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Canada and World War 2

Canada's Response
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Refugee Jews in the 1930s

Life became more and more difficult for the Jews during the 1930s, and many attempted to flee the country. Countries were so alarmed by the mass flood of refugees that many did not allow them to enter their country. Nearly 800 000 Jews tried to escape Germany from 1933 to 1939. Canada accepted fewer than 4000 before the war. The U.S accepted 240 000 and Britain 85 000.

Many Canadians seemed unmoved, even hostile, towards these people. Anti-Semitism existed in Canada during the 1920s and 1930s. There were no Jewish judges, lawyers, professors, and very few Jewish teachers. Many had to hide their identity in order to be hired. Clubs and resorts often displayed signs on their doors stating that no Jews were allowed.

Canada's immigration policy was very restricitve in the 1930s. British and American immigrants were "preferred" and those not of Anglo-Saxon descent were encouraged not to come to Canada and discriminated against. Some people believed that the Jews did need assistance, but not from Canada. They believed that Jews should be sent to Africa or Asia.

The St. Louis Incident

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St. Louis Ocean Liner carried 907 Jews in 1939

In June of 1939, the St. Louis Ocean Liner arrived off the East Coast of Canada carrying 907 Jews. These refugees had been denied entry into Cuba and other Latin-American countries. These Jews had turned to Canada in hopes of finding somewhere to live. Earlier in 1939, Canada had allowed nearly 3000 Jews into Canada, but now refused to allow these Jews enter Canada. It was believed that Jewish refugees would not make good settlers.

The Canadian government turned down the request of many Canadian citizens to allow the Jewish people to land in Canada. The St. Louis was forced to turn around and head back to Europe. Many Jews on the Ocean Liner eventually would die in Nazi Concentration Camps. The story of the Jews on the St. Louis would later be openly displayed in the movie "The Voyage of the Damned".

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Created by Sarah Lucas. Final History Assignment 2005-2006.