Silence and Outrage: Reassessing the Complex Christian Response to Kristallnacht in English-Speaking Canada

  • Jonathan Durance University of Calgary
Keywords: Refugee, Jewish Refugee Crisis, Jewish Refugee, Canadian Christian, CNCR, Canadian National Committee of Refugees, Holocaust, Kristallnacht, Night of Broken Glass, Reichskristallnacht, 1930s, Refugee, Jewish Refugee Crisis, Jewish Refugee, Canadian Christian, Canadian National Committee of Refugees, Holocaust, Krisallnacht, Night of Broken Glass, Reichskristallnacht, 1930s, CNCR

Abstract

Historians assessing the response of Canadian Christians to the German Jewish refugee crisis exacerbated by the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938 have broadly described the Christian response as one of silence; this article adds nuance to that description. Denominational records support the established thesis, but a fresh examination of the records of the Canadian National Committee of Refugees and texts published in leading newspapers leaves a different impression, one of an organized and sustained protest movement led by Christians. These sources testify to an outburst of widespread outrage in the weeks following Kristallnacht, followed by the emergence of a cohesive campaign spearheaded by the Canadian National Committee of Refugees. It was Christian clergy and prominent Christian lay people who forcefully protested the government’s inaction and actively sought to intervene on behalf of Jewish refugees. Many of them harshly criticized their own denominations’ response as reprehensible, but their involvement and voice means that the “silence of Christians” theory needs to be revised to reflect the privatization of religious expression which took place in Canadian culture during the 1930s.

Author Biography

Jonathan Durance, University of Calgary

Jonathan J. Durance jonathan.durance@td.com is a Branch Manager for TD Canada Trust in Alberta. He recently completed his M.A. at the University of Calgary, which was partially funded by a grant from the SSHRC and a QE II Alberta Government Scholarship. In his research, he explored Canadian Christian responses to Jewish persecution leading up to the Second World War. His thesis extended earlier research done in an undergraduate program which he co-published in the Fall 2011 volume of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies. Despite financial services as his vocational choice, he continues to remain interested and engaged with historical studies.