Jewish refugees already fleeing Germany
"Germany has invaded Poland." With those words spoken on Sept. 1, 1939 on CBC Radio, listeners knew the Second World War had begun. While this was distressing news for worried Canadians, it wasn't a surprise. For more than a year, it had become increasingly clear that war was on the horizon. CBC Digital Archives presents several radio broadcasts chronicling the coming of the Second World War, from Neville Chamberlain's hopes for peace in 1938 to Canadian troops departing for Europe in December 1939.
• Canada did not change its immigration policy before or during the Second World War to give refuge to Jewish people fleeing Germany. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, many average Canadians responded with sympathy, but Prime Minister Mackenzie King feared Jewish immigration would "pollute" Canada's bloodstream.
• When asked in 1939 how many Jews should be admitted to Canada, Frederick Charles Blair, director of the Immigration Branch of the Department of Mines and Resources, responded, "None is too many."
• In 1939 the S.S. St. Louis, with 907 German Jews aboard, sailed from Germany. It was denied permission to land in Cuba, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, the United States and Canada. The ship was forced to return to Europe where most of its passengers died in the Holocaust.
• During the war, Canada took in 4,000 Jewish refugees. The United States welcomed 240,000, Britain took 85,000, China, Argentina and Brazil accepted 25,000 each and Mexico and Colombia received 40,000 between them.
• In 1947 Canada welcomed about 1,100 Jewish war orphans, thanks to lobbying by Canadian Jewish organizations.
• After the war, refugees became known as "displaced persons," or DPs. Due to a shortage of labour — rather than a softening of attitudes towards immigration — Canada took in hundreds of thousands of DPs, including thousands of Jews, starting in 1948.
• According to the Canadian Yearbook of 1939, overseas broadcasts such as this one from the BBC occupied 6.3 per cent of broadcast hours on the CBC in 1938. Concert music made up the largest share at 11.2 per cent, followed by "talks" at nine per cent, dance music at 8.7 per cent, variety at eight per cent and news bulletins at seven per cent.
Program: The National and Empire Program
Broadcast Date: Dec. 8, 1938
Guest(s): Stanley Baldwin
Photo: AP file photo
Last updated: May 22, 2012
Page consulted on December 6, 2013
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