A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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THE IMPOSSIBLE HOME: Robert Kroetsch and his German Roots
Immigration History

Before WWI German Canadians did not question the compatibility of their customs and traditions with Canadian life. The First World War, however, changed all that. Overnight, Germans became Canada's most vilified enemy aliens. Charged with treason and sedition, although no charge was ever proven, many were economically ruined and socially ostracized. Unruly mobs were allowed to attack them and their properties in cities across the country. The Wartime Elections Act of September 1917 disenfranchised all German Canadians naturalized after March 1902. Clubs and associations were dissolved, German schools closed, and German-language papers suppressed(11).

Canadian towns with German names were renamed: Berlin, Ontario became Kitchener. More than 2,000 immigrants from Germany were interned. WWI trauma caused many German Canadians to camouflage their identity as Dutch, Scandinavian, and Russian. And long after the war, attribution of wartime characteristics continued(12).

During World War II Canada denied sanctuary to most German refugee applicants from the Third Reich, with the exception of 972 from a group of 2,300 shipped from British to Canadian internment camps in 1940. Only one other German refugee group was admitted during the war as result of British pressure. These 1043 Sudeten German Social Democrats were settled in the Tupper Creek wilderness of British Columbia and on abandoned railway land in northeastern Saskatchewan(13).

Between 1939 and 1945 the Canadian government arrested and interned 837 German Canadian farmers, workers and club members denounced or deemed disloyal. After 1945, the recovery of the German community's confidence was made problematic by the postwar revelations of the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. In 1964 Maclean's magazine characterized German Canadians to be "almost painfully unassertive." Postwar surveys found more than one-third of German immigrants eager to jettison their identity in favour of "Canadianism"(14).

As part of Canada's postwar policy of resettling displaced persons from Europe, some 15,000 east European ethnic Germans were admitted from 1947 to 1950. The readmission of German nationals in 1950 opened the flood gates to a quarter million German newcomers by 1960. From 1945 to 1994, 400,000 German speaking immigrants have come to Canada. One-third to one-half of these newcomers returned to Europe or moved on to the United States(15).


1-18 - The 1998 Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 1998).

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