Dust and Fog, Fire and Salt: German Canadian Psychiatrist Karl Stern’s (1906–1975) Émigré Experience


  • Daniel Burston Duquesne University


Adaptation Experience, Canada, Émigré Psychiatrist, Germany, Political and Racial Refugees, Religious Conversion, United Kingdom


Karl Stern (1906–1975) was a German-Jewish psychiatrist, who studied and worked alongside the neuropathologists Kurt Goldstein (1878–1965), Walther Spielmeyer (1879–1935), and Wilder Penfield (1891–1976). After fleeing Nazi Germany for London in 1935, he married and moved to Montreal in Canada in 1939, where he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1943. This article offers a close reading of pertinent passages and explores his memoir, The Pillar of Fire (1951), and his novel, Through Dooms of Love (1960), as well as In and Out (1989), a “confessional poem” by the Canadian classicist Daryl Hine (1936–2012), to demonstrate the feelings of powerlessness, isolation, and anonymity which Stern experienced after leaving Germany. These feelings had been complicated (on arrival in Canada) by ethnic antagonisms between Jews and Catholics at that time. It also explores and addresses Hine’s disparaging attitude toward Stern’s identification with his European heritage and his Catholic faith, offering an alternative interpretation of their presence.

Author Biography

Daniel Burston, Duquesne University

Daniel Burston burston@duq.edu was born in Israel and educated at York University in Toronto, where he received his PhD. His interests reside primarily in the history of the mental health disciplines, with special emphasis on those areas where they dovetail with philosophy, theology, and politics. He works as an Associate Professor in McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts & Psychology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, in the United States, and has recently authored A Forgotten Freudian: The Passion of Karl Stern (2016).