New Brunswick

Nazi report estimated size of Saint John's Jewish community

In the darkest days of the Second World War, a Nazi researcher set about documenting Canada's Jewish population. His recently discovered book records Saint John as home to the largest Jewish community in Atlantic Canada.

Recently surfaced book is from Hitler's personal library

Statistics, Press and Organizations of Jewry in the United States and Canada is a Nazi-produced book found with Adolf Hitler's personal bookplate. (Library and Archives Canada)

In the darkest days of the Second World War, a Nazi researcher set about documenting Canada's Jewish population.

Heinz Kloss was interested in where the greatest density of Jews could be found, their cultural organizations and their community newspapers.

The details were added to similar information about U.S. communities and bound into a report resembling a paperback book later found by a U.S. soldier in the library at Adolf Hitler's private villa.

It recently surfaced in the hands of the New York dealer, who got it from a collection belonging to a Holocaust survivor in the U.S.

Among the Canadian communities listed was Saint John, where it was estimated there were 683 Jews.

Katherine Biggs-Craft of the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum says Nazi estimates of the size of Saint John's Jewish community were low. (Graham Thompson, CBC)

It was the largest Jewish community in Atlantic Canada, although the correct number was actually twice that, says Katherine Biggs-Craft, curator of the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum.

She said the community had already been established in the city for three generations, though many people carried memories of pogroms and other oppression in Europe.

The book, titled Statistics Media and Organizations of Jewry in the United States and Canada, offers clues to what might have happened had Nazi Germany won the war.

"I think it's kind of terrifying when you think of how close the war could have come," said Biggs-Craft. "What was their plan, how were they going to do this? I mean they seemed to have a plan going through Europe."

Saint John is listed as the Maritimes community with the highest number of Jews. (CBC)

Biggs-Craft wonders if Saint John, as an East Coast port community, is where a Canadian Holocaust was planned to start.

Michael Kent is curator at Library and Archives Canada, which purchased the book in June for about $6,000 and has since restored it.

It's labelled "Confidential" and features Hitler's personal ex libris bookplate on the inside cover.

"This report could have given the foundation of knowing what cities to go to and how many Jews to expect to find in those cities," said Kent.

He suggested the report brings a different dimension to the history of the Holocaust. 

"It's an event that didn't yet spread out of Europe or was stopped before it spread out of Europe."

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Kent said rising instances of xenophobia and Holocaust denial made purchasing the book a priority for Library and Archives Canada.

It will be put on public display in Ottawa starting Sunday, which is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

On the same day, Jewish groups in Canada and 26 other countries will screen Who Will Write Our History, a film about a group in wartime Warsaw that collected and buried documents in an attempt to preserve the history of Poland's Jewish community even as it disappeared.

The Saint John Jewish Historical Museum will show the film at 2 p.m. Sunday.

About the Author

Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726 Connell.smith@cbc.ca