Kleinmann Family Foundation
Eleventh Annual Cégep Holocaust Symposium


GEORGES P. VANIER AND THE HOLOCAUST

As you may already know, Vanier College was named in honour of Georges P. Vanier, Canada's second native-born and arguably one of Canada's best-loved Governor-Generals of all time. What you may not know is that while he was serving as Canada's Ambassador to France during the Second World War, he was also a vocal supporter of Jewish immigration at a time when those in the Canadian government were decidedly cool, if not downright hostile to the idea.

At the early part of the war, Vanier was interviewed by the London Times. He deplored the cruelty and assassination of women and children, a theme both he and his wife Pauline repeated in numerous speeches upon returning to Canada in 1941.

They urged the government to pass a more liberal immigration policy to allow refugees into Canada. Unfortunately their pleas fell upon deaf ears.

This story was documented in a book published in 1982. The title, "None is Too Many", was taken from a statement made by an immigration official when a delegation of Jews went to Ottawa in 1939 to ask: "How many Jews will Canada take in?" The Immigration Minister answered, "None is too many". The authors, Irving Abella and Harold Troper, published this book in 1982 and it was on the Canadian Best Sellers List. They received an award for it early in 1983.

It is a thoroughly researched work with documented proof that our top bureaucrat in the Immigration Department, Fred Blair wanted no Jews in Canada and did everything he could in the way of roadblocks to prevent it. Mackenzie King's actions (or lack thereof) clearly showed that he didn't want them, either. Fred Blair certainly had the opportunity to rescue thousands, but wouldn't budge on his restrictive policy. He simply didn't want any Jewish immigrants. Ottawa would not listen either to the pleas of George Vanier, even though he was Canadian Ambassador to France and was right there on the scene.

Returning to Paris following liberation, Georges renewed his attempts to have refugees accepted in Canada while Madame Vanier spent countless hours organizing services that provided temporary shelter for refugees and that attempted reunification of families separated by the war. At train stations, displaced people were greeted with drinks, refreshments, clothes, and survival kits.

Photos were taken and placed on the walls of the station "in hopes," she exclaimed, "that someone in the crowd would recognize the name or picture of a long lost relative or friend." She also raised funds from Canada to purchase everything from a cow to provide milk for one village and a tractor for use at a boys' town farm established near the ruins of Caen. Her interest and devotion resulted in the owner of a nursery in Lyon naming a rose the "Madame Vanier." Hundreds of grateful letters were received at the Embassy.

Weeks after Germany surrendered, Vanier joined a delegation to visit the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and broadcast to Canada a commentary about the holocaust that was described as "superbly drafted and perfectly delivered." He served as Canadian delegate to the Paris Peace Conference where he helped draft and sign, on behalf of Canada, treaties with Italy, Romania, Hungary, and Finland before serving as Canadian delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in Paris in 1948.

references:
www.nizkor.org/hweb/camps/buchenwald/diplomatic/georges-vanier-042745.html
www.cdn-friends-icej.ca/antiholo/summanti.html


Read the letter written by Georges P. Vanier from Buchenwald

Listen to an excerpt of Vanier's original CBC Radio broadcast on Buchenwald
     (courtesy of The Canadian Jewish Virtual Museum and Archives / National Archives of Canada)

 View video clip showing a dramatic re-enactment of Georges P. Vanier's wife
     Pauline and her efforts to aid Jewish refugees.
 (courtesy of the histori.ca website.)

 FIND OUT MORE ON JEWISH REFUGEES' ATTEMPTS TO COME TO CANADA DURING THE HOLOCAUST:

View a video clip on Jewish Orphans coming to Canada
     (courtesy of The Canadian Jewish Virtual Museum and Archives / National Archives of Canada)

View a page on Canada's barring Jewish refugees on the ocean liner St. Louis.
     (courtesy of The Canadian Jewish Virtual Museum and Archives / National Archives of Canada)


Read more on the life of Georges and Pauline Vanier from the Government of
    Canada Digital Collection online archive.


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