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Canadian Reaction to
the War



Early Empires

The migration of Jewish populations occurred for thousands of years. Persecution caused Jews to be displaced from Israel throughout the Middle East, Europe and Northern Africa. Through the eras of the Roman Empire, the Islamic Empire and the Middle Ages, Jews migrated and were faced with varying treatment. The Early Middle Ages, for example, were a time of poor living conditions for Jews, as Europe was engulfed in violence and destitution. However, in the territories ruled by the Islamic Empire from c. 700-1200, Jews were largely accepted into the society and lived prosperously throughout the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa.

Antisemitism Timeline

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) defines antisemitism as "a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”[1]


This Antisemitism Timeline was created to provide teachers with a short overview of this complex subject. This timeline will demonstrate that antisemitism did not begin and end with Nazi Germany—antisemitism existed in Europe and other parts of the globe for two thousand years prior to the Nazis and unfortunately still exists to this day.

Our timeline has been edited by ​Jan Zbigniew Grabowski, a Polish-Canadian professor of history at the University of Ottawa.

During this period, Jewish art and culture prospered. Jews in Europe also experienced acceptance under the newly emerging Feudal System. Kingdoms in Italy, France and Germany welcomed Jews to live within their borders. Under this system, Jews became the primary money lenders, as Christianity outlawed the lending of money during this time. Jews became important to the financial growth of Europe during this period. [2] This prosperity would come to a bitter end in 1095 CE with the beginning of the Crusades. Jews became specifically targeted during this time, as the Church wished to secure Jerusalem for Christians. This caused another mass migration of Jews from the West towards Eastern Europe. [3]

Early Feudalism (700-1200)

Early Modern Europe

After the Protestant Reformation in 1521, Jews became welcomed into many of the countries that were originally ruled by Catholic doctrine. Protestant rulers saw Jews as being economically useful, allowing them to integrate into their societies. By the end of the 1700s in Western Europe, revolutions began occurring which granted Jews rights and freedoms they had not been given before. Over the next two centuries, Jewish integration continued in Central and Western Europe, as many Jews began migrating towards the rapidly expanding major cities.[4] During the 19th century, migration of Europe's Jewish populations to North America would begin to take shape, seeing Jewish communities emerge and develop on the other side of the Atlantic. [5]


Antisemitic sentiment was extremely prominent in the Catholic Church from its inception. Many in the church held the strong but unfounded belief that Jews were those responsible for the death of Christ and positioned Judaism in direct conflict with Christianity. In the Middle Ages, the absurd myth of "blood libel" emerged, claiming that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children for their blood. Claims of blood libel would often incite "pogroms" against Jews in the Middle Ages and beyond, eventually being used by the Nazis in their coordinated propaganda attacks against Jews in Europe.



Early Jewish Settlement in Ontario

Towards the end of the 19th century, Jewish immigration to Ontario and North America occurred in great numbers from Eastern European countries. These immigrants were largely fleeing from continued persecution and destitution brought by lack of economic opportunity and violence directed against the Jews. These large number of immigrants helped to establish a foothold of Jewish culture in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada. [6] The majority of these immigrants were Yiddish-speakers who settled in Toronto and Montreal, though some opted instead to settle in rural towns throughout Ontario. As the 19th century came to an end in Canada, the Jewish population would see a massive increase in the early years of the 20th century due to increasing immigration. By 1927, Canada's total Jewish population numbered 125,000, with 50,000 of those living in Ontario. [7]

Europe in the Early 20th Century

From the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, a series of "Pogroms" (violent attacks by local non-Jewish populations on Jews) were perpetrated in Russia. These Pogroms took place intermittently until the early 1920s, fuelling a mass emigration of Jews to Europe and North America. [8] Antisemitic sentiment began to grow during this time in Central and Western Europe. In the years after the end of the First World War, Adolf Hitler would begin to grow to prominence in Germany, weaponizing hateful rhetoric against the Jewish population of Germany and Europe. Hitler latched onto centuries-old antisemitic belief in Europe, advocating for a complete removal of Jews from Europe as a means of protecting the "higher races." [9]

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Rise of the Nazis in Germany

After nearly a decade of attempting to gain power in the German Weimar political system, Hitler and the Nazis finally secured leadership with Hitler being appointed chancellor in January 1933. One month later in February, the "Reichstag" (German Parliament building) was burned to the ground by a communist arsonist. The Nazis used this event to spread fear through the German population and ensure the grip of their power remained.


Shortly after the Reichstag fire, the Nazis would build Dachau, the first concentration camp for those deemed "enemies of the state." The Nazis continued tightening the grip of their powers by successfully passing the "Enabling Act" in March 1933, allowing Hitler as Chancellor to create and pass laws on his own without the approval of the German parliament. During this time, the Nazis intensified their anti-Jewish policies by organizing a boycott of Jewish businesses and banning Jews from working in the civil service in Germany. [10]

Nazism in Canada

The rise of the Nazis in Germany had repercussions throughout Europe and North America. The Nazis set an abhorrent example of antisemitism and hate that unfortunately struck a chord with individuals and groups outside of Germany, even here in Canada. In August of 1933 at a community baseball game at Christie Pits park in Toronto, a swastika flag was raised by members of the audience as an attack against the primarily Jewish team participating in the game. Defending themselves from this hateful attack, some members of the Jewish team fought the spectators raising the flag and tore it down, which caused a clash that would soon spill out of control, attracting others to join. A large number of Italians came to Christie Pits to support the Jews in their fight against the hateful display of the swastika. The riot quickly grew out of control and lasted until the early hours of the next morning.[11]


Hitler's influence also manifested itself in the formation of groups in Canada that sought to recreate the structures of Nazi Germany in the context of Canada. The group that managed to make the most noise and garner the most attention was the Quebec-based National Socialist Christian Party led by Adrian Arcand. Arcand, who went by the self-ascribed title of "Canada's Fuhrer," would tout his hateful and antisemitic ideas around Canada, including a trip to Massey Hall in Toronto. During Arcand's stop in Toronto, a great deal of resistance was built up, resulting in an anti-fascist rally attended by 12,000 people at Maple Leaf Gardens.[12] Arcand's Nazi ideas would never result in the same outcome as was seen in Germany in the 1930s, but the minor support that he was able to secure demonstrates the unfortunate presence of hate and antisemitism in Canada.

Pre-War Nazi Germany

In 1934 after over one year of being Chancellor, Hitler was able to appoint himself "Fuhrer" of Germany after President Hindenburg died. This newly expanded role solidified Hitler's total control over Germany The following year, on September 15, 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were decreed. These laws directly targeted Jews, taking away their German citizenship and outlawing the marriage of Jews and “Aryans” (non-Jews). In the following years, more concentration camps were opened by the Nazis, establishing the infrastructure that would be used to perpetuate mass genocide against Europe's Jewish population.[13]


The Nazis would continue to increase their antisemitic propaganda campaigns in the latter half of the 1930s. As the Nazi empire expanded with the annexation of Austria and invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Third Reich would begin to engulf even greater numbers of Europe's Jewish population. [14] During this period, many countries had very strict quotas on the number of Jewish immigrants they would allow. While many Jews tried to flee Nazi-ruled Germany and Austria, many attempts were unsuccessful due to the quotas in place and the lack of attention given by prominent world leaders.[15]


In November 1938, what has become known as "Kristallnacht" ("The Night of Broken Glass) occurred. Kristallnacht was a culmination of brewing hatred towards Jews in Germany, resulting in large-scale attacks on Jewish synagogues and businesses by angry mobs directed by the Nazi secret police. Synagogues were burned down and Jewish businesses were ransacked, destroyed and burned. Strict orders were given by Nazi officials to firefighters to let the fires burn and not to intervene with the orchestrated destruction.[16] The events of Kristallnacht eventually persuaded the British government to lift some restrictions on Jewish immigrants. Immigration outside of Europe remained difficult for many Jewish refugees well into 1939.

SS St. Louis

The SS St. Louis, a ship carrying 907 Jewish refugees from Germany, set sail for Havana from Germany in May 1939. The passengers were denied entry into Cuba and sought asylum in both the United States and Canada. Both countries denied the refugees entry and the ship was sent back to Europe where the refugees were accepted by Britain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. 254 of its passengers were later murdered in the Holocaust. [17]

Invasion of Poland

Hitler's growing antagonism in Europe would eventually result in the action that would mark the beginning of the Second World War: The invasion of Poland in September 1939. Having signed a "Non-Aggression Pact" with the Soviet Union in the summer of 1939, Hitler and the Nazis' attentions were completely directed to Western Europe. The invasion of Poland put an additional 2.5 million Jews under Nazi rule. Many more were added after German attack on the Soviet Union, in 1941.

While the United States remained neutral for the first years of the Second World War, Canada as a British Commonwealth nation joined the fight against the Nazis at the very outbreak of conflict. In spite of antisemitic messaging which discouraged Jews from enlisting, Jewish-Canadian men enlisted in staggering numbers to fight the Nazis, with roughly 17,000 (approximately 40% of eligible Jewish men) joining the armed forces. [18]

"None is
too many"

The phrase "none is too many" is often used as a signifier for Canada's extremely restrictive immigration policies towards Jewish people in the years leading up to and during the Second World War. The quote is often accredited to Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King or his director of immigration Frederick Charles Blair. However, the true identity of the individual who uttered the phrase is unknown, but it is certain that they were a government official. The phrase was a response to a question asking how many Jewish refugees Canada should accept after the War was over. [19] This quote demonstrates the antisemitism that was engrained in Canadian government at the time and should be a constant reminder to how many lives could have potentially been saved had hateful prejudice against Jews not been commonplace.

After the successful invasion of Poland by the Nazis, it was soon decreed by law that the Jewish citizens be moved into "Ghettos," which were sectioned and sealed off from the rest of the city. The most infamous of the ghettos is the Warsaw Ghetto, which was established in November 1940. Conditions in the ghetto were extremely poor, with 400,000 people sealed into a very small section of the city. Food insecurity was commonplace in the ghetto, as the food allocated for the Jews in the ghetto by the German authorities was nowhere near sufficient for their nutritional wellbeing. Over 90,000 Jews died from starvation and other diseases between 1940 and 1942. [20]

By 1942, Jews were being rounded up and moved from the ghetto to killing centres scattered throughout Poland. As the imprisoned Jews became aware of this fact, resistance began to mount.  One act of this resistance became known as the "Warsaw Ghetto Uprising" and took place from April 1943 and lasted until the German authorities put down the resistance in May. This was extremely significant, as it was the largest and most significant Jewish uprising against the Germans in the Second World War. 7,000 Jewish lives were lost during the uprising and after the defeat the remaining survivors continued to be shipped to death camps throughout Poland. [21]

Warsaw Ghetto (1940)

Hitler's declaration of War against Europe can largely be described as a War for "Race and Space." The main goal of Hitler's advances was for the strengthening of the Germany Aryan race through the destruction of the so-called "lower races" and expansion of German territory to be used as living space for the Aryan German citizens. The War, therefore, cannot be separated from the concept of antisemitism, as the major impetus for Hitler's plans were rooted in a desire to rid Europe of its Jewish population and claim much of that space for Germany and its Aryan citizens.

Much of this "living space" Hitler desired was in Eastern Europe, as it was occupied by populations of "lower races" in the eyes of the Nazis, mainly Jews, Roma and Slavs. While Hitler had signed a Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviets in 1939, it was clear that he would not honour the Pact. In June 1941, Hitler would violate the pact and invade the Soviet Union with "Operation Barbarossa." The invasion of the Soviet Union and the territories in Eastern Europe were exceptionally horrific in comparison to the fighting on the Western Front. German soldiers specifically targeted civilians and their villages, many of them consisting of Jewish populations. [22] Before the wide-scale implementation of the death camps, a staggering number of Europe's Jews were murdered by German firing squads. The bodies were largely disposed of in mass graves, often with the still living victims lined at the edge of the large hole, where they would be shot and directly fall into the grave. When the difficulty of this task appeared to the Nazis, they sought a new and more efficient method for the murder of millions of Europe's Jews.

War for 'Race and Space'

Wannsee Conference

The Wannsee Conference, which took place in January 1942, was a meeting held with members of the Nazi high command to discuss the implementation of the "Final Solution" for the so-called "Jewish problem" in Europe. This meeting allowed the Nazi officials to discuss the massive logistical and structural coordination that would be necessary to execute the "Final Solution" with the planned murder of 11 million Jews throughout Europe. The meeting focused on the implementation of the policy that would allow the Nazis to enact the "Final Solution," with SS General Reinhard Heydrich informing the high command of Hitler's plan. [23]

Jews who were not killed in the East and many Jews from Western Europe became prisoners of the Nazi Concentration Camp system. By 1942, the Nazis had a vast network of Concentration Camps throughout Germany and Eastern Europe. While it is often the conception that there was only one type of Nazi Concentration Camp, this is a common error among general populations about the Camps. In reality there were a variety of Camps run by the Nazis— Concentration Camps, Transit Camps, Labour Camps, POW Camps and Killing Centers. The Death Camps such as Treblinka, Auschwitz, Sobibor, Belzec, Kulmhof and Majdanek, where close to 3,000,000 Jews have been murdered, were the most notorious of all. This vast network of varying types of Camps was the foundation for the systematic murder of millions of Jews and other groups during the Holocaust. [24]

The Camps

Nazi Germany's strong insistence on the persecution, imprisonment and extermination of Europe's Jewish population was a major factor in their eventual downfall on the battlefield. The allocation of resources and attention to the massive organization of the system and infrastructure required for the "Final Solution" saw the Nazis divert necessities away from the war effort.


With the Allies and the Soviets forcing the extremely weakened Germany into submission on their own soil with no other option than surrender, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin on April 30, 1945. Germany would surrender roughly one week later on May 7, 1945, thus ending the War in Europe and marking the beginning of the Allied occupation of Germany.

End of the War (1945)

Liberation of
the Camps


As the Allies and the Soviets liberated areas once occupied by the Germans during their push through Europe, these nations were finally faced with the horrific reality that 6,000,000 Jews had been murdered by the Nazis. This represented two thirds of all the Jews in Europe. While the official Liberation Day for the Camps was May 8th, 1945, it is important to note that not all camps were liberated on this day, and that liberation of the camps was scattered depending on a multitude of circumstances.


Canada and the Holocaust

Canadian soldiers were responsible for the liberation of many camps, with a notable example being Westerbork Transit Camp in the Netherlands. They liberated nearly 1000 Dutch Jews who were imprisoned by the Nazis. After the War, Canada finally allowed the immigration of Jewish refugees and ultimately welcomed 40,000 Holocaust survivors. These survivors settled all across the country and helped shape Canada in the post-War years. [25]

Nuremberg Trials (1945-1946)

In the years after the War during the occupation of Germany by the Allies and the Soviets, high-ranking Nazis were imprisoned and put on trial for the role in Nazi war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Second World War. The trials were held between November 1945 to October 1946 resulting in 19 high-ranking Nazis, being found guilty of their crimes and given sentences ranging from long-term imprisonment to death by hanging. The trials were held by the International Military Tribunal, consisting of members from France, England, the United States and the Soviet Union. [26]

Founding of the State of Israel (1948)

May 14, 1948: the state of Israel is established. Holocaust survivors and Jews from all over the world emigrated to Israel, numbering in over 600,000 by 1951. [27] Finally, a safe haven for Jews.


From 1948 to the 1970s, roughly 850,000 Jews were expelled from countries in Asia and North Africa. These Jews had lived in these areas for centuries and were forced to leave their homes due to the Arab response to the creation of the State of Israel. [28]


The Iranian Revolution in 1979 added 70,000 Jewish refugees to the already staggering number of 850,000. [29]

Eichmann Trial (1961)

Adolf Eichmann was a high-ranking Nazi official who was in charge of organizing the "Final Solution," which resulted in the death of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. After the War, Eichmann managed to escape to Argentina and live in secrecy for years. The Israeli secret intelligence service "Mossad" was able to track down Eichmann and extract him from Argentina during a covert operation, bringing him back to Israel where he stood trial for his crimes against humanity.


The trial focused on evidence provided by testimony from survivors, resulting in Eichmann being sentenced to death for his crimes. The trial lasted from April to December of 1961 and Eichmann was executed in June 1962. [30] Eichmann was the only person ever executed in the history of the State of Israel. This trial was broadcast internationally and brought antisemitism back into the public consciousness, demonstrating that there were many people responsible for the heinous Nazi crimes that had escaped punishment.

William John Beattie at Allan Gardens

Canadian neo-Nazi William John Beattie held a rally at Allan Gardens in Toronto in May 1965. Beattie and the very few Nazis in attendance were met by thousands of protesters who quickly overpowered the hateful cohort. Beattie was the leader and founder of the Canadian Nazi Party in the 1960s. [31]

Keegstra Case (1984)

Antisemitism is very common in the narratives of conspiracy theorists. Many conspiracy theorists are drawn to the outlandish idea that the Jews somehow control the world and have faked the Holocaust and all other violence against themselves. [33]


Antisemitic conspiracy theories

James Keegstra was a high school teacher from Eckville, Alberta. Keegstra was known to espouse antisemitic statements to his students in the classroom, going so far as to express his doubt towards the occurrence of the Holocaust. He was charged under section 319(2) of Canada's Criminal Code for his harmful and hateful rhetoric, but Keegstra challenged this charge, believing that it infringed upon his right to freedom of expression granted under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada came to the decision that while yes, his charge under Section 319 did in fact violate freedom expression, the charge was still justifiable under Section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as it would protect citizens from hateful propaganda in Canada. [32]

Sharp increase in antisemitism

in Canada

An audit performed by Jewish advocacy group B'nai Brith detected a large increase in antisemitic violence and vandalism in 2021 and 2022. These incidents included attacks against Jewish individuals, destruction of Jewish property and antisemitic vandalism. [34] In 2021, there were 487 hate crimes reported against Jews. This marked an increase of 47 percent from 331 crimes in 2020. Jewish Canadians remain the religious group most targeted by hate crimes. [35]

World-famous rapper and music producer Kanye West gets his Twitter account suspended after making vile antisemitic remarks.


Kanye West's antisemitic remarks




Antisemitism continues in Ontario

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