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