WWII: Antisemitism on the Home Front

The following article has been provided by external source. The Government of Canada and Royal Military College Saint-Jean are not responsible for the accuracy, reliability or currency of the information supplied by external sources. Users wishing to rely upon this information should consult directly with the source of the information. Content provided by external sources is not subject to official languages, privacy and accessibility requirements.

Nanette Norris

Culture is intangible and almost indefinable. The Canadian experience is of several cultures co-existing side by side. Culture can be passed down from generation to generation, but by the third it may mean no more than a type of food in the cupboard, an expression or two, melodies learned at the mother's knee, and a dearly-held respect for the elderly. All the rest will have become the culture of the new home, perhaps of a downtown like Montreal or Toronto, perhaps of a small town in Quebec or Ontario or B.C., a culture which is homogenous with one's neighbours and friends - attitudes and behaviours of which, being akin to everyone else's, one is essentially unaware. The much-debated Canadian identity has often been defined vis-à-vis the United States. An editorial in Maclean's spoke of the U.S. as a superpower, and Canadians thinking of themselves as a "moral superpower."Note de bas de page 1 Canadians see themselves as multicultural, non-racist peacekeepers with a strong sense of environmental responsibility and human ethics. We have a national health program that we fight to keep strong, and a welfare net for those in need. However, if we were to look closely, we would find that the facts belie the myth: that emission controls are slow in coming, that police across Canada are more likely to stop a citizen of colour than a white one, and that women are more likely to head impoverished, single-parent families.

There are other myths which are creeping into our vocabulary, like the one that says, "The Holocaust that we speak of today emerged slowly as a separable, singular, paradigmatic event from the overall course of the war and the deaths of 50 million people in that war. Familiar as it is now, it was unknown at the time."Note de bas de page 2 This statement is patently untrue. As David Boyle summarizes,

Anyone with the least interest in current events had been aware of the Nazi persecution of Jews from the very beginning of Hitler's rule. Newspapers the world over had reported how the Jewish middle-class - intellectuals, financiers, physicians - had been forced out of public life. They knew that Nazis regarded Arabs, Africans, Slavs and Orientals in general as untermenschen (subhuman), but that they reserved their special venom for Jews.... Hitler had deprived Jews of German citizenship and basic human rights as far back as 1935. They were forbidden to go to concerts or films, to drive, to sit on park benches or buy newspapers; marrying an 'Aryan' was punishable by death. Hatred of Jewry culminated in the infamous Kristallnacht ('night of the broken glass') of 1938, which took place after a Jewish youth assassinated the German ambassador to Paris. Thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses were looted and burned while the police looked on.

Concentration camps such as Dachau had been set up as early as 1933, though as yet there was no policy of genocide. Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, gypsies and pacifists all joined the Jews behind barbed wire. But with Hitler's conquests of 1939-41, the number of Jews under German rule increased to up to 10 million. Hitler planned to resettle them in Madagascar, though by this stage tens of thousands had already been murdered in Poland and Russia.... It was not until 1942 that Himmler unveiled what he described as the 'Final Solution' - the extermination of the Jewish race in Europe.Note de bas de page 3

Anti-Jewish Laws Tightened. The Montreal Daily Star. March 20, 1942. np.

Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia Adopt New Restrictions

Berne, Switzerland, March 20 (A.P.) - Already stringent anti-Jewish measures have been tightened in three Axis countries - Hungar [sic], Bulgaria and Slovkia.

Hungary announced that all Jewish-owned lands had been placed under state control, while the new Premier, Nicolas Kallay, told Parliament one of his first tasks would be to eliminate "Judaism as far as it puts a check on the development of the nation."

The Bulgarian Interior Minister decreed that only 15 Jewish technicians of a total of 125 with technical degrees would be allowed to work in that country.

The Slovak Government ordered all Jews to remain in their homes between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

The Montreal Daily Star, March 20, 1942, np.

Why, then, are we beginning to say that we only became aware of the Holocaust gradually and after the war had ended? Certainly, it is putting a fine point on the deprivation of human rights and the murder of humans if only the ultimate and organized genocidal actions are considered to be 'the Holocaust'. If we date the 'true' Holocaust as beginning with Krystallnacht, that would place it as early as 1938. Certainly, the plight of the S.S. St. Louis, in 1939, received widespread media coverage. Canada was one of the countries to deny entrance to these refugees, much to our present-day shame.

For Hitler, the case of the S.S. St. Louis marked a stunning victory. It proved that, in spite of the protestations of the Allied leaders to the contrary, they didn't want Jews in their countries any more than he wanted them in his. In fact, when a Canadian official was asked how many Jews fleeing from Nazi Europe could be admitted to Canada, he responded: "None is too many." This eventually became the title of a book, describing Canada's draconian refugee policies.Note de bas de page 4

Several reasons come to mind for this conscious de-emphasizing of the world's knowledge. First of all, it excuses the governments who did not immediately go to war, and moreover who did not enter the war on behalf of the citizens of the world who were being murdered. Secondly, it is a reaction to the present-day movement which claims the Holocaust was a 'unique' event in the history of the world. The reaction is complex. On the one hand there are those who agree it was a unique event, since European Jewry was all but destroyed, and by such highly organized technology. On the other hand there are those who point out that the number of people who died in the concentration camps far exceeds as a whole the number of Jewish people murdered, and that it is the strength of the Jewish lobbyists for Holocaust memorializing that has created the memory of the Holocaust as it now exists. Finally, the present-day focus serves to downplay the extent to which people at the time participated in antisemitism all too similar to that which took over in Germany.

Nazis Execute 100,000 Jews. The Montreal Daily Star. March 17, 1942. np.

Nazis Execute 100,000 Jews

Campaign of Extermination Waged in Occupied Areas

Stockholm, March 17 (B.U.P.) - Germans have executed more than 100,000 Jews in a systematic "campaign of extermination" in White Russia and Baltic countries, reliable neutral reports said yesterday.

The Montreal Daily Star, March 17, 1942, np.

It is this last that we will look at more closely. Our focus will be the Canadian poet A.M. Klein, who was often referred to during his day as 'the Jewish poet', as though there were no others. His awareness of his Jewishness and his sensitivity to attitudes within his community and beyond make his poems valuable expressions of the complexity of culture in Canada as a whole, and especially in his home province of Quebec. He gives some sense of what it was like to be a Jew in Canada before and during the war years. Even while the war was raging in Europe, Klein began to describe ways in which Canadian society participated in the antisemitic attitudes - and actions - which so threatened the Jewish people in Europe. He raises the important question of how such atrocities could come about - the impetus, the subtle forces, which might lead one culture to dehumanize another, and to wish its demise.

Abraham Moses Klein arrived in Montreal in the summer of 1910 with his parents and two older sisters, part of some 4 million Jews who migrated around that time. Some were refugees who fled across the globe to escape murderous pogroms in Russian and the Ukraine. However, as Ira Robinson pointed out when he reviewed an earlier draft of this paper, "not all Jewish emigrants were fleeing pogroms. Certainly, Jews in the Russian Empire experienced these atrocities. However, Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire had none, and yet emigrated at about the same rate. The clear motivation was economic: Eastern European poverty vs. North American opportunity."Note de bas de page 5 In 1881, the Montreal Jewish community numbered a mere 800; by 1910 there were 30 thousand, and within two decades this number had doubled.Note de bas de page 6

Biographer Usher Caplan referred to Montreal at that time as a place of ethnic solitudes "where Jews could maintain their group identity."Note de bas de page 7 It was nonetheless a time of immense pressure for the non-Jewish population of Montreal, which felt itself to be inundated with exotic Jewish strangers. In fact, during the post-1917 paranoia and the RCMP focus on communism, these foreign-speaking/looking strangers would have been considered potential subversives.

Klein was to become "the Jewish poet" full of "Jewish nationalism"Note de bas de page 8 : Ukrainian yet no longer of the Ukraine; Jewish in a predominantly non-Jewish world. His dominant reality was to be that of an outsider looking in, intimately familiar yet essentially alienated -- the ultimate experience of the Canadian immigrant and of the Jewish diaspora.

When Klein considers the victimization of the Jewish people, his tone is both ironic and melancholic. He once wrote that irony and satire are the special provinces of the oft-exiled Jew. Exile "ruthlessly wiped off even the first faint glimmerings of a smile from the face of the Jew," yet "still could the Jew indulge, though secretly, in a sly dig at fate, a sardonic smile at inquisitorial busybodies, a word satiric."Note de bas de page 9 Because they were an oppressed people, the Jews made use of irony, wit and satire, the discourses of hidden humour.

The power of irony depends upon "the twin conditions of context and community of belief." It allows a speaker "to work within a dominant tradition but also to challenge it."Note de bas de page 10 Both Kierkegaard and Schlegel saw irony as essentially revolutionary, involving the overthrow of all that is objectively real. At the same time, Kierkegaard says, "it is the ironist's pleasure to seem ensnared by the same prejudice imprisoning the other person."Note de bas de page 11 In other words, once detected, the ironic voice will undermine the stability of the perceived reality of the text.

The melancholia with which his work is tinged is more than nostalgia for a time and place. Freud pointed out in his "Mourning and Melancholia" that melancholia is evidence of the loss of "some abstraction ... such as fatherland, liberty, and ideal.... The object has not perhaps actually died, but has become lost as an object of love."Note de bas de page 12 In Klein's view, the loss is of the ideal which life in Canada represented: freedom from terror and oppression, freedom from antisemitism, freedom from victimization, and freedom from being the scapegoat.

In Klein's poem, "Autobiographical," the images are related tenderly, with what has been called "a nostalgia for a time of simplicity and innocence... a nostalgia which is inextricably linked to the joyful stability of Klein's own childhood."Note de bas de page 13 I question whether the sense of 'joyful stability' isn't ironic in itself: the instability of the diasporic experience and the horror of ethnic intolerance snakes through the memories and bursts out in the word "Jewboy" which punctuates the poem. This word calls into question the entire recounted memory of childhood and accentuates the extent to which the speaker has assimilated into his sense of self the antisemitism to which he has been exposed.

Klein opens the poem with the tension between the home culture and that of the Jewish immigrants, exposing some of the conditions in which the Jews lived in Montreal.

Out of the ghetto streets where a Jewboy
Dreamed pavement into pleasant bible-land,
Out of the Yiddish slums where childhood met
The friendly beard, the loutish Sabbath-goy,
Or followed, proud, the Torah-escorting band,
Out of the jargoning city I regret,
Rise memories, like sparrows rising from
The gutter-scattered oats,
Like sadness sweet of synagogal hum,
Like Hebrew violins
Sobbing delight upon their eastern notes.Note de bas de page 14

The idea that Montreal and Canada might be a place of refuge is largely mythical and unreal. In fact, the Jewish people live in "ghetto streets" and "Yiddish slums" where they remain alienated from the community of the new land by their "eastern notes." They look and sound essentially different from people born and raised in Quebec and Canada. Even the music, the diatonic chants of the synagogue cantors, is alien to both the French- and English-speaking Canadians. The memories which "rise" "Out of the jargoning city I regret" are those of "a Jewboy," self-actualized as a pejorative 'other,' for whom the danger is imminent and on-going.

The word 'ghetto' is ambiguous. Historically, the Jews have lived in ghettos: Ira Robinson points out that there is ample evidence that even when Jews were not legally segregated in ghettos, they tended to live together in their own street or quarter. This is how premodern cities in general were organized, with butchers living in one street, tailors in a second, and Jews in a third..."Note de bas de page 15

Klein's use of the term "the loutish Sabbath-goy" is equally problematic, with 'goy' being a largely pejorative term for a non-Jew, which in this sense (especially combined with the term 'loutish') shows the complicity of the Jewish people in counter-prejudice. The 'Sabbath-goy' was someone hired to do the work of tending fires and so forth on the Sabbath when the Jews were forbidden to do work by the tenets of their religious belief. That this person was considered generically 'loutish' shows a dehumanizing and belittling impulse that is perhaps an act of resistance and self-preservation in view of the use of the word 'Jewboy.'

There is joy in this poem, and a solid sense of childhood memories of a time which had most likely passed by the time the poem was written. Here, "childhood met/The friendly beard" or Rabbi. The streets and homes of the Jewish quarter reverberated with the sights and sounds of Jewish life, every moment enhanced by a sense of a living religion: "murmuring Maariv, counting holy words," hearing "tall tales about the Baal Shem Tov -," "Hazelnut games, and games in the synagogue --/The burrs, the Haman rattle,/The Torah-dance on Simchas-Torah night."

This is not simply the place in which the child grew up. It is the "kindergarten," the garden of the child, a place of mythical beauty, wonder, and innocence. The nostalgia is for a time and place that can no longer exist for the adult speaker. We all remember the neighbourhoods of our childhoods: the bakeries, the candy shops, the barber. The speaker brings back the sights and sounds:

Again they ring their little bells, those doors
Deemed by the tender-year'd, magnificent:
Old Ashkenazi's cellar, sharp with spice;
The widows' double-parloured candy-stores

The difference is that this neighbourhood is peopled by the old and the lonely, by sects of Jewry, by exotic people and exotic foods, brought together in one place by the ravages of war and prejudice, overshadowed by religion, by "the big synagogue door, with letters of gold."

Montreal Synagogue. Canada. National Archives of Canada. PA-056854.

Montreal Synagogue. Canada. National Archives of Canada. PA-056854.

There is also the sense that, even for the child, it was not all beauty and innocence. The wonder of the garden of the child exists in the same frame as the frightening and the dangerous. The image of the kindergarten offsets "Vollhynia's murderous hordes". Memories of "angel pennies" reflect upon the displaced "Warsovian perruque"Note de bas de page 16 his mother wears for Sabbath prayers. Throughout, there is the recognition that danger is not far away, and that they are a displaced people in a foreign land. Displacement is at the heart of the Jewish religion, of course, which memorializes in ritual many such instances in history.

Life in this kindergarten is unending exoticism which goes beyond the usual wonder of the child. "Old Ashkenazi's cellar, sharp with spice," and "the fruit-stall piled, exotic," along with the "Russian card-games," are all indicative of things which are new as seen through the eyes of a child, but which are also new because they are unfamiliar. The people in these memories have collected here from many different lands. If they were exotic to each other, how much more strange they must have appeared to the fairly homogenous culture dominant in Quebec at that time. Their community was isolated and alienated, an island in the mainstream, which perhaps was the source of the child's sense of himself as a "Jewboy."

Melancholia results from this tension of two cultures. After admitting that, "Never was I more alive./ All days thereafter are a dying off,/ A wandering away/ From home and the familiar," the narrator admits his "sadness in remembered joy." Being honest with himself, he realizes "It is a fabled city that I seek;/ It stands in Space's vapours and Time's haze." Those childhood days was always already coloured: "Thence do I hear, as heard by a Jewboy." Neither culture survives examination in the ideal sense.

Klein had a poet's sense of shifting culture. He was able to pinpoint the movements in the Jewish community as disparate people came together under the aegis of a faith, even though that faith has several faces. He was able to distinguish his own role in this, as he set aside the beliefs but not the sense of belonging that came with being Jewish.

More than this, he was able to place the Jewish people in the context of the French Catholic community in which they found themselves in Quebec. In so doing, he touched upon the one question which continues to disturb us in discussions of the Holocaust: how could such a thing happen?

Written in 1942, Klein's poem "Political Meeting" begins to answer this question. "Political Meeting" examines the nuances of the impulse of hatred and aggressiveness that marked the actions of the Third Reich. The poem makes the connection between a localized occurrence in Montreal and the larger reality of fascism, Nazism, and intolerance. Klein addresses the question of whether it could happen here, and his response is that it already has. He connects intolerance and antisemitism, in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, and the unwillingness to join the fight against the atrocities occurring in Europe, with the attitudes of the German people preceding the election of Hitler. He points at the parallel between the fascism of the Quebec people - which was not seen as a threat such as communism, but rather was cited proudly by Camillien Houde and others as a modified form of capitalism - and the extreme fascism of the Third Reich.

Much of the critical assessment of the volume of poetry in which "Political Meeting" was published has seen the poems as sympathetic to French Quebec. The volume received high praise from Jean-Marie Poirier, of La Presse, who considered Klein was among those who "on su vraiment comprendre le people du Quebec."Note de bas de page 17 At the time of publication, attention had already been drawn to the volume by the prior publication of "Seven Poems," for which Klein received Poetry magazine's annual Edward Bland Prize, and which was used by the press officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress "to counter anti-Semitic influences that had flourished in French Canada during the war years."Note de bas de page 18 The expectation which preceded the publication of the volume was for poetry sympathetic to French Quebec; thus was the volume received, and so remains its reputation to this day. It is a reputation I would like to temper somewhat with an understanding of the love and loss of love Klein was expressing.

In "Political Meeting," the speaker is positioned in a complex, ironic space. Here we have a Jewish poet, writing at the time of the Holocaust, in English, in Quebec, in the full knowledge that his poems would be read by French Quebecers who were in a position of majority power in comparison to the writer himself. Can we be certain that Klein's intended audience was also Jewish? Up until this publication, the "Hebrew theme" was his "prime mover." As William Walsh points out, "The condition of being Jewish, or more positively the fierce sense of Jewish identity, is the generating feeling and the constitutive, substantial experience of all Klein's best poetry up to The Rocking Chair."Note de bas de page 19 The spectre of Jewish experience runs through the poem.

The poem begins with a deceptively neutral tone in the title: "Political Meeting." Perhaps one could regard the title as a contradiction of terms, that 'political' is not often the bedfellow of 'meeting.' The situation, however, is entirely a 'meeting' of like-minded people.

Then follows the parenthetical reference "(for Camillien Houde)." Read phonetically, in English, it is 'chameleon hood,' that which disguises itself, changes colours according to the context - an accurate description of the speaker slipping, in the guise of portraiture, into this scene. It is also an indictment of the attitude which pronounced itself to the world as anti-conscription and shielded, 'hooded,' the much darker reality of antisemitism.

Then follows the parenthetical reference "(for Camillien Houde)." Read phonetically, in English, it is 'chameleon hood,' that which disguises itself, changes colours according to the context - an accurate description of the speaker slipping, in the guise of portraiture, into this scene. It is also an indictment of the attitude which pronounced itself to the world as anti-conscription and shielded, 'hooded,' the much darker reality of antisemitism.

Camillien Houde. Canada. National Archives of Canada. C-027416.

Camillien Houde. Canada. National Archives of Canada. C-027416.

The poem recreates and imagines a series of events that occurred between February 11th and March 24th, 1942. This period was punctuated by two anti-conscription rallies, the first of which featured Henri Bourrassa, the Nationalist leader, and the second, Jean Francois Pouilot, M.P. for Temiscouata.

What is not spoken of in the poem is that which occurred after Pouilot's rally, when a crowd of about 500 marched, through the main streets of the Jewish district. From A bas la conscription the shouts soon changed to A bas les Juifs, and the marchers set to smashing windows, stopping streetcars, and assaulting pedestrians.Note de bas de page 20

The Montreal Daily Star reported that, "contrary to the previous occasion last month when similar disturbances took place following an anti-conscription meeting in the St. James Market hall, the riots did not start last night at or near the Pouliot anti-plebiscite meeting in the north end."Note de bas de page 21 The riot was not necessarily a result of inflammatory rhetoric, a madness of the moment, but the outburst of, as Walsh describes, "a darker force, a submerged and furious racial consciousness waiting to be released" which existed in the society at large. Walsh connects this submerged force with the poem:

"The body odour of race;" Klein's powerful phrase, so dramatically appropriate in the context, ... might well be explained ... by blood, experience and the passionate anger provoked by antisemitism and the German Holocaust.Note de bas de page 22

Indeed, during the period of time in question, The Montreal Daily Star reported that numerous influential politicians were opposed to conscription, including Maxime Raymond, Rene Chaloult, Andre Taschereau, and Louis St. Laurent. At the same time, anti-Jewish laws were reported as having been tightened in Hungary, Bulgaria, and Slovakia; also reported was the execution of 100,000 Jews in German-occupied territories. These newspaper reports show the extent to which the Quebec people were aware of what was happening overseas, even though the full extent of the atrocities would not come to light until 1945. What was known was still atrocious enough.

We do not often have the opportunity to put our finger on the stimuli for creativity. Klein has afforded us such a view as a necessary part of how we can read "Political Meeting." One article published during this period simply spoke of some songs that French-Canadian troops sang for British radio listeners - "the most famous French-Canadian songs of their homeland, with the xception of Allouette." One can speculate that Klein noticed this 'xception' and pondered why the most famous and, arguably, most representative song should have been excluded. When he includes the song in "Political Meeting" it shows the metamorphosis of the French Quebecer's from fun-loving to scapegoating ("... someone lets loose upon the air/ the ritual bird which the crowd in snares of singing/ catches and plucks" as, like their German counterparts, they allow themselves to blame the Jews for their predicament.

Britain Hears Quebec Songs. The Montreal Daily Star. March 10, 1942.

Montrealers Among French-Canadians on B.B.C. Broadcast

London, March 10 - (C.P. Cable) - French-Canadian troops sang Quebec's old folk songs for British radio listeners yesterday.

Capt. Guy Lamarec, white-haired Jesuit padre from Montreal, and his double quartet, picked from Le Regiment de Maisonneuve, were featured on a half-hour all Canadian BBC program which was rebroadcast overseas last night.

The eight uniformed men sang the most famous French-Canadian songs of their homeland, with the xception of Allouette.

Pte. Lucien Soucy of Drummondville, Que., softly rendered ...

The Montreal Daily Star, March 10, 1942 , Theatres pg. 8.

The portraiture of the orator at a rally offered a fitting metaphor for a sense of triangulation between the English, French, and Jewish communities of Quebec. The anti-conscription issue appears to be a French/English one, as the war was considered to be an English war, but Klein shows that it disguises a parallel perspective: the Jewish one. Camillien Houde, to whom the poem is dedicated, was in jail at this time for his anti-conscription activities of 1940. He, like Hitler, was known for his oratorical skills, and there is a photograph of Houde addressing an anti-conscription rally in Montreal (see Caplan) that resembles Hitler at the Nuremberg Rally. The connection between the two is gestured towards in the line "The Orator has risen!" which intimates that both Hitler and Houde were saviours for their people.

Klein connected Houde with the issue of fascism in Quebec. In Klein's 1939 essay, "Little Red Riding Houde," he spears Houde for statements made at political meetings in which he revealed "his new discovery of an ethnological America, -- the true form and content of the French-Canadian soul ....that the French-Canadians are fascist by blood, if not in name." At that time, Klein felt that "Houde does his own self a great injustice." These early statements by Houde, which elicited "numerous denials ... issued from every representative section of the French-Canadian population," seem to have surfaced, remembered and, this time, half-believed as they provide yet another shadow lurking behind "Political Meeting."Note de bas de page 23

The Jewish experience is that of a collapse of faith and race - that sense of some 'essential' Jewishness beyond faith in God. The speaker in the poem performs such a collapse in his depiction of the French Quebecers: "Upon the wall the agonized Y initials their faith" slides into "in the darkness rises/the body-odour of race." French Quebecers at this time were torn between their loyalty to the Church and to the faith of their ancestors, and the (Quebec) nationalism that was beginning to replace it.

Each icon of French culture is deconstructed in the poem by ironic doubling vis-à-vis the Jewish culture. The "agonized Y" which "initials their faith" is shadowed by the martyrdom of the Jewish people. The alouette shadows the scapegoat. The "equivocal absence" of "the skirted brothers" has given rise to a new worship of a figure which insinuates like Satan, "echoing/of their own wishes." There is double-entendre in the powerful question, "Where are your sons?" , when the sons of the Jewish people were dying, being executed, in Europe. Finally, events off-stage, events in the street that had at first received only parenthetical reference take precedence as the French Quebecers in the street are replaced metonymically with a "whole street" which "wears one face." The "one face" is both that of the "kith and kin" who think alike, the French Quebecers themselves, and it is also, and opposed to, the Jews, as the march begins and A bas la conscription turns into A bas les Juifs.

Anti-Draft Riot Causes Damage. The Montreal Daily Star. Feb. 12, 1942.

Anti-Draft Riot Causes Damage

12 Policeman Injured, Shop Windows Smashed After Bourassa Meeting


At least 12 policemen were injured and damage estimated at $5,500 was caused last night when more than 100 persons took part in an anti-conscription demonstration following a meeting at St. James Market where Henri Bourassa, former M.P. for Labelle and Nationalist leader, was the chief speaker.

The Montreal Daily Star, Feb. 12, 1942, pg. 3, 4.

Nine Arrested in Anti-Draft Street Riots. The Montreal Daily Star, 1942.

Vol. LXXIV, No. 71

Nine Arrested in Anti-Draft Street Riots

Seven youths and a 22-year-old man, arrested by city police last night during anti-conscription, anti-semitic riots in the north and east sections of the city, were held on personal bail of $200 each today by Judge Tetreau pending trial on charges of vagrancy on April 2. All pleaded not guilty when arraigned. Another accused, a 15-year-old boy, will appear before the Juvenile Court.

The nine were arrested at the scene of two of the several disturbances during which, according to police reports, traffic was blocked, store, automobile and street car windows were broken, car trolleys were pulled off their lines and cries of "A bas la conscription" (down with conscription) and "A bas les Juifs" (Down with the Jews) drowned out other shouting.

The Montreal Daily Star, March 25, 1942, pg. 3.

In this bitter endictment lies longing -- a saddened, painful sense that it could have been otherwise. The melancholy is for the loss of an ideal: in turning towards fascism and being complicit with the acts of Hitler, the French Quebecers are seen to have had their best nature turned against them - their playful alouette has taken on a meaning never originally intended; they have learned a sinister lesson "On the school platform;" they have moved from domination by an oppressive church to domination by an oppressive ideology; they have been taken in by the façade of their favorite folk-hero, the "country uncle," "not of the Grande Allee! Un homme!"; they have had their nationalism, "the virtue of being canadien," warped into a French/English conflict: "but not he/would blame the clever English; in their place/he'd do the same; maybe;" they have become a race with the will to destroy a race.

Over the years, we have come to think of the Holocaust as one of the most important events of WWII. Unfortunately, it was not so at the time. Klein's poems remind us that countries such as Canada did not necessarily enter the war to stop the atrocities that were known to be occurring against the Jews, and that, in fact, the aggressive nationalism which marked the period of the German Third Reich was echoed elsewhere, although, thankfully, without the devastating results.

Certains des liens ci-dessous conduisent à un site d'une entité non assujettie à la Loi sur les langues officielles. L'information sur ce site est disponible dans la langue du site.

Date modified: