In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

HUMANITIES 347 Alan Davies and Marilyn Nefsky. How Silent Were the Churches? Canadian Protestantism and the Jewish Plight dllring the Nazi Era Wilfrid Laurier University Press 1997. 180. $32.95 Every so often historians produce books that change the way we think about a significant period/ event/ or personality in the past. Such a work is Alan Davies and Marilyn Nefsky's How Silent Were the Churches? Canadian Protestantism and the Jewish Plight during the Nazi Era, which addresses the Canadian Protestantchurches' reaction to the persecution ofJews in Europe in the 19305 and 19405. At issue is the assertion made in 1982 by Irving Abella and Harold Troper in None Is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe/ 1933-1948 that, aside from a few mavericks/ the Canadian Christian churches were silent about the fate of the Jews in their darkest hour. Aside from a few highly placed Anglicans and United Church ministers, including William W. Judd, Claris Silcox/and Ernest M. Howse/ who raised their voices on behalf of the Jewish refugees, the churches themselves remained silent. Abella and Troper implied that if the entire Canadian Christian communion had spoken out forcefully, the government would have had to respond because the churches were such vitally important vehicles of public opinion that they could not be safely ignored. This charge is a very serious one. Coupled with Abella and Troper's powerful revelations about the high-level anti-Semitism blocking Jewish refugee immigration into Canada, the allegation has been incorporated into the widely held belief that most bystanders stood idly by and allowed Europe's Jews to perish. Since that blockbuster was published, Davies and Nefsky have raised serious challenges to those assertions in several articles about specific churches. Now, in this comprehensiveevaluation ofthe whole of Canadian Protestantism, they produce much evidence that indeed there was a Christian witness to the plight of the Jews. The sympathetic Christian response included urgent appeals to the government to allow Jewish refugees into Canada from the late 1930S (especially after Kristallnacht in early November 1938) through 1945. Some United Church, .Anglican/ and Baptist leaders/ along with rank and file ministers, argued that the Jew, though perhaps theologically flawed, was also a child of God and worthy ofsuccour. Thus/ those who spoke out were able to overcome traditional Christian anti-Semitism and the 'general misconceptions and endemic ignorance of Jewish history and religion.' The authors also remind us of the fact that churches and their organizations are made up of human beings with different religious beliefs, educational levels, and political attitudes, as well as differing ethnic and family cultures. And churches are not monolithic; they shelter a wide variety of opinion and attitudes. Those who protested publicly on behalf of Europe's stricken Jews came out of this melange of structures, theologies, 348 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 and beliefs, and differing images of Jews, to say that Christian conscience and duty demanded that they voice their concern and try to save some of the intended victims from destruction. In that moral context, Claris Silcox,William Judd, Tommy Shields, Watson Kirkcormell, and many other Canadian Christians did honour to the very best in the Christian spirit and tradition. By bringing these names resonantly into historical focus, Davies and Nefsky have enriched the historical record for all Canadians and should compel all of those who teach Holocaust courses to revise their lecture notes. Meanwhile, sweeping generalizations about Christian insensitivity to the plight ofEurope's Jews and unwarranted assumptions about the political strength of the churches need to be deeply reconsidered. (GERALD TULCHINSKY) Margaret Atwood. In Search of'Alias Grace': On Writing Canadian Historical Fiction University of Ottawa Press 1997. viii, 40. $10.00 At the beginning of this lecture, delivered in Ottawa in November 1996, MargaretAtwood warmed up her audience by givingnotice that as a writer of fiction she was used to making things up and getting people to believe them. No doubt this disclaimer was meant to be disregarded as she got deeper into her subject matter, which on this occasion was the culture that makes up the background of a historical novel - what she calls 'the mysteries of time and memory.' But it...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 347-348
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.