Divide the class into at least four groups. Assign at least one group to each of the four topics, representing a page on the website. Groups can double-up on one topic:

•    The Paterson Mission
•    United Jewish Refugee and War Relief Agencies
•    Refugee Committees
•    Other Advocates

Working in their groups, students explore the webpage and dossier related to their topic. The group develops a presentation about their theme for the class. The presentation should highlight:

•    The key person or people involved in the initiative.
•    The activities of the initiative.
•    At least one document or anecdote of interest. What does it reveal about the advocate or advocacy group’s response to internment?

Each group presents to the class. Encourage students to ask questions of each group.

After each group has presented, the class discusses how each theme contributes to their understanding of advocacy in response to internment.

Summarize the cont Read More
Divide the class into at least four groups. Assign at least one group to each of the four topics, representing a page on the website. Groups can double-up on one topic:

•    The Paterson Mission
•    United Jewish Refugee and War Relief Agencies
•    Refugee Committees
•    Other Advocates

Working in their groups, students explore the webpage and dossier related to their topic. The group develops a presentation about their theme for the class. The presentation should highlight:

•    The key person or people involved in the initiative.
•    The activities of the initiative.
•    At least one document or anecdote of interest. What does it reveal about the advocate or advocacy group’s response to internment?

Each group presents to the class. Encourage students to ask questions of each group.

After each group has presented, the class discusses how each theme contributes to their understanding of advocacy in response to internment.

Summarize the contents of the “Canadian Policy” page on the website for students, informing them about how advocacy eventually affected policy change.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Social media and websites such as YouTube offer groups advocating for social justice issues unprecedented means of communicating with global audiences. Students select an advocacy group of interest to them and write a response to their activities, highlighting:

•    What is the message of the group?
•    What are the strategies used for communicating that message?
•    What other sources would you consult for information about the issues at stake?
Social media and websites such as YouTube offer groups advocating for social justice issues unprecedented means of communicating with global audiences. Students select an advocacy group of interest to them and write a response to their activities, highlighting:

•    What is the message of the group?
•    What are the strategies used for communicating that message?
•    What other sources would you consult for information about the issues at stake?

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

“Although there has been in the last twelve months no evidence of a single attempt to escape, the security precautions are more than adequate. There is a wealth of wire, three banks thick, with machine-guns, pass-words and fixed bayonets to discourage the bespectacled professor and the perky schoolboy from showing any violence.”
- Alexander Paterson
Report on Civilian Internees Sent from the United Kingdom to Canada During the Unusually Fine Summer of 1940

Within weeks of the internees’ arrival, Britain asked Canada to provide a “system of less rigid custodial treatment” for the refugees. When Canada requested assistance to distinguish between “Category A,” “B” and “C” internees, the British sent Alexander Paterson, His Majesty’s Commissioner of Prisons and a renowned social reformer.

Chaim Raphael, who joined Paterson on his mission after working with refugees in England, explained that the British did not expect Canadians to resist Paterson’s authority: “[We] assumed that once Paterson came, he was a very famous man, there would be no problem. We’ll send him Read More
“Although there has been in the last twelve months no evidence of a single attempt to escape, the security precautions are more than adequate. There is a wealth of wire, three banks thick, with machine-guns, pass-words and fixed bayonets to discourage the bespectacled professor and the perky schoolboy from showing any violence.”
- Alexander Paterson
Report on Civilian Internees Sent from the United Kingdom to Canada During the Unusually Fine Summer of 1940

Within weeks of the internees’ arrival, Britain asked Canada to provide a “system of less rigid custodial treatment” for the refugees. When Canada requested assistance to distinguish between “Category A,” “B” and “C” internees, the British sent Alexander Paterson, His Majesty’s Commissioner of Prisons and a renowned social reformer.

Chaim Raphael, who joined Paterson on his mission after working with refugees in England, explained that the British did not expect Canadians to resist Paterson’s authority: “[We] assumed that once Paterson came, he was a very famous man, there would be no problem. We’ll send him out for a week or so just to appease the Canadians on the diplomatic level. No one dreamed that the Canadians would refuse.”

Paterson stayed in Canada for over eight months in order to clear the refugees individually. Hundreds seized the opportunity he offered to return to Britain by joining the Pioneer Corps, an unarmed unit of the British army largely assigned to public works. By 1943, fewer than one thousand of the refugees remained in Canada.

Infuriated by what he witnessed, Paterson unleashed a volley of criticism at the Canadian government. He recommended the creation of “Refugee Camps” removed from military control. On May 2, 1941, Cabinet approved Paterson’s proposal.

Paterson also worked with refugee advocates pursuing a program of release in Canada. If interned refugees were reluctantly released in Canada, it was largely through the spadework of Alexander Paterson.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

While the refugees confronted the Canadian government with petitions, letters and strikes, voluntary organizations worked outside the barbed wire to improve their conditions, and to gain their release. The leader of Canadian Jewry’s efforts was a young Montreal lawyer, Saul Hayes, who served as director of the United Jewish Refugee and War Relief Agencies (UJRA) of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC).

During the first years of the Second World War, Canadian Jews focused on aiding and rescuing European Jewry. The plight of the Jewish internees, officially labelled as dangerous spies, presented them with a public relations dilemma. Until the refugees were cleared of suspicion, the UJRA tread lightly. They provided communication, kosher food, religious items and other material to improve everyday life for the internees.

Securing release into Canada for the interned refugees was an enormous challenge. The UJRA knew that during the Holocaust era the term “refugee” was synonymous with “Jew.” In Canada, where antisemitism permeated the political and social landscape, Jews were regarded as unassimilable immigrants. At first, the UJRA focu Read More
While the refugees confronted the Canadian government with petitions, letters and strikes, voluntary organizations worked outside the barbed wire to improve their conditions, and to gain their release. The leader of Canadian Jewry’s efforts was a young Montreal lawyer, Saul Hayes, who served as director of the United Jewish Refugee and War Relief Agencies (UJRA) of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC).

During the first years of the Second World War, Canadian Jews focused on aiding and rescuing European Jewry. The plight of the Jewish internees, officially labelled as dangerous spies, presented them with a public relations dilemma. Until the refugees were cleared of suspicion, the UJRA tread lightly. They provided communication, kosher food, religious items and other material to improve everyday life for the internees.

Securing release into Canada for the interned refugees was an enormous challenge. The UJRA knew that during the Holocaust era the term “refugee” was synonymous with “Jew.” In Canada, where antisemitism permeated the political and social landscape, Jews were regarded as unassimilable immigrants. At first, the UJRA focused its efforts on gaining entry for the internees into the United States. When that scheme failed, Hayes worked with Alexander Paterson, quietly lobbying to secure release into Canada.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

A bulletin written by the UJRA to the Jewish Community and relatives of the internees, March 11, 1941.

A bulletin written by the UJRA to the Jewish Community and relatives of the internees, March 11, 1941. The letter describes the religious observance in the camps and the ways in which the UJRA and the Jewish Community Council assisted the internees by sending supplies.

Courtesy Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


An internee wearing the mandatory uniform is blocked by a long line of barbed wire.

A painting of an internee trying to get to the United States, with the Statue of Liberty and American flag beyond barbed wire, artist unknown (first name René), circa 1940-1943. Courtesy Eric Koch. Source: Library and Archives Canada/Artist Unknown/Eric Koch Fonds/e010939543

Aristst unknown. Courtesy Eric Koch.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


The United Jewish Relief Agency needed to show that the interned refugees were a humanitarian rather than a Jewish cause. To this end, it joined forces with the Canadian National Committee on Refugees (CNCR), formed in 1938 to focus public attention on the plight of refugees.

The CNCR was composed of prominent non Jews who felt morally obliged to aid victims of fascism, and included church leaders and wives of Senators. The Chairperson was Canada’s first female Senator, Cairine Wilson, a staunch Liberal and friend of Prime Minister Mackenzie King. On the issue of the internees, the CNCR became, in essence, a non sectarian front for the United Jewish Refugee and War Relief Agencies. Its major impetus and funding was provided by the UJRA.

In January 1941, the two organizations joined to form the Central Committee for Interned Refugees (CCIR). The CCIR compiled individual case files that would facilitate release of internees in Canada. Stanley Goldner was appointed Liaison Officer and became a lifeline between the camps and the Committee.

The CCIR worked with Paterson, pressuring government for an alteration of status from internee to refugee, a Read More
The United Jewish Relief Agency needed to show that the interned refugees were a humanitarian rather than a Jewish cause. To this end, it joined forces with the Canadian National Committee on Refugees (CNCR), formed in 1938 to focus public attention on the plight of refugees.

The CNCR was composed of prominent non Jews who felt morally obliged to aid victims of fascism, and included church leaders and wives of Senators. The Chairperson was Canada’s first female Senator, Cairine Wilson, a staunch Liberal and friend of Prime Minister Mackenzie King. On the issue of the internees, the CNCR became, in essence, a non sectarian front for the United Jewish Refugee and War Relief Agencies. Its major impetus and funding was provided by the UJRA.

In January 1941, the two organizations joined to form the Central Committee for Interned Refugees (CCIR). The CCIR compiled individual case files that would facilitate release of internees in Canada. Stanley Goldner was appointed Liaison Officer and became a lifeline between the camps and the Committee.

The CCIR worked with Paterson, pressuring government for an alteration of status from internee to refugee, and for eventual release into Canada. CCIR members were confident they would have succeeded without Paterson. But it is likely that without Paterson’s work, which affirmed the innocence of the refugees, progress would have been far slower.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

A sepia-toned photograph of Constance Hayward, in profile, seated at her desk writing a letter.

Constance Hayward worked alongside Saul Hayes as Executive Secretary of the CNCR. Photograph by Yousuf Karsh, Ottawa, circa 1940-1950.

Courtesy Esther Clark Wright Archives, Acadia University and Yousuf Karsh

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


A letter from Philipp Koller to Senator Cairine Wilson.

A letter from Philipp Koller to Senator Cairine Wilson, Camp N (Sherbrooke, Quebec), February 12, 1942. Koller thanks Wilson for her work on behalf of the internees and for sending economic publications to the camp.

Courtesy Frank Koller

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Three-quarter length studio portrait of Cairine Wilson, wearing a coat with a large fur collar.

Cairine Wilson, Senator and Chairperson of the CNCR, New York, 1940-1950.

Courtesy Shelburne Studios/Library and Archives Canada/C-0052280

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


A CNCR petition urging the Government of Canada to offer sanctuary to refugees of Nazi terror.

A Canadian National Committee on Refugees (CNCR) petition urging the Government of Canada to offer sanctuary to refugees of Nazi terror, to take immediate action to facilitate their entry, and to make changes to immigration policy. - Source: Library and Archives Canada/Canadian National Committee on Refugees collection/Vol. 2, file 16

Source: Library and Archives Canada

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Small Jewish communities near the camps sent their rabbis to offer support and help fill the religious needs of the refugees. The Jewish Community Council of Montreal sent Passover goods to the internees, although the orthodox Jews in Camp B were not satisfied and pooled their funds in order to obtain separate dishes and kitchen utensils for the holiday.

The War Prisoners Aid Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), chaired by Sir Ernest MacMillan, Principal of the Toronto Conservatory of Music, also worked on behalf of the interned refugees. The YMCA program began in August 1940, prompted by their British counterpart, which had worked with the internees before their deportations.

YMCA activities covered all internment camps; Nazis, prisoners of war and refugees received the same treatment. Representatives of the World Student Christian Federation and the European Student Relief Fund, Robert Mackie and Dale Brown, worked under the YMCA umbrella. Funds for the program – which provided recreational equipment, books, films, art supplies, musical instruments and Christian religious items – often came from the United Jewish Refu Read More
Small Jewish communities near the camps sent their rabbis to offer support and help fill the religious needs of the refugees. The Jewish Community Council of Montreal sent Passover goods to the internees, although the orthodox Jews in Camp B were not satisfied and pooled their funds in order to obtain separate dishes and kitchen utensils for the holiday.

The War Prisoners Aid Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), chaired by Sir Ernest MacMillan, Principal of the Toronto Conservatory of Music, also worked on behalf of the interned refugees. The YMCA program began in August 1940, prompted by their British counterpart, which had worked with the internees before their deportations.

YMCA activities covered all internment camps; Nazis, prisoners of war and refugees received the same treatment. Representatives of the World Student Christian Federation and the European Student Relief Fund, Robert Mackie and Dale Brown, worked under the YMCA umbrella. Funds for the program – which provided recreational equipment, books, films, art supplies, musical instruments and Christian religious items – often came from the United Jewish Refugee and War Relief Agencies.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

A letter on salmon coloured paper written by Fritz Oberlander to the British Under Secretary of State.

For many internees, including Peter Oberlander, their family members were their most vocal advocates. This letter is one of many written by Fritz Oberlander on behalf of his son urgently requesting information on Peter’s status and assistance in securing his release.

Courtesy the Oberlander family

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


A portrait of Sir Ernest MacMillan seated at a desk with papers and a telephone visible beside him.

Sir Ernest MacMillan, Toronto, 1926.

Courtesy University of Toronto Archives

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


A letter sent by the Jewish Community Council of Montreal to Major E.D.B. Kippen, September 16, 1940.

A letter sent by the Jewish Community Council of Montreal to Major E.D.B. Kippen, September 16, 1940.

Courtesy Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Establish Historical Significance
Students consider how the actions of refugee advocates changed Canada’s policies toward the interned refugees.

Use Primary Source Evidence
Students analyze documents relating to the advocacy efforts on behalf of the internees.

Analyze Cause and Consequence
Students consider the effects of activism on changing government policies about internment.

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