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History Corner






Pierre Berton On Jewish Immigration To Canada: 1938


Pierre Berton, The Great Depression (1990; McClelland & Stewart Inc., Toronto), 471, 472.


‘[I]t was almost impossible for any Jewish refugee to leap the barrier that the Immigration Branch had erected against the Jews.

At the beginning of the year, Jewish refugees were required to have capital of at least five thousand dollars on entering the country.

By December the department was rejecting those who had twenty thousand or more.
Just before Hitler seized Czechoslovakia, a group of Jewish farm families with a total capital of one million dollars begged for entry visas.

They were bluntly denied entry. . . . In Europe, where time was of the essence for anybody fleeing the Nazis, the very word “Jew” on an application form was enough to cause immediate rejection by Canadian officials. . . . Zita Plaut, who had managed to escape from Vienna to the Netherlands with her husband . . . applied for a visa to bring the couple and the rest of her family still in Germany to Canada. She told the Canadian official that the family had fifty thousand dollars in foreign currency. “Wonderful,” he said, and handed her a form. She filled it out and signed it. “Oh,” he said, “their name is Rappaport? They are Jewish? I’m sorry, we have no visas.” And he tore up the document as she watched.’