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In the years between 1939 and 1945, the darkest side of humanity showed itself

Written By: Sukhbir Singh Sangha

The Holocaust & Internment of Japanese Canadians

Some like to believe that the Holocaust wasnt real, and no one was killed at Auschwitz. But the truth is that the Holocaust was real, and millions were killed at Auschwitz. Racism in the British Empire against Asians was an endemic condition. In British Columbia, Japanese were blamed for everything from a bad crop to a flat tire and they were being punished for a crime they didnt commit. Looking at the examples of the Holocaust, one of the bloodiest times in history, and the treatment of Japanese Canadians, it is the evident that the years between 1939 and 1945 were the dark years of humanity.


The Holocaust is the term Jews themselves chose to describe what happened to them during World War II. The term is related to the word olah in the Hebrew Bible. Its religious meaning is burnt sacrifice. The term Holocaust has been widely used since the 1960s. About six million Jews died during the Holocaust. The German code name for the systematic murder of the Jews was the Final Solution of the Jews problem. Over the 3500 year span of Jewish history, the Holocaust was the most massive catastrophe.


It was Hitlers prime goal, set forth in his book Mein Kampf. He carried out his goal with iron will and mechanical efficiency, even when it interfered with his war against the Allied nations. It was different with Hitler and the Nazis. They wanted to kill all the Jews because they were an inferior race. Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933 and almost immediately began the chain of events that led to the Holocaust. In mid 1941 Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. At about the same time, he also decided that there should be a Final Solution to the Jewish question. The Final Solution was the murder o the Jews and was mainly carried out by a military group known as the Security Service. They arrested Jews and other victims, ran the camps and organized murder squads.


During the first part, 1,500,000 Jews and other races were murdered by military groups by shooting. The Nazis targeted many groups for persecutions among the Catholics, Poles, homosexuals, Jehovahs Witnesses, and Communists. There were so many ways to prisoners were killed at Auschwitz. Some were hanged, shot, tortured starved, gassed and there were even many who were killed during medical experimentation. All of the deaths were painful and unnecessary. The victims were told to undress. Sometimes we tend to block out the bad in order to forget. This time must be different and the Holocaust should not be forgotten.





During World War II the Canadian government implemented a systematic plan to rid British Columbia of over 22,000 Japanese Canadians. On December 7, 1941, Japan announced its entry into the Second World War by attacking the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. Before the bombing of Pearl Harbour, young Japanese Canadians were allowed to enroll in the Canadian Army. Once the bombing occurred the BC Government would not allow the Japanese to enroll into the army. Canadas only defense for its action was that Japanese people were not white and they could be Japanese spies.


The Canadian government took away all of the Japanese fishing fleets, in order to protect Canada. Innocent Japanese Canadians were stripped of their rights, issued specials clothing, humiliated, thrown behind barb wire fences, and were forced to do manual labor. The Canadian and American governments both evacuated their population and sent them to various internment camps. Many families were forced to live in cramped quarters with ten other families sharing one stove. Many Japanese Canadians were placed in tents until there were houses available. There were ten internment camps in total and five self supporting camps scattered throughout Canada during the World War II. Living in internment camps was a hard life to live. Some camps didnt have the recourses to house the huge amounts of people coming into the camps.


Even before the war, Japanese Canadians had been targets of anti-Asian rioting and treated as second-class citizens. They were denied the right to vote, teach, or take jobs in civil service and other professions. When the Japanese Canadians were interned, they had to leave most of their belongings behind in the safekeeping of a government agent called the Canadian Custodian of Enemy Property. But the authorities auctioned all of their property including fishing boats, cars, houses, shops, and personal belongings, to others.



The Canadian provincial governments also took part in overt discrimination. Mackenzie Kings government didnt behave harshly against Japanese Canadians on the West Coast. But anti-Japanese Canadians feeling were running high in British Columbia. The scared people of BC cried out, wanting the BC government to deal with the problem as they saw it. The people of British Colombia wanted to feel safe in their homes and they wanted Prime Minister Mackenzie King to rid Canada of people of Japanese origin. They started to blame all their troubles and problems on the Japanese. The shameful treatment did not stop even after the war. Ottawa passed a law to deport Japanese Canadians, and almost 400 were sent to Japan before the law was repealed in 1947.


I realize sometimes it is hard to deal with thoughts like the Holocaust and the internment of Japanese Canadians. For historians of the Holocaust, the greatest challenge has not been making sense of Hitler, but rather understanding why do so many people followed him down his murderous path. If we do not learn from our mistakes, history will repeat itself again and again, and millions more will have to die senseless deaths. I wish this kind of inhuman actions will never ever happen again.

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