began in many places and anti-Semitism existed for many reasons, but one of the earliest and most prominent anti-Semitism existed in Quebec. Racial anti-Semitism relating to the issues between Judaism and Catholicism existed in the classrooms of Quebec schools prior to the 1930s and politicians like Adrien Arcand advanced the hatred further into an everyday issue. Jewish people all over Canada became competitors for jobs and this became a major problem, especially in the 1930s when jobs were scarce and competition for those jobs was fierce. A large contributor to anti-Semitism at this time was also because Canada was still a fairly Anglo-Saxon and racist place, which did not take pride in its immigrants and really wanted to assimilate them. By the time Nazi ideas entered Canada, a preconceived hatred already existed in Canada; both in the English provinces and Quebec, but this new ideal heavily increased the anti-Semitism and acts against the Jewish citizens of Canada. Various movements emerged in Canadian provinces and immigration rules were created to stop Jewish people from entering Canada in a time when they most needed a safe haven from the horrors that were occurring in Europe. Canada, just like the rest of Western society turned against the Jewish immigrants kept them out of public places, discriminated against them, followed propaganda, and made life very difficult for the Jewish population. Although the type of anti-Semitism differed in each province, it inevitably existed and did not stop, even after news about the Holocaust spilled out of Europe during the Second World War.

Betcherman, Lita-Rose, The Swastika and the Maple Leaf: Fascist Movements in Canada in the Thirties (Pickering, ON: Lita-Rose Betcherman, 1975), 1.

Reasons for anti-Semitism dated back to hundreds of years of discrimination but certainly grew in the 1930s when the Western world faced a depression, and a scapegoat was needed. Hitler used the Jews as the scapegoat in Germany and similarly, Jews were used as a scapegoat for the economic situation during the Depression in Canada by the Anglo-Saxon citizens of the dominion. Anti-Semitism, therefore, was so prominent in Canada and in the Western World between the two world wars because stigmas towards Jewish people had already existed in Canada, and with the rise of fascism, and more particularly Nazism, anti-Semitic acts were further promoted through propaganda while labelling Jewish people as a scapegoat for the Depression of the 1930s. Although the events of the 1930s were a definite factor in the anti-Semitism at the time, it is hard to ignore that hatred for Jews in Canada already existed beforehand. Hatred towards Jewish people differed in various types of societies and as described by Irving Abella in The Canadian Encyclopaedia, there were many reasons for anti-Semitism in Canada. Religious antiSemitism existed prior to the twentieth century because the Jewish people were considered to be Christ killers, especially in the eyes of Catholic Christians. Quebec, for that reason, already had anti-Semitism present, despite the Jewish population being a small minority of the province. In the school system of Quebec, the Jewish population interfered. Because schools were mostly based on Catholicism, Jewish parents were not permitted on the school boards and could not participate, which is what prompted them to desire to create a Jewish school system which in turn made the Francophone population hate them more. 2 This religious divide is one that has existed for centuries and for a religious society, made anti-Semitism and discrimination very

Abella, Irving. Anti-Semitism, The Canadian Encyclopaedia (accessed 31 March 2010).

prominent. Another reason for the prominence of anti-Semitism in Canada during this time was due to what the Anglo-Saxons of the country wanted Canada to be. Jews reduced the white Canada because they were not Anglo-Saxon and they had different values that did not support what Canada was meant to be about. Jewish people were considered city people, and this went against the rural image of Canada, especially with the opening up of the west, which made Canada strongly agricultural.3 As Howard Palmer describes in his article, Reluctant Hosts: Anglo-Canadian Views of Multiculturalism in the Twentieth Century, Jews were one of the least desirable immigrants to fill the lands of Canada during the first decades of the twentieth century because the Jewish people were not likely, according to Anglo-Saxons, to assimilate to the Anglo-culture, which at the time was the goal of the Canadian government. Canada wanted its immigrants to conform to its Anglo-Saxon ways, and because of that, Jews were not seen as an ethnic group that was wanted in the country.4 As a result, this would also lead to anti-Semitic feelings, and if not conveyed in actions, would certainly still remain in stigma. To some people, the immigration of Jews was prohibiting the ability for Canada to stay Anglo-Saxon and this way a good enough reason to hate the Jews after the waves of immigration after 1900.5 Whether it was for religious reasons or for the levels of immigration, by the 1920s and 1930s, there were already ill feelings towards the Jews of Canada which furthered along the prominence between the wars.

Abella, Irving. Anti-Semitism, The Canadian Encyclopaedia (accessed 31 March 2010). 4 Palmer, Howard, Reluctant Hosts: Anglo-Canadian Views of Multiculturalism in the Twentieth Century. th In Readings in Canadian History: Post Confederation, 7 ed., edited by R. Douglas Francis and Donald B. Smith (Toronto, ON: Thomson Nelson, 2006), 176. 5 Abella, Irving. Anti-Semitism, The Canadian Encyclopaedia (accessed 31 March 2010).

Immigration was the main concern for Canadian politicians who wanted to preserve the Anglo-Canadian image of the early 20th century. The Director of Immigration himself considered Jews city people which was a problem because the Jewish population was only considered acceptable if they were working the fields in the west or the mines in the north. Because they could not be kept in rural areas, the government wanted to do something to restrict immigration of the Jews, and the Depression gave them the opportunity to do that.6 Immigration policies during the 1930s, therefore, were at their strictest. The case of the St. Louis is a perfect example of the harsh rejection of Jewish refugees from Europe, not only by Canada but by the United States, Cuba and other Latin America countries. On May 15, 1939, nine hundred and seven German Jews boarded the St. Louis in hopes for a safe haven away from Europe. The strength of anti-Semitism by this point in time is truly felt by the fact that no nation would take them in as refugees. Most people on the St. Louis ended up dying in holocaust. The guilt of such an event took its toll on Canadian politicians, who later regretted the Canadian immigration policies of Jewish refugees in the 1930s.7 In fact, Canada only accepted 4000 refugees between 1933 and 1939, a much smaller number than the United States of Britain, which was the most crucial time, and a true chance to save lives.8 It is evident therefore, that anti-Semitic feelings of the time were much stronger than the human compassion to save lives. Anti-Semitism was prominent in all of Canada, stronger in the east of the country than the west and expressed through different actions. Quebec is a particular case of anti-Semitism because it arose earlier than the fascist influence from Europe, but in a very similar fashion to
6 Abella, Irving and Harold Martin Troper. None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe (Toronto:
Lester and Orpen Dennys, 1982), 5. 7 Ibid, 63. 8 Keefer, Michael. Antisemitism in Canada (Part 1: A Disgraceful History). The Canadian Charger. (accessed 31 March 2010).

Germany and many historians consider anti-Semitism to be the most prominent in Quebec than any other province. Anti-Semitism in Quebec was at first highly based on religious differences. Jews were living as a minority in a Catholic society and this issue lasted for years before the rise of a much stronger anti-Semitism relating to competition in business and professions. The achat chez nous movement attempted to boycott the goods of Jewish producers and sellers.9 In many ways an anti-Semitic boycott, achat chez nous portrayed itself as a patriotic project to strengthen the economy and the morale of the francophone Catholic population, which made the Jews the scapegoat and created ill feelings.10 In 1930, Adrien Arcand, the leader of The Parti national social chrtien, began a campaign of hate propaganda through three weekly papers: Le Goglu, Le Miroir and Le Chameau which started a whole new level of anti-Semitism in Quebec. These papers expressed nationalism in Quebec, which was highly connected with the hatred of Jews, just like it became to be in Germany under the control of Hitler.11 Arcand, similarly to Hitler, used anti-Semitism to get ahead in his political agenda in Quebec. A French Canadian wrote to Mackenzie King in 1938 that French Canadians are educated in their early childhood to hate the Jews and this again dates back to the religious argument of tales relating to Jewish wickedness12 The Social Credit Party in Alberta was able to get power during the years of the Depression and during the Second World War, despite being openly anti-Semitic. The party had a conspiracy that blamed the international Jewish financier for the worlds Canadas and

Betcherman, Lita-Rose. The Swastika and the Maple Leaf: Fascist Movements in Canada in the Thirties (Pickering, ON: Lita-Rose Betcherman, 1975), 5. 10 Stingel, Janine. Social Discredit, Anti-Semitism, and the Jewish Response (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2000), 26. 11 Rome, David. Clouds in the Thirties: On Anti-Semitism in Canada. 1929-1939 (Montreal, 1977), 71. 12 Betcherman, Lita-Rose. The Swastika and the Maple Leaf: Fascist Movements in Canada in the Thirties (Pickering, ON: Lita-Rose Betcherman, 1975), 13.

Albertas economic and political ills of the 1930s.13 Social Credit rose out of the Great Depression in Alberta in the 1930s which saw tough times for farmers in the region, who were receiving nothing in exchange for their crops.14 Douglas, the leader of Social Credit accused Judaism of being the foundation upon which "monopoly capitalism" was based, and argued that pre-war Germany and post-war Russia were under the direct influence of Jews who were the protagonists of "collectivism," which included socialism, communism, and big business.15 This is all part of propaganda to find a scapegoat for the problems that Alberta was facing at the time which allowed Social Credit to take power in the province, and with its anti-Semitic philosophies and policies, it made anti-Semitism prominent in Alberta through the 1930s and 1940s. The Deutsche Bund, also called the German League, was active in nearly all German and Ukrainian communities in Saskatchewan in the 1930s, while the fascistic Canadian Nationalist party, created in Winnipeg in 1933, found support among many Canadians, not solely those of German origin.16 Similarly in Ontario, Swastika Clubs existed, which imitated the anti-Semitism in Germany with signs keeping Jews out of stores, schools, industries, hospitals, etc.17 An example of this comes from a beach in Toronto, which had a sign stating No Jews or Dogs Allowed, therefore keeping Jewish people away from public places in the same means that Hitler used in the earlier 1930s in Germany. Fascism derived from Germany had the strongest influence on anti-Semitism than any other reason in Canada during the 1930s. The movements that most strongly advocated hatred towards Jews and used propaganda were all fascist in nature and emulated those of Hitlers Germany. That is evident through their uniforms, their slogans,

Stingel, Janine. Social Discredit, Anti-Semitism, and the Jewish Response (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2000), 4. 14 Ibid, 9. 15 Ibid, 18. 16 Ibid, 26. 17 Betcherman, Lita-Rose. The Swastika and the Maple Leaf: Fascist Movements in Canada in the Thirties (Pickering, ON: Lita-Rose Betcherman, 1975), 45.

and the use of swastikas. Anti-Semitism in Canada was an outside creation from Germany, although it existed earlier on in Canada, but not to the levels it reached between the wars. In a book about contemporary anti-Semitism, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney reflects on anti-Semitism from the earlier 20th century and criticizes the attitudes of Canadians in the 1930s. He mentions the Christie Pits riot in Toronto on August 16, 1933 and then continues to prove that anti-Semitism was widespread by giving an example from Montreal, where workers in a hospital went on strike to protests the hiring of a Jew as their colleague.18 Mulroney blames the government in the time, which was led by W.L. Mackenzie King, who met with Hitler in Germany in 1937. The inefficiency of the government to stop the actions against the Jewish population contributed to the growing anti-Semitism of the time. The Christie Pits riot in 1933 in Toronto is an interesting case of how anti-Semitism was becoming more prominent and more violent. According to Macleans Magazine, this riot had nothing to do with the baseball game that occurred earlier on that day. What the authors claim the riot was really about was a Jewish retaliation for the harassment they had received from a group of young Nazi sympathizers the entire summer. There were clear tensions between these groups because the Jewish people wanted to protect themselves and stand up for their rights, but there was not one truly helping them.19 They were not only fighting against this particular group of Nazi sympathizers, but against a prejudice that only continued to grow as Hitler got more power in Germany and his influence in the rest of the Western World got stronger. Acts of anti-Semitism were expressed in newspaper articles from the Globe and Mail which describe various events and opinions of anti-Semitism throughout the 1920s and 30s. By
18 Contemporary Anti-Semitism: Canada and the World. Edited by Derek J. Penslar, Michael R.Marrus, and
Janie Gross Stein (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005). 19 Wallechinsy, David, Amy Wallace, Ira Basen, and Jane Farrow. Four Canadian Sports Riots.Macleans Magazine, December 27, 2005.

looking at these articles, it becomes apparent that anti-Semitism was a regular occurrence in the time between the world wars, although the reasons were not always clear. Discrimination against Jewish people was evident in the 1920s in Toronto, as seen by a newspaper article by Rabbi Isserman who claimed in the July 15, 1927 issue of the newspaper that Jewish students could not receive internships in Toronto hospitals, which is a clear sign of discrimination against Jews. The Rabbi, too, questions why this anti-Semitism existed, and how unfortunate it is that Jewish physicians are not able to gain experience in their professions. Rabbi Isserman asks if this discrimination is due to professional jealousy, or religion.20 I believe that it could be either. As it has been seen, Jews were partly hated because they posed as competition in business and in various professional fields. Anglo-Canadians did not want to compete for their jobs with those considered lower than them in society. Religion too could be a part of it, but because this is in Ontario and not in Quebec, Catholicism is not a prominent part of society. Therefore, I believe that in this particular case, it may have been more related to the sense of competition within the field. In the July 9, 1931 issue, there is letter written to the editor about how anti-Semitism has found its way into Canada through propaganda in Canadian newspapers which promote the hatred of the Jewish people. The writer claims that articles tell stories such as the Jews are storming Montreal schools in the attempt to rid the schools of Catholicism and to install Hebrew into the curriculum.21 This would have been posed as a threat, and in the similar fashion, promote hatred of the Jewish people through lies and propaganda. In an article called Why does the Jew Suffer? from a June 1932 issue, the author claims that much of the hatred towards Jewish people throughout the centuries has been due to the stigma given to the people by the Christians. This particular writer believes that anti-Semitism

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Anti-Semitism Seen in Hospitals by Rabbi Isserman, Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), July 15, 1927. Anti-Semitism, Glove and Mail (Toronto, ON), July 9, 1931.

will only end when Christ comes back on Judgment Day, which represents the strong religious views of anti-Semitism that still existed when this was written in the 20th century.22 I believe that in the 1930s, this could have been a foundation for continuing anti-Semitism, and not the main reason why it was so prominent. Anti-Jewish Feeling in United States by J.V McAree in the September 16, 1937 issue proved that feelings of anti-Semitism could easily be transferred across the border. McAree also believed that the growing anti-Semitism in the United States, and what was becoming more prominent in Canada was due to Nazi propaganda. The latent dislike is there all right, and every offense of an individual Jew is distorted into a reason for despising the whole race, raises an interesting question on how Anglo-Saxons viewed anti-Semitism during the time. McAree is evidently criticizing the Jewish response to what they considered anti-Semitic acts. McAree mentions earlier on in the article that some consider him to be the biggest anti-Semite in Toronto would certainly have a strong opinion about how to place anti-Semitism in Canada in the context of this time.23 It is in his defence to blame the Jewish people of exaggerating the situation although it is very evident that anti-Semitism was as prominent as many of the policies and actions at the time showed. Eisendrath Demands Anti-Semitism Probe on November 3rd, 1937 is the beginning of a series of articles about a very particular anti-Semitic act in Toronto. Rabbi Eisendrath declares that anti-Semitic acts have been occurring in his neighbourhood in Toronto and links it all with Fascist and Nazi beliefs. All the acts committed had a Nazi or fascist symbol attached, such as when a swastika that was nailed to the rabbis door. This proves the growing influence of Nazism in Canada and how propaganda all the way from Nazi Germany could influence the acts of supporters in Canada. Rabbi Eisendrath also comments on the fact

22 23

Why Does the Jew Suffer? Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), June 22, 1932. Anti-Jewish Feeling in United States, Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), September 16, 1937.

that there was Fascist literature flooding into the city, and the more people that could read the propaganda against the Jewish population, the more influence there is for anti-Semitic acts.24 In a different article about the save event, drastic measures are being discussed after the incident with Rabbi Eisendrath. The Rabbi claims that a Nazi agent who was expelled from the United States, was now residing in Toronto, and therefore measures have to be taken to remove Nazi propaganda from the country to prevent further anti-Semitic acts. The Rabbi declares that one million copies of one Nazi magazine had been passed out throughout the dominion.25 The fact that this particular event had been written about consecutively in the Globe and Mail in November of 1937 means that it was significant in representing the prominence of anti-Semitic acts in Canada, and specifically Toronto. By repeating this story, the editors are proving the effect and influence of Nazi agents in Canada. J.J. Glass, a politician in Ontario wanted to do something about anti-Semitism, as described in a November 5, 1937 issue of the Globe and Mail in a Plea at the next Legislature. He too, claimed that anti-Semitism was derived from the Fascist movements who were receiving financial support and through propaganda, were taking actions against the Jewish people in Canada. Glass believes that these attitudes emanated from Quebec, where anti-Semitism was clearly in its most prominence.26 Jewish people could not escape the hatred felt towards them, and different people claimed different reasons for their hatred towards the Jewish people. In September 1938, Reverend Dr. Peter Bryce notices the effects of the Nazi Regime in Germany and how it has been able to influence the world in its hatred towards the Jews, which he recognizes, it spilling into Canada as well.27 It Alone Has Refused To Surrender Soul, Declares Moderator is another article that proves that anti
Eisendrath Demands Anti-Semitism Probe, Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), November 3, 1937. Rabbi Blames Nazi Agents, Asks Actions, Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), November 8, 1937. 26 Plea at the Next Legislature, Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), November 5, 1937. 27 It Alone Has Refused to Surrender Soul, Declares Moderator, Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), September 22, 1938.
25 24

Semitism was believed to become more prominent because of the German influence at that time under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. Finally, an article from the April 29, 1939 issue proves the prominence of anti-Semitism in Quebec, whereby the article claims that Jewish papers were seized by police in Montreal. The papers seized included articles about anti-Semitism, most likely condemning it, and this would be, in my opinion why the papers were seized. 28 The spread of Fascist publications was widespread, and in order to successfully follow through with the propaganda, the other side of the argument towards Jewish people must have been eliminated. As can be seen through the twelve year period of newspaper articles in this paper, there were a few main reasons expressed for the anti-Semitism. Most of the articles do confirm that new waves of anti-Semitism were due to the Nazi regime in Germany and its influence on various groups in Canada, while the articles still show the same reasons that existed for anti-Semitism for many years earlier. Because of the existing feelings towards Jewish people, whether it was for religious reasons, or because the Jewish population was considered alien in Canada at this time, anti-Semitism, with the influence of Nazi propaganda was able to grow and that is why is seemed so prominent between the wars, and prevalent in the newspapers. The interesting thing about anti-Semitism in Canada is that it remained intact even during World War II and right after the war. In 1943 a Gallup poll asked Canadians to list the most undesirable potential immigrants to this country found that Jews were put in third place, after only Japanese and Germans, which were the enemies in the war. In 1946, after the war had ended and news of the holocaust was widespread, the same poll was repeated and Jews were


Jewish Papers Seized By Police in Montreal, Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON), April 29, 1939.

advanced to second place: only the Japanese were regarded as more undesirable immigrants.29 There had to be ill feelings so deep, and I believe heavily reflected by earlier reasons for hatred, to continue to dominate the opinions of Canadians after the war. After some time, the concept of none is too many arose in Canada through feelings of guilt about not saving more lives when Jewish refugees attempted to enter the country, such as the case of the St. Louis in 1939. There was certainly a lot to reflect on in terms of anti-Semitism in Canada after the Second World War had ended, and an important question as to why it was so prominent in Canada during this time. Anti-Semitism is a complicated notion that has existed in the world for centuries, and was not unique to Canada in the period between the two World Wars. However, particular circumstances of the time made anti-Semitism in all regions of Canada more prominent than they had previously been. Existing notions about Jewish people certainly made it easier for both the Francophone and Anglo-Saxon populations of Canada to hate the Jewish immigrants that were coming into the country. People in Quebec had a stigma about Jews because of the religious beliefs that they had. Simultaneously in Canada, Jews came to be seen as competitors for work, which made them even less desirable as immigrants to the nation. Immigration policies, therefore, heavily restricted the immigration of Jews in the 1930s in the attempt to preserve an Anglo-Saxon Canada and because Jews because the scapegoat for the Great Depression all over the world. Hitler, and his Nazi had the strongest influence over anti-Semitism in Canada as movement emerged in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and more provinces as well. Fascism had a worldwide effect and as a result, anti-Semitism was very prominent in the 1920s and 1930s.

Keefer, Michael. Antisemitism in Canada (Part 1: A Disgraceful History). The Canadian Charger. (accessed 31 March 2010).

Bibliography Abella, Irving. Anti-Semitism. The Canadian Encyclopaedia. 00247 (accessed 31 March 2010). Abella, Irving and Harold Martin Troper. None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe. Toronto: Lester and Orpen Dennys, 1982. Betcherman, Lita-Rose. The Swastika and the Maple Leaf: Fascist Movements in Canada in the Thirties. Pickering, ON: Lita-Rose Betcherman, 1975. Contemporary Anti-Semitism: Canada and the World. Edited by Derek J. Penslar, Michael R. Marrus, and Janie Gross Stein. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005. The Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON) Keefer, Michael. Antisemitism in Canada (Part 1: A Disgraceful History). The Canadian Charger. (accessed 31 March 2010). Palmer, Howard. Reluctant Hosts: Anglo-Canadian Views of Multiculturalism in the Twentieth Century. In Readings in Canadian History: Post Confederation, 7th ed., edited by R. Douglas Francis and Donald B. Smith, 175-188. Toronto: Thomson Nelson, 2006. Rome, David. Clouds in the Thirties: On Anti-Semitism in Canada. 1929-1939. Montreal, 1977. Stingel, Janine. Social Discredit, Anti-Semitism, and the Jewish Response. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2000. Wallechinsy, David, Amy Wallace, Ira Basen, and Jane Farrow. Four Canadian Sports Riots. Macleans Magazine, December 27, 2005.