Canada accepted thousands of ex-Nazis in the years following World War II only because the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe prevented it from screening out potential war criminals, according to a new book.
But Jewish groups and scholars say Howard Margolian’s “Unauthorized Entry: The Truth about Nazi War Criminals in Canada, 1946-1956” is an attempt to whitewash history.
“There was no official tolerance for war criminals,” Margolian says, adding that Canada need not be ashamed of its record and that the admission of thousands of Nazis into Canada in the postwar era was “regrettable but unavoidable.”
Margolian asserts that his book “debunks the myths and fallacies first set out by a royal commission and later repeated as mantra by war crimes advocacy groups.”
According to the Montreal-born author, Canada admitted roughly 2,000 former Nazi war criminals into Canada after the war.
Numerous historians and Jewish communal officials, including Leo Adler, director of the Canadian branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, set the figure at about 4,000.
“We disagree strongly” with Margolian, Adler said. “It’s clear from other scholarly books” and evidence from a 1986 federal commission and various Cabinet documents that the “Canadian government very deliberately decided to ignore the Immigration Act and not do the proper assessment of these war criminals.”
Historian Irving Abella calls the book “an able, though at times infuriating, attempt by a government historian to whitewash Canada’s record on admitting Nazi war criminals.”
Abella says the roughly 4,000 Nazi war criminals he estimates immigrated to Canada were not ordinary criminals but brutal murderers and serial killers, many of whom had suspicious armpit scars where their SS tattoos had once been.
“The real scandal of the Nazi war-criminal issue is not so much that we let them in, but that for 50 years we refused to get them out,” said Abella, noting that Canada has extradited only one and deported only two of the thousands of Nazis who came here since 1945.
Jack Silverstone, national executive vice president and legal counsel for the Canadian Jewish Congress, praised the book as a “very extensive piece of research” but said the author refuses to draw any moral conclusion from his thorough historical study.
“Where’s the moral basis of his argument? Even 2,000 Nazi war criminals in this country is a crisis, as far as I’m concerned,” Silverstone said.
“We’ve never played the numbers game in regard to Nazi war criminals, because any amount of them would have been too many.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.