Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Jewish Ideals of Canada during the Holocaust

A passage from Frances Swyripa's recent work on ethno-religious identity and the Canadian prairies offers insight into the prevailing European concept of Canada as a land of wealth in the 1940s.  Swyripa writes:


"CANADA. That Was The Name Prisoners in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz gave to the barracks holding the belongings stripped from new arrivals. Jews from the ghettos and villages of eastern Europe, “they associated the sheer amount of the loot and its mind-boggling value with the riches [the country] symbolized.”  it was a place that most of these victims of the unfolding Holocaust would never see, but it existed in their imagination and dreams. "
Goods are sorted in Kanada yard.  Photo: Holocaust Research Project.
The question may be, whether or not Jews in the concentration camp were actually responsible for naming Kanada warehouse.  It seems more plausible that their German captors named the building, in which case the notion of Canada as land of plenty may be placed within the Nazi mind.


Remains of Kanada Warehouse. UMCHGS.
The remains of Kanada warehouse can still be seen in Auschwitz today.  The University of Minnesota Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, features some information and photographs about the site.

Swyripa, Frances. Storied Landscapes: Ethno-Religious Identity and the Canadian Prairies.
Winnipeg, MB, CAN: University of Manitoba Press, 2010. p 94.

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