It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Nazi Germany, despite its military strength and stamina, would have had the resources to cross the Atlantic and take control of North America (even in The Man in the High Castle, the Nazis don’t attempt to invade the East Coast until they had all the oil and resources from conquering Europe and the Soviet Union). But that doesn’t mean they weren’t seriously thinking about it, and a book recently acquired by the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) indicates that continuing the Holocaust in the Western Hemisphere was at the top of their minds.
CBC News reports that the LAC recently purchased a book from Hitler’s personal library from a private collector for about $4,500. The 137-page confidential report, “for official service use only,” offers a detailed census on Jewish organizations and Jewish populations across the U.S. and Canada, including major urban centers and even small cities, like Troise-Rivieres in Quebec, which had a Jewish population of just 52.
The tome, which translates to Statistics, Press, and Organizations of Jewry in the United States and Canada, was acquired in June and has since undergone preservation work. It went on display last weekend, as part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“This information would have been the building blocks to rolling out the Final Solution in Canada,” LAC curator Michael Kent tells the CBC.
The report was commissioned by the Nazi regime in 1944 and conducted by Nazi linguist Heinz Kloss, who visited the United States between 1936 and 1937. It’s believed that he was able to collect the demographic data by utilizing a network of Nazi sympathizers stationed throughout North America. In an interview with Leyland Cecco at The Guardian Kent points out that he was able to get enough information to sort Jewish people in the report by their language and ethnic origins. “I think that’s part of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust – recognizing how much intellectual effort went into work of the perpetrators,” Kent says.
It isn’t clear whether Hitler read through the report or if he did, whether he paid it much attention, but the bookplate inside the cover indicates that it was part of his personal collection of 6,000-16,000 books kept at his various estates. It’s believed this particular volume was stored in his alpine retreat in Berchtesgaden, Germany, and was likely lifted by an Allied soldier at the conclusion of the war as a souvenir.
Purchasing the book was not an easy decision, reports Cecco of the Guardian. Many museums and Holocaust memorials have a policy against buying Nazi memorabilia. But the archives are also mandated to preserve Canadian history, and this book shows what might have happened had the Allies not prevailed. “[It] demonstrates that the Holocaust wasn’t a European event – it was an event that didn’t have the opportunity to spread out of Europe,” Kent says. “It reminds us that conflicts and human tragedies that seemed far away could find their way to North America.”
In a press release, Rebecca Margolis of the Jewish Canadian studies program at the University of Ottawa says the book also speaks to the anxiety that Jewish residents of North America felt with the flex of the Nazi propaganda arm. “This invaluable report offers a documented confirmation of the fears felt so acutely and expressed by so many Canadian Jews during the Second World War: that the Nazis would land on our shores and with them, the annihilation of Jewish life here,” she writes.