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How Silent Were the Churches?

Canadian Protestantism and the Jewish Plight during the Nazi Era

By Alan Davies & Marilyn F. Nefsky
Subjects History, Jewish Studies, Religion, Canadian History
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Paperback : 9780889203099, 195 pages, January 1998
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554586660, 195 pages, October 2010


Winner of the 1997 Jewish Book Committee award for scholarship on a Canadian Jewish subject.

Ever since Abella and Troper (None Is too Many, 1982) exposed the anti-Semitism behind Canada’s refusal to allow Jewish escapees from the Third Reich to immigrate, the Canadian churches have been under a shadow. Were the churches silent or largely silent, as alleged, or did they speak?

In How Silent Were the Churches? a Jew and a Christian examine the Protestant record. Old letters, sermons and other church documents yield a profile of contemporary Protestant attitudes. Countless questions are raised — How much anti-Semitism lurked in Canadian Protestantism? How much pro-German feeling? How accurately did the churches of Canada read the signs of the times? Or did they bury their heads in the sand? Davies and Nefsky discover some surprising answers.

The theologies and the historical and ethnic configurations of Protestant Canada, encompassing religious communities from the United Church to the Quakers, are brought into relief against the background of the Great Depression, the rise of fascism in Europe and the resurgence of nativism in Canadian society.

The authors conclude their study with an evaluation of the limits to Protestant influence in Canada and the dilemmas faced by religious communities and persons of conscience when confronted by the realities of power.


  • Winner, Canadian Jewish Book Award for Best Book in Canadian Jewish History 1998


``In a modern world of ethnic cleansings, refugees, and the continuing call to the churches to discover their mission in difficult circumstances, this book is most important. ''

- Wayne A. Holst, Missiology

``What is most compelling about this book is how careful Davies and Nefsky are with their material. ...This book is a model of fairness and objectivity, especially given the highly charged nature of the topic. In fact, is is so carefully nuanced that partisans of both sides can take solace from it. As a result, the book has received positive reviews both by those who feel the churches were silent and did not do nearly enough and by those who feel that those charges are unfair. It is a rare study that can provide ammunition to both sides of a historical dispute. This is one of them. ''

- Irving Abella, The Canadian Historical Review

``Paradoxes abound. Observing these paradoxes is the real strength of the book. ''

- Jewish Book World

``It is not often that one wishes a book was twice as long as it is. But Davies and Nefsky's treatment of Candadian Protestant attitudes towards the Nazi persecution of the Jews is so engrossing and insightful that one could wish for more. ...their evaluations are balanced and the results excellently summarised. ''

- National History