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Book reissue details ‘dark chapter’ of Canada’s war-era immigration policy

“With antisemitism bubbling to the surface,” an executive of the publisher told JNS, “this book asks us again: What kind of Canada do we want to be?”

In 1983, the Canadian professors Irving Abella and Harold Troper published None Is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948, which took its title from a senior Canadian official’s response, in 1945, to a journalist’s question. Asked how many European Jewish refugees Canada should accept, the official said: “None is too many.”

None Is Too Many
Cover of Irving Abella and Harold Troper’s 1983 book “None Is Too Many.” Courtesy: University of Toronto Press.

To commemorate the volume’s 40th anniversary, New Jewish Press—a University of Toronto Press imprint—released a new edition of what it calls “one of the most important books in Canadian history.”

The 1983 volume won a National Jewish Book Award, and Bob Rae, the Canadian ambassador to the United States, has said that very few books have had its impact.

“It is a treasure trove of heartfelt letters penned by desperate European Jews seeking refuge from the looming Nazi threat,” the press states of the book, noting the authors’ research “exposes the deeply rooted antisemitic views behind such immigration policies.”

“In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War,” Abella, who died last year, once stated: “It was easier to get into Canada if you were a Nazi than if you were a Jew.”

“Canada had one of the most dismal records among developed nations, admitting a mere 5,000 Jews during the critical years of 1933 to 1945,” the press stated. “It was only after the State of Israel was established in 1948 that Canada finally began to welcome Jewish refugees in significant numbers.”

Before the book arrived in stores in 1983, most Canadians believed that the country “was a welcoming, safe haven for Jewish refugees during the Holocaust,” Natalie Fingerhut, a senior acquisition editor at the publisher and manager of the New Jewish Press imprint, told JNS.

Fingerhut called the book a “devastating account of deliberate inaction, of bystanding, of unabashed us vs. them thinking.”

“As Jews remain the number-one target of hate crimes with antisemitism bubbling to the surface in Europe and North America, and the worrying resurgence of anti-immigrant policies, this book asks us again: What kind of Canada do we want to be?” she told JNS. “The question is as important today as it was 40 years ago.”

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