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Between the Wars: Canadian Jews in Transition    by Israel Medres order for
Between the Wars
by Israel Medres
Order:  USA  Can
Véhicule Press, 2004 (1964)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

I was a small child during World War II. Old enough to realize the seriousness of the times. After all, my mother lost her twin brother to the Japanese and two of my brothers were away from home fighting in the Pacific. But I'm sure I did not realize the enormity at that time of what was happening in the world. We have all heard of the Holocaust. What led up to that horrific period of time is covered in Israel Medres' book Between the Wars – Canadian Jews in Transition.

Originally published in 1964, it has recently been reprinted. A book like this is always topical. At least I found it so. Medres covers the period after World War I in Europe, explaining how many Jews even then saw the writing on the wall. They started leaving Europe, looking for somewhere to settle where they would not be vilified. Their ultimate goal – a nation of their own. Canada is one of the countries that took them in. They proved to be a distinct asset as the years wore on. But there are always detractors. Business people feared them for their acumen. The man on the street was sure they were all red and would turn their country communist. As the Jews grew more affluent, they were able to build new schools and synagogues only to have the buildings themselves attacked. They were not understood - and what people don't understand, they tend to fear.

The Balfour Agreement was proclaimed in 1917, giving Jews and Zionists (those who wanted their own nation) the word that England would soon be making a declaration about forming a Jewish nation in Palestine. Remember this was 1917. It wasn't until the late 1940s that it was realized. Of course, it must be noted, this declaration followed a world war, which was rather quickly followed by another. All over Europe, Jews were being persecuted. Life was hard in Canada, but not all Canadians objected to Jews in their midst. Just prior to the outbreak of World War II, many Jews were admitted to Canada to escape the persecution they were subject to in almost every country in Europe. As a result, many young Jewish men volunteered for the Canadian Army and Air Force to fight the aggressors.

Between the Wars is a disturbing book to read, but also very enlightening. I wish there were more level-headed men like Israel Medres in the world at present. Maybe then we would not be in the position we are today.

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