As a close ally of Great Britain, Canada declared war against Germany on 10 September 1939. Canadian troops played an important role in the naval and air war against Germany. They participated in the Italy and Normandy campaigns and were involved in the liberation of concentration camps, notably Bergen-Belsen.

On the eve of the war, Canada had a Jewish population of more than 150,000 people, out of a total population of approximately 11 million. Under the leadership of Liberal Prime Minister William Mackenzie King, the federal government set up highly restrictive and ethnically selective immigration policy. For the period 1933-1945, between 5,000 and 10,000 Jewish migrants were accepted into the country, many of whom arrived before the war started. During the war, the arrivals were very limited; some 2,000 German and Austrian Jewish “enemy aliens” were transported from Great Britain and interned in Canada, and 400 refugees came from Spain and Portugal in 1944. Conversely, after the war, Holocaust survivors became one of the immediate postwar era’s largest migrant categories: From 1947 to 1955, 35,000 of them resettled in Canada.

Archival Situation

Library and Archives Canada is the main archival institution of the country. It was established in 2004 after the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada merged. Each province has its own depository (Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec, Archives of Ontario, etc.). The country also has many private archives.

EHRI Research (Summary)

EHRI presumes that Library and Archives Canada is one of the country’s most important institutions for Holocaust-related material, largely thanks to the sources it holds concerning the Canadian military forces’ liberation of concentration camps. Additionally, other important sources may be found in military archives, Jewish survivor archives and war crime investigation archives from the 1990s. Specifically, EHRI notes that Holocaust-related materials can be found at the Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives in Montreal, as well as at the Jewish Public Library Archives of Montreal, the Montreal Holocaust Museum, the Ontario Jewish Archives in Toronto, and the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. EHRI has provided archival descriptions for material held by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, including Jewish immigrants’ personal papers and the Yom Hashoah Holocaust Remembrance Committee (formerly the Warsaw Ghetto Committee) fonds. EHRI has also described the Michael Marrus (a world-leading Holocaust scholar) fonds held by the University of Toronto Archives and Records Management Services.