Behind the Headlines Canada Accused of Bias Against German Jewish Intellectuals Before and During Wo
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Behind the Headlines Canada Accused of Bias Against German Jewish Intellectuals Before and During Wo

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Harold Troper, co-author with Irving Abella of “None Is Too Many,” a book which details Canada’s restrictive immigration policies against Jews before and during World War II, told the Canadian Society of Germanists that Canada’s attitude towards Geman Jewish intellectuals was even more strident during that period.

Troper, who delivered his paper at the annaul meeting of The Learned Societies of Canada (where more than 50 academic disciplines meet for scholarly exchanges), said that Canadian government policy was part of the larger immigration philosophy endorsed by Canadians from the early years of the century.

Those policies were an expression of Canada’s belief that only Northern European types would make the proper kind of immigrant needed to develop Canada’s vast rural areas. Jews and Italians (and other peoples) were not considered suitable for this kind of settlement population.

When the Nazis took over in Germany, Troper related, many German Jewish intellectuals tried to obtain asylum in Canada and, unlike the situation in other countries (the United States, for example) they met with a total blockade.


In surveying the Canadian university scene Troper produced grim evidence of the attitude of Canadian academics towards the prospects of German Jewish intellectuals arriving in Canada. The initial response to the German Jews was that there were no academic vacancies. Troper said ironically that even if there had been any vacancies no German Jews would have been invited because in the 1930’s and 1940’s the Canadian universities did not employ Jewish academics. That situation did not change until the 1950’s.

Troper, who teaches history at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto, quoted from documents in which university spokesmen during the pre-war years warned ominously about the spectre of Jews inundating the universities if German Jewish intellectuals were allowed into Canada.

In the late 1930’s at a meeting of national scope at which Canadian professors debated academic policies (the predecessor of The Learned Societies of Canada) and listened to scholarly papers, a resolution was introduced on the issue of German Jewish immigration into Canada.

The assembled Canadian academics voted unanimously to urge the government in Ottawa not to open its doors to those prospective immigrants. Troper pointed out, with considerable poignancy, that because of Canada’s short sightedness and self-interest the country lost an opportunity to enrich itself through the acquisition of some of the world’s finest minds.

The some myopia actuated Canadian government policy with regard to the German Jews who were sent to Canada by Britain as enemy aliens along with other German nationals. The Canadian government refused to permit these Jewish anti-Nazis to involve themselves in activities which might have helped the Allied war effort against the Axis powers.

During the question period a number of professors expressed incredulity with regard to Canada’s wartime policy towards Jews. Asked by one professor whether any German Jewish intellectuals made it into Canada at that period, Troper replied that a handful had gained entrance through the subterfuge of listing their religion as Protestant in application forms. “I would that many more had done so,” said Troper.

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