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The Deutsche Zeitung für Canada: A Nazi Newspaper in Winnipeg

by Jonathan F. Wagner

MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 33, 1976-77 Season

MHS Transactions were originally published by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make online versions available as a free, public service. As an historical document, Transactions may contain language that is no longer in common use and which may offend some readers. They should not be construed to represent the views of today’s Manitoba Historical Society.

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Although during the Depression most Winnipeggers continued to support the traditional political parties and leaders in their efforts to cope with the crisis of near economic collapse and serious social dislocation, significant numbers sought new or more radical answers to the problems facing them. Besides the strong support expressed for labour or CCF candidates, the Communist Party experienced revitalization, and William Whittaker launched his fascist Canadian Nationalist Party. Moreover, Winnipeg witnessed a pro-Nazi movement among its German community. The following paper will consider this Nazi presence by discussing the Winnipeg produced and nationally circulated pro-Nazi newspaper, the Deutsche Zeitung für Canada.

Winnipeg's Nazi movement began in 1933 with the attempt to establish a branch of the American Friends of the New Germany in the city. Due to the ineptitude of the American leadership this failed. [1] However, a year later the Canadian version of the Friends, the Deutscher Bund Canada, established a Winnipeg unit (Ortsgruppe). [2] In both these attempts the impetus had come from without and could in fact be traced to Germany. For example, the Deutscher Bund Canada with headquarters in Montreal was directed during its first several years by Karl Gerhard, a Nazi Party member who followed the instructions of the Hamburg-based Auslandsorganisation der NSDAP (AO), the Nazi Party agency for dealing with Party matters abroad. [3]

The dependence of Gerhard on the Reich was not unique, for after 1933 the various Nazi organizations in Germany committed themselves to a policy of active intervention in the affairs of Western Hemisphere Germans. Although it is an exaggeration to claim as some have done that the Nazis in Germany seriously sought to turn the German colonies in North and South America into armed fifth columnists in preparation for a German conquest of the Western Hemisphere, [4] the National Socialists did seek to manipulate these Germans in such a way that they should serve the interests of the Third Reich. More specifically, the propaganda agencies sought to emphasize first the importance of the foreign Germans remaining German and resisting assimilation, and second their obligation to appreciate Hitler's Germany and to defend it against critics. [5] Because of the importance of this counter propaganda assignment, the foreign German language press constituted a subject of considerable interest to Berlin.

In the interwar period the Canadian German language press was limited in size and scope, reaching less than 20% of the half-million or so ethnic Germans in Canada. [6] As a result of the anti-German hysteria engendered by the First World War, the lively German press of some thirty local papers in Ontario had been totally destroyed. [7] Thus in 1933 what remained of a Canadian German language newspaper tradition existed exclusively in the west among the country's most recent German immigrants. In 1933 when Hitler came to power, six major German papers appeared regularly on the prairies. These papers were the Nordwesten (Winnipeg), the Courier (Regina), the Mennonitische Rundschau (Winnipeg), Der Bote (Rosthern, Saskatchewan), the Steinbach Post (Steinbach), and the St Peters Bote (Munster, Saskatchewan).

Of these six, only the Nordwesten and Courier were not basically religious papers. The Mennonitische Rundschau (circulation 4000), the Steinbach Post (circulation 1500), and Der Bote (circulation 1200) served Mennonite subscribers by providing not only local, national, and some international news but also religious information. All three papers presented a sympathetic picture of Hitler and National Socialism; all three papers were edited by Russian Mennonite refugees from the Communist Revolution who had come to Canada in the 1920s. [8] The other religious paper, the St Peters Bote (circulation 1250) differed dramatically from the three Mennonite weeklies. An ultramontane Catholic organ edited by the Benedictine monks of St. Peter's Colony, it catered to the needs of the German farmers of the colony. Being German immigrants from the American midwest, its subscribers related little to European events. This, plus the paper's commitment to the papacy, decreed that it would be anti-Nazi.

The Courier (circulation 7000) distinguished itself from the above papers in being a family paper with a strong Liberal and anti-Conservative political posture. Nevertheless, the Courier displayed a "certain Catholic interest" [9] in its pages because the Oblate Fathers owned a controlling interest in it. Reflecting the paper's interest in Canadian politics and its Catholic sympathies, the Courier subscribers tended to be found among Saskatchewan's Catholics and those prairie Germans concerned with Canadian events. Although not hostile to Hitler's Germany, the Courier was too involved with other issues to allot much space to European or German happenings.

Resembling the Courier in attempting to be a family newspaper which offered a broad range of features, the Winnipeg-based Nordwesten (circulation 13,000) nevertheless differed from its main rival by remaining more politically independent and non-sectarian. Because of this posture, the Nordwesten maintained a more flexible approach to the news. Besides treating local and national Canadian issues, it devoted more coverage to European and non-Canadian events. This tendency reflected the preferences not only of its recent immigrant editor, Johann Hensen, but also the desires of its subscribers who consisted for the most part of newly arrived immigrants with strong interests in and ties to Germany. [10] In 1934 the Nordwesten represented the most sympathetic of the German weeklies toward Hitler and the new Germany. Despite this identification, the Nordwesten, which was the oldest German-Canadian paper (founded in 1889), remained basically committed to serving the interests of German Canadians.

Frequently the sympathy for the Third Reich expressed in the above mentioned papers was not spontaneous, because Nazi Party propaganda agencies in Germany induced the Mennonite papers or the Nordwesten to print their feature stories and news accounts. [11] Nevertheless, not even the most sympathetic of the German-Canadian papers were as amenable to manipulation as some Party members wanted. As a result, sentiment developed in 1934-35 among important pro-Nazis in Canada for the creation of an independent, Nazi-controlled newspaper to be published in the west. This was the basis for the decision to establish the Deutsche Zeitung für Canada.

In the launching of the Deutsche Zeitung Heinrich Seelheim, the German Consul for western Canada, and Bernhard Bott, the one-time editor of the Courier, played the leading roles. Seelheim, who represented Germany in Winnipeg from 1930-37, was a logical figure to promote such a newspaper. Although he had come to Canada as a traditional and largely apolitical diplomat in the service of the Weimar Republic, Seelheim soon acquired a new political awareness. In the years just prior to Hitler's take-over, he actively supported the movement to develop among German Canadians a consciousness of their racial and spiritual ties to Germany and to the German Volk. He became the outstanding promoter of German schools and German culture in western Canada. [12] The triumph of Hitler and the National Socialists in 1933 greatly intensified Seelheim's völkisch commitment. Indeed, he experienced an early Nazi conversion and in May 1934 joined the NSDAP. [13]

Because of his propaganda work among western Germans, Seelheim became acquainted with Bernhard Bott in the early 1930s. At the time of his first contact with Seelheim, Bott was editor of the Courier and a leading spokesman among the German community in Saskatchewan. Bott, who had come to Regina in 1923 from Bavaria, headed the German Canadian Central Committee (Deutschkanadisches Zentralkomitee) in Regina. [14] This body, which Bott had created himself, was charged with the task of promoting unity and cultural awareness among Saskatchewan's Germans. From the beginning Seelheim found a sympathetic listener in Bott, and a close friendship soon developed between the two men. Although it is impossible to document precisely, Seelheim apparently helped bring about Bott's conversion to National Socialism in 1933-34. (Prior to this time Bott had been primarily known for his devotion to German culture and schools and for his ardent Catholicism.) As a result of Seelheim's urging, Bott undertook a trip to Hitler's Germany in the late summer of 1934.

In Germany Bott immersed himself "in the spirit and essence of the National Socialist movement;" [15] he attended the Party's Nuremberg rally in September; he contacted a number of Nazi governmental and Party agencies concerned with promoting the cause of National Socialism and Germany among Germans living abroad. He had himself appointed the agent in Canada for one of the most important of these agencies, the Volksbund für das Deutschtum im Ausland (VDA). [16] In short, Bernhard Bott developed ties with the National Socialist movement which were to affect his live profoundly. So obvious by now had become his Nazi commitment that the owners of the Courier dismissed him from his position as editor. [17]

The loss of his job did not greatly upset Bott, for he had felt increasingly frustrated as editor of the Courier. By 1934 the Nazi convert found the Regina weekly unsatisfactory because it was, in his words, "controlled by a group who could not transcend petty business interests or [Canadian] party politics." Even before his trip to Germany, he had made plans with Seelheim to start a new, pro-Nazi paper. "When Consul Seelheim and I discussed the newspaper issue," Bott wrote in the fall of 1934, "we concluded that some way and some means would have to be found to establish an entirely independent and forceful German newspaper which could act unhindered as the herald and defender of the German-Canadian movement from coast to coast." [18] Within a year of writing this, Bott realized his goal. Leaving Regina in the spring of 1935, he settled in Winnipeg, where with the financial backing of the German consulate he began publishing the Deutsche Zeitung für Canada. [19]

Appearing on June 12, 1935, the first issue, which was published by the Gutenberg Press on Mountain Avenue, outlined the paper's goals. According to Bott's lead editorial, the Deutsche Zeitung had been established because a "genuine" German paper did not exist in Canada. None of the Canadian German language weeklies reflected, in his words, "the modern German spirit." There were no organs to defend "basic" German rights, to advance "real" German culture, or to combat anti-German propaganda. In being a paper "not only printed in German but also breathing the true German spirit," the Deutsche Zeitung would develop German consciousness among and unify Canada's Germans as had not been done before. Despite these obligations the paper would remain, Bott insisted, independent from ail political parties. Only by taking up the cause of the Deutsche Zeitung, Bott concluded, could the German-Canadian community avoid dying an ignoble death by sinking into the mire of the racially mixed. [20]

The format for the new paper was modern and popular. The Deutsche Zeitung, which appeared each Wednesday, cleverly mixed international news and descriptions of local events, editorial comments and letters from subscribers, women's features and sporting news, sections from novels and humorous stories, and long and short accounts of the progress of the German movement in Canada. At the end of the normal eight-to-twelve page edition, Bott usually included a two-or-three page English supplement. Throughout, little space was devoted to advertising. From the first issue until the last, Bott did his best to use the news reports, editorials, women's section, indeed the whole layout to advance the "genuine" German or National Socialist cause.

The consistency of the Deutsche Zeitung derived not only from Bott's personal commitment (he became a secret member of the Nazi Party in May 1936 [21]) but also from the support which he received. As indicated, Seelheim had played a major role both in urging Bott to take on the paper and in providing the requisite financial backing. Indeed, Seelheim was even registered as the leading stockholder in the paper. What Seelheim began, the Nazi government continued throughout the paper's existence. Since the Deutsche Zeitung carried almost no advertising, such support was crucial to keep the weekly solvent. Although the specific financial records have disappeared, the German government apparently channeled its funds secretly through the German consulate to Bott. A telegram dated April 14, 1939 from German General Consul Erich Windels in Ottawa to the Auslandsorganisation in Berlin requesting $870.00 to maintain the Deutsche Zeitung illustrates something of how the support process worked. [22]

Financial backing did not constitute the only kind of assistance Bott's paper received. In accordance with the pledge to be a "genuine" German paper, the Deutsche Zeitung relied heavily for its actual content on Nazi sources. In nearly every issue it reproduced news items and commentaries supplied to it by the German News Bureau, an agency controlled by Goebbels's Propaganda Ministry. Moreover, the Nazi Party's Foreign Press Office in Munich provided frequent feature stories for Bott. For example, Rolf Hoffmann, the head of the Foreign Press Office, sent Bott an article entitled "Rudolf Hess, the Fiuhrer's True Servant and Deputy" which appeared in the May 27, 1936 issue of the Deutsche Zeitung. [23]

The English language supplement offered a particularly good illustration of how the Deutsche Zeitung reprinted Nazi propaganda in the guise of impartial news. Designed specifically for non-German readers (the Deutsche Zeitung subscribers were expected to circulate this portion of the paper among their neighbors), the supplement reproduced news stories prepared in English by the Fichte Bund in Hamburg. Normally such stories were part of the Fichte Bund's News From Germany series, a Nazi newsletter aimed specifically at presenting the Third Reich in a favorable light abroad. In a letter dated October 4, 1938 to the German Consul in Winnipeg, Rolf Hoffmann described how he had furnished the Deutsche Zeitung with its English section. "For a long time now, I have been an enthusiastic contributor to the Deutsche Zeitung. Not only do many of the various features in the German part [of the paper] come from us but also the greatest portion of the English supplement is composed of information taken from the News from Germany." [24]

The editorial policy which the Deutsche Zeitung für Canada pursued accorded closely with Nazi expectations. To waging the battle against assimilation (he labelled it denationalization) [25] Bott committed himself passionately. From the outset he made it clear to his readers that remaining German in Canada was natural: "A German remains a German not in a political or legal sense, but in his blood and in his essence ..." [26] Retaining one's German characteristics would benefit the member of the Volk by giving "content to his life" and by allowing for self-realization. [27] To prevent the natural and positive cultural inheritance from being destroyed, the Deutsche Zeitung advocated that "each child of German parents should thoroughly learn his German mother tongue so that he can speak and write, sing and pray in it! That is the first and most necessary dam which we must erect against the present efforts to assimilate us." [28]

In its struggle against denationalization the Deutsche Zeitung offered its readers a Nazi version of the mosaic theory. An article which appeared in the paper in December 1935 put the issue in its simplest terms. Did the Germans of Canada want to become assimilated into the Canadian majority? Did they wish to live in a society of "one love, one confession, one color, one glow, one humanity, one understanding ... one thought, and one blood ... ?" The answer was clear. Germans must resist the forces that would make them like other non-Germans; Germans must "hold their color." To do this, Bott argued, would benefit Canada as well as its German community. "The German Volk and the Canadian citizen," the paper concluded, "are not mutually exclusive or hostile. On the contrary both belong in the common battle against the international Jewish cultural Bolshevism." [29]

The task of answering Hitler's and Germany's foreign critics, the second major goal of the Nazi press abroad, the Deutsche Zeitung enthusiastically attempted to fulfill. Indeed, Bott's paper exhibited from the beginning a hypersensitivity to any adverse German commentary. In the first few years of the paper's existence the task of defence was limited, for during 1935-36 little public criticism of Hitler or National Socialism was voiced in Canada. What the Deutsche Zeitung had to confront at that time dealt basically with German domestic policies. Occasional protests were raised about Hitler's treatment of Germany's Jews. Such denunciations the Deutsche Zeitung labelled "slanderous" or "exaggerated. [30] Often the paper justified Nazi extremes such as the Nuremberg Laws by recounting the alleged crimes of the German Jewish Community. [31] To the complaints of Hitler's violations of the liberties of Germany's non-Jews, Bott responded similarly. For example, the Nazi persecution of intellectuals and academics he described as healthy and necessary for the success of the glorious National Socialist Revolution. [32] All such criticism the Deutsche Zeitung dismissed as the rantings of "pharisees" who "simply did not understand." [33]

After 1938 when Canadian public opinion became increasingly hostile toward Hitler's Germany, the Deutsche Zeitung had to devote more of its energy to defense. During that period it had to answer frequent attacks on the Führer himself. For example, in the summer of 1938 the Deutsche Zeitung responded violently to the public statement of Toronto alderman William Croft that Hitler should be locked up in the beaver cage at the city's zoo. [34] Moreover, the Deutsche Zeitung felt compelled to respond to the increasing numbers of those critical of Germany's foreign policy. A standard reply to the Canadian papers' denunciations of Hitler's aggression in Austria or Czechoslovakia was to compare the Nazi treatment of minorities with British policies toward the natives in India or Africa. According to Bott, the German tiger and the British lion were more alike than different. [35]

Besides fighting assimilation and anti-Nazi opponents, the Deutsche Zeitung worked hard to present as positive a picture of the Third Reich as possible. The image of Hitler which the paper projected reveals just how favorable the interpretation could be. As the newspapers in Germany did, the Deutsche Zeitung discussed Hitler on two separate albeit interrelated levels. He was described as a man or personality and then considered as a politician and leader of the German state and nation. His success in the latter realm depended, so the Deutsche Zeitung continually emphasized, upon the intrinsic qualities of his character. Why was Hitler the man so exceptional?

The Deutsche Zeitung answered this question in a straightforward fashion: Hitler represented the quintessential German. He was "the embodiment of the spirit of the German race." [36] In true Romantic fashion he was pictured as "a master born out of the yolk." [37] Although his father had been a petty customs official, Hitler was described as descending from peasants. [38] Always Hitler expressed pride in his peasant background, for it gave him roots in Germany and in the German Volk. [39]

Because he was so closely related to the German Volk, Hitler possessed, so the Deutsche Zeitung claimed, obvious Volk-related qualities. His closeness to the soil and to the peasantry brought him into direct contact with the mysterious forces ruling the universe. His essence, like the powers of the universe, lay beyond rational understanding. Hitler's gifts were likened to those of "a holy man, a prophet, or the founder of a new religion." [40] The connection to the soil and his roots in the Volk made Hitler at home with nature. Since this was so, he was necessarily described as having simple tastes. Hitler, the Deutsche Zeitung pointed out, "neither smokes nor drinks. He eats very simple food and is a vegetarian." [41] Like the simple Volk from whom he sprang, Hitler loved "children and dogs." [42] Since the Volk was steadfast and loyal, the man who ordered the murder of his closest accomplices during the Night of the Long Knives came to epitomize loyalty. He was "instinctively loyal to his friends." [43] Like the majority of Germans, Hitler, the persecutor of both Catholics and Protestants, was pictured as religious. Indeed, his religious fervor was responsible for filling Germany's churches so that "the once empty churches now had to offer five or six services each Sunday." [44] All such human characteristics made Hitler loved by his people.

Moreover, because Hitler was so close to the Volk, indeed because his völkisch qualities made him a "genius whom all must admire," [45] he was able from the moment he assumed control in 1933 to steer the ship of state onto the desired course. At the very beginning of his rule, he managed two dramatic accomplishments and these in turn prepared the way for the great political successes which followed. According to the Deutsche Zeitung, Hitler's thwarting of the imminent Communist revolution represented the most striking of his early triumphs. In this role Hitler had appeared as a savior. [46] This applied not only to Germany but to Canada as well. "Canadians," the Deutsche Zeitung insisted, "have Adolf Hitler and his movement to thank that they are still Canadians. Germany halted the wave of Bolshevism. Had this not happened, then the whole world would already be under the Bolshevik yoke." [47]

The second major accomplishment of the Führer related closely to the first. By removing the Communist threat, Hitler had enabled the German people, so Bott argued, to move forward once again; he had effected "a rebirth of the nation." [48] This re-awakening inaugurated basic changes in both domestic and foreign fields. In the former area none was more dramatic nor more important than the new feeling of unity which Germans were experiencing. Although the Deutsche Zeitung admitted that this unity had been accomplished with some violence, it did not allow that the violence had detracted from the end benefits. By eliminating the opponents who were also the opponents of the German Volk, the Führer ended the "state of class warfare" [49] which had characterized conditions in Germany for so long. In place of the self-seeking, factionalism, and conflict between brothers, he had substituted a belief in the Volk community (Volksgemeinschaft). [50]

The most concrete benefit which Hitler's new order provided Germany, Bott's paper repeatedly emphasized, was a solution to the labor problem. While Canada and the so-called free world floundered in the economic chaos of the Depression, Hitler had provided work for over four million unemployed. [51] But not only the creation of jobs was celebrated by the Deutsche Zeitung. The paper also loudly applauded the Nazi concept of Volk unity carried over into the economy. "The concept of proletariat," Bott pointed out, "had become obsolete. The German worker, the German farmer, the small businessman and artisan are today all equal parts of the Volk community sharing in the well being and fate of the whole ..." [52]

If Hitler's domestic successes appeared great, his accomplishments in the realm of foreign affairs oftentimes loomed even more spectacular. Of all Hitler's achievements nothing seemed to prove his consummate skill as a politician, nothing appeared to indicate more clearly the sincerity of his commitment to the Volk, and nothing roused greater enthusiasm for him in the Deutsche Zeitung than the Anschluss, the reunification of Austria with Germany in March, 1938. [53] Indeed, so great appeared to be the triumph of the Anschluss that the Deutsche Zeitung dared to claim that with it, Hitler had reversed the outcome of the First World War: "Adolf Hitler is celebrated, honored, and loved as a victor by a united grossdeutsch Volk. In place of the disarmed central Europe of 1918 has arisen a strong united block of 75 million people who are inspired by one belief and one will." [54]

But in constructing a Grossdeutschland, in breaking the chains of Versailles, and in triumphing over the victors of 1918 Hitler always remained, the Deutsche Zeitung emphasized, a man who sincerely "believed in peace." [55] Up to the very eve of the war, articles kept appearing which argued that Hitler was guiding Europe and the world into a new era of harmony and cooperation. Even the Hitler-Stalin nonaggression pact of August 1939, that German diplomatic about-face which opened the door for the Nazi attack on Poland, the rabidly anti-communist Bott celebrated as a victory for peace. [56]

Throughout, the description of Hitler which appeared in the Deutsche Zeitung mirrored the image of the Nazi leader being promoted in the Third Reich. As E. K. Bramsted has shown in his work on Nazi propaganda, the description of Hitler as "a charismatic superman and a fellow human being," both "distant and near, cunning and simple, lonely under the weight of national decisions but approachable and open minded toward the masses" [57] was the special creation of Dr. Goebbels. Clearly, the picture of Hitler as "the Greater German - the Führer - the Prophet - the Fighter" [58] which Bott so conscientiously projected in his paper was a cruelly misleading myth.

At the height of its success in 1937-38, the Deutsche Zeitung attained a circulation of 6000. [59] Like its editor, most of its readers were confirmed Nazi types, being either members of or fellow travellers with the Deutscher Bund Canada or the Canadian branch of the NSDAP. Although subscription lists have disappeared, it is nevertheless possible, on the basis of what is known about Bund membership, to make some generalizations about the Deutsche Zeitung's subscribers. To begin with, the readers of Bott's paper were probably farmers, artisans, or lower middle class types whose economic status was marginal. To such people National Socialist anti-communism made a direct appeal. Moreover, the Deutsche Zeitung's followers were, like most Nazi Party members, young, being not more than 45 years old. The Nazi emphasis upon action over against reflection was specifically directed at the restlessness of youth. Since new immigrants or first generation Canadian Germans who had no vested interest in Canadian society could identify with Zeitung's readers were also recently arrived, unassimilated Germans. Such Germans who had no vested interest in Canadian society could identify with the Nazi racial-völkisch ideology. Finally, the majority of the paper's subscribers lived in western Canada, for there the most recent German immigration had concentrated and there the Bund and the Nazi movement had made most headway. [60]

It is possible to generalize in this fashion about the Deutsche Zeitung's readers from what is known about the Bund membership, because the connection of the paper with the Bund was very close. Primarily this was due to Bernhard Bott himself. When Bott first considered launching his paper in late 1934, he was not affiliated with the Bund. In fact, at that time he would have preferred to work alone in bringing National Socialism to his fellow German-Canadians. [61] Nevertheless, pressure from Germany led to his joining forces with the Bund in early 1935. [62] Even while he finalized preparations for starting publication of the Deutsche Zeitung, Bott became the Bund's press agent. [63] Once having begun publication, he rapidly expanded his Bund activities. Combining the two roles, he increasingly made the paper the official organ for the Bund. For example, Bott frequently advertised the Bund and provided definitions of its program. [64] Moreover, in the section of the Deutsche Zeitung devoted to discussing the progress of the National Socialist movement in Canada, he included each week extensive reports on the meetings of the local Bund units. [65] The Deutsche Zeitung even recounted in detail events such as the celebrations of Hitler's birthday which the Bund staged for the public. [66] Indeed, so important did the Deutsche Zeitung become as an information source and unifying factor in the Bund, that the Bund leadership eventually required all Bund members to read the paper. [67] Thus through his role as editor Bernhard Bott became the most important figure in the Bund, eclipsing even the influence of the national leader in Montreal.

Bott's campaign to promote National Socialism through the Deutsche Zeitung was bound to arouse concern eventually. Although the Jewish community and the Canadian Communist Party had opposed the indigenous Nazis from the beginning, [68] few other Canadians paid heed to their warnings. In Anglo-Saxon circles, for example, only occasional complaints about the Deutsche Zeitung were registered before 1938. [69] What finally prompted Canadians to take notice of and to oppose Bernhard Bott's activities was the dramatic worsening of relations between Germany and the western world beginning with the German acquisition of Austria in March 1938. In Canada the specific issue which aroused nation-wide concern about the Nazi menace at home was the exposure in May 1938 of German plans to purchase Anticosti Island in the mouth of the St. Lawrence. R. B. Bennett, the leader of the opposition, led the attack from the House of Commons. In his exposure of the Anticosti threat, he expressed concern about the domestic Nazi movement as well. [70]

What Bennett began was elaborated upon by others in Ottawa. Abraham Heaps, MP for Winnipeg North, called upon the Minister of Justice, Mr. Lapointe, to intervene against the spread of Nazi propaganda in the Dominion. Specifically, he referred to the Deutsche Zeitung and Bernhard Bott. "In his [Bott's] paper," Heaps pointed out in the debate on May 30, "there is nothing but incitement to racial hatred and the setting of creed against creed and race against race. He publishes nothing but propaganda in the interests of German Nazism." [71] J. S. Woodsworth, also representing Winnipeg, sounded the same note. What, he asked the King government in the spring of 1939, was being done about the Deutsche Zeitung, which he denounced as anti-Semitic, anti-British, and paid for by the German consulate? [72]

Moreover, from 1938 on the English-Canadian press became increasingly concerned with the problem of Nazi propaganda and particularly with the Deutsche Zeitung für Canada. Articles appeared which were surprisingly accurate and well informed on the status and nature of Bott's paper. [73] English speaking readers were notified, as in the Winnipeg Tribune, that "the Zeitung peddles the best Goebbels-Streicher line of anti Jewish and anti British propaganda right here in Canada. If this stuff is not for export, then those behind the Zeitung are no mean bootleggers." [74] The demand that Canada's Germans commit themselves to the Nazi cause, which Bott and his paper were making, would, the Winnipeg Free Press warned, "if successfully carried out ... split and divide loyalties hopelessly." [75]

In the face of such opposition the Deutsche Zeitung did not retreat. On the contrary, as hostility mounted, Bott's efforts to defend Nazi Germany and National Socialism often reached frenzied heights. [76] Because of this, Bott, who eventually came to be labelled the "Henlein of Western Canada," [77] projected an image of increasing radicalism not only for himself but also for the paper with which he was so closely associated. In the end his hate-filled editorials and hostile tirades contributed substantially to a recognition by the government that the Deutsche Zeitung would have to be suppressed.

Although the RCMP had been monitoring Nazi activity in the country for sometime, preparations for suppression of the Nazi movement only began to take shape in the late summer of 1939. By then the imminent possibility of war with Nazi Germany clearly dictated the necessity for such plans. Thus, by August 1939 the Mounted Police had assembled lists of the pro-Nazis to be arrested and arrangements had been made for internment camps at Petawawa and Kananaskis. [78] When war came, the Nazi movement revealed that it did not constitute a very serious problem, for it was quickly and easily suppressed.

The arrests which began in early September concentrated on those German nationals with clear Nazi affiliations and on "a number of naturalized Canadians of German birth or racial origin who had so identified themselves with Nazi propagandist activities ... that they could not be regarded as loyal citizens of Canada." [79] Included in this group were Deutscher Bund Canada members. It was decided that not the entire membership of the Bund be interned, but rather only the "organizers of disaffection and potential leaders of sabotage work in war time." [80] Bernhard Bott qualified as a member of this group. On September 4th he was arrested and shortly afterwards shipped from Winnipeg to Kananaskis internment camp, arriving there on September 7, 1939. The internment of Bott signaled the end of the Deutsche Zeitung für Canada, whose last issue had appeared on August 30th.

During its brief existence before being suppressed, the Deutsche Zeitung failed to accomplish its two basic goals. The efforts of the Deutsche Zeitung to forge unity among the various elements in the German community and thus to create the basis for a viable resistance to the forces of assimilation met with little success except among a small group of extremists. Bott and his supporters completely failed to recognize the inapplicability of Nazi ideology in a Canada whose majority of Germans were physically and intellectually too far removed from the Reich and too assimilated into Canadian society. To such people, the mystical Nazi doctrine of the world-wide Volk community bound together by blood and will offered nothing. Indeed one can even argue that the effects of the Deutsche Zeitung's National Socialist apologetics contributed substantially to decreasing German-Canadian identification with Germany. By making the German community in a Canada about to go to war suspect of disloyalty, propagandists like Bott prompted numbers of German Canadians to deny their German ethnicity. [81] Moreover, the campaign of the Deutsche Zeitung to defend Hitler likewise did not succeed. Bott's extreme apologies for Hitler and Nazi Germany helped create awareness among many Canadians that National Socialists were active in Canada. As the hostile Canadian press clearly indicated, this awareness of interference in Canada did almost as much damage to Hitler's image as the Filhrer's aggression in Europe.


1. Hans Strauss correspondence of 26 May and 3 August 1933 to Wolfgang B. Schwab of Winnipeg; Public Archives of Canada [PAC], S. W. Jacobs Papers, MG27, III, C3, vol. 8. Ludwig Kempff letter to Auswartiges Amt [AA] Berlin, 4 Oct 1933, Bundesarchiv Koblenz [BA], Sammiung Schumacher 419. Sander A. Diamond, The Nazi Movement in the United States (Ithaca, N.Y., 1975), pp. 89-120.

2. John Offenbeck, "The Nazi Movement and German Canadians", (unpubl. M.A. thesis, Western Ontario, 1970). Kempff report on the Deutscher Bund Canada to the AA, 4 Dec 1934, Politisches Archiv des Auswartigen Amtes [PA AA], VI A, Forderung des Deutschtums in Canada u. den englisch-amerikanischen Kolonien, Deutschtum 1, Bd. 2.

3. Kempff to AA, 18 Nov 1935; PA AA, Inland 11 A/ B, NS Ortsgruppen im Auslande, Bd. 5. W. Grothe to Deutsches Auslands-Institut [DA/], 15 Dec 1934; BA-R57/ 181/40. Gerhard to Kempff, 4 Nov 1935; PA AA, Inland II A/ B, NS Ortsgruppen im Auslande, Bd. 5.

4. See as representative Alton Frye's Nazi Germans and the American Hemisphere (New Haven, 1967).

5. Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, "Zur Programmatik and Struktur der nationalsozialistischen Aussenpolitik 1919-1930", Aus Politik and Zeitgeschichte, B50/67, p. 12.

6. The combined circulation of Canada's seven German weeklies (1935) amounted to ca. 34,000. If one assumes the readers per paper, around 100,000 persons would be affected.

7. Herbert Karl Kalbfleisch, "The Early German Newspapers of Eastern Canada", Seminar (Waterloo), 111 (1967), no. 1, pp. 21-36. Werner A. Bausenhart, "The Ontario German Language Press and its Suppression by Order in Council in 1918", Canadian Ethnic Studies, IV (1972), pp. 35-48.

8. Frank H. Epp, "An analysis of Germanism and National Socialism in the Immigrant Newspaper of a Canadian Minority Group, the Mennonites, in the 1930s" (unpubl. Ph.D. thesis, Minnesota, 1965).

9. Werner Entz, "120 Jahre Deutschkanadische Presse", Mitteilungen des Instituts fur Auslandsbeziehungen, Jg. 7 (1957), no. 3, p. 181.

10. Ibid., pp. 180-181.

11. See for example the letters of Rolf Hoffmann of the Nazi Party's Foreign Press Office in Munich to the editors of the Mennonitische Rundschau (2 Feb 1939) and the Nordwesten (3 Feb 1939); BA-NS42/vorl. 18.

12. Note Bott's letter to the AA, 10 Apr 1935, and that of Dr. L. Muller to Baron von Neurath (AA), 10 Oct 1933; BA-R4311/1414.

13. NSDAP membership file of Heinrich Seelheim, Berlin Document Center [BDC].

14. Bott to AA, 10 Apr 1935; BA-R4311/1414. Heinz Lehmann's Das Deutschtum in Westkanada (Berlin, 1939), p. 196.

15. Bernhard Bott, "Denkschrift zur Lage des Deutschtums in Kanada and zu der dort zuleistenden Volkstumarbeit", 25 Aug 1934; BA-R57/474/41.

16. Bott to AA, 10 Apr 1935; BA-R4311/1414.

17. Author's interview (21 Jul 1975) with Franz Rehwald, former editor of the Nordwesten.

18. Bott, "Denkschrift".

19. "Local Pro Nazi Paper has direct Connections with Hitler Official", Winnipeg Tribune, 11 Jan 1939.

20. Bernhard Bott, "Deutsche Volksgenossen", Deutsche Zeitung für Canada [DZ], 12 Jun 1935.

21. NSDAP membership file of Bernhard Bott, BDC.

22. Windels to AO, 14 Apr 1939; PA AA, Chef A/O, Kanada, 15.

23. Hoffmann to DZ, I5 Jun 1936; United States National Archives [USNA], Rolf Hoffmann papers microcopy T81, roll 26, frame 23206.

24. Hoffmann to Consul Wilhelm Rodde, 4 Oct 1938; BA-NS42/vorl. 11.

25. Bott, "Em neues Schuljahr beginnt", DZ, 2 Sep 1937.

26. "Deutsch on Canadisch", DZ, 29 Apr 1936.

27. J. Tobbler, "Etwas fiber Blut and Boden", DZ, 14 Jul 1937.

28. "Unsere Kulturaufgabe in Canada", DZ, 19 Jun 1935.

29. "Rechte and Pflichte der Canada Deutschen", DZ, 24 Dec 1935.

30. "Neue antideutsche Offensive", DZ, 24 Jul 1935.

31. "Die Juden in Deutschland", DZ, 4 Dec and 11 Dec 1935.

32. "Die Intelle tuellen im Dritten Reich", DZ, 9 Sep 1936.

33. "Das Deutschtum nicht nor eine Gebe, sondern eine Aufgabe", DZ, 4 Sep 1935.

34. "Tiergarten Tonart eines Stadtrats in Toronto", DZ, 6 Jul 1938.

35. See as representative the following: "Wird die Vernunft siegen?" DZ, 23 Mar 1938; "Wozu demokratische Front?" DZ, 29 Mar 1939; "Die grosse Luge", DZ, 4 Jan 1939.

36. "Adolf Hitler aus der Nahe'", DZ, 26 Jun 1935.

37. "Hitlers Geburtstagsfeier im Deutschen Bunde, Ortsgruppen Edmonton", DZ, 6 May 1936.

38. "Stimmungsvolle Fuhrer-Geburtstagfeier", DZ, 26 Apr 1939.

39. "Lord Rothmere abet Hitler", DZ, 15 Jun 1938.

40. "Der Eroberer der Herzen", DZ, 15 Apr 1938.

41. "Hitler Celebrates his 50th Birthday", DZ, 26 Apr 1939.

42. "Adolf Hitler aus der Nahe", DZ, 26 Jun 1935.

43. Ibid.

44. "Ein Amerikaner fiber Roosevelt, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin", DZ, 30 Oct 1935.

45. "Eine Stimme der Vernunft", DZ, 24 Dec 1935.

46. "Der grosste Deutsche", DZ, 22 Apr 1936; "Dritter Deutsche Tag fur Ontario", DZ, 16 Sep 1936.

47. "Nationalsozialismus and Kommunismus", DZ, 26 Nov 1936.

48. "Dritter Deutsche Tag fur Ontario", DZ, 16 Sep 1936.

49. "Hitler", DZ, 22 Dec 1937.

50. "Das Ontario Deutschtum auf dem Marsche", DZ, 11 Sep 1935.

51. "Dritter Deutsche Tag fur Ontario", DZ, 16 Sep 1936.

52. "Klassenhass and Klassendunkel", DZ, 28 Oct 1936.

53. "Das Reich des deutschen Geistes", DZ, 30 Mar 1938; "Die Deutsche Jugend feiert den Geburtstag des Fahrers and Reichskanzlers Adolf Hitlers", DZ, 4 May 1938; "Das befreite Osterreich", DZ, 16 Mar 1938.

54. "Das neue Europa", DZ, 6 Apr 1938.

55. "Adolf Hitler glaubt an den Frieden", DZ, 22 Apr 1936.

56. "Grosser diplomatischer Sieg", DZ, 30 Aug 1939.

57. Ernest K. Bransted, Goebbels and National Socialist Propaganda 1925-1945 (East Lansing. 1965), p. 197.

58. Ibid., p. 201.

59. Entz, "Deutschkanadische Presse", p. 181.

60. For a discussion of the Bond's make-up see my article, "The Deutscher Bund Canada 1934-39", which will appear in the fall 1977 issue of the Canadian Historical Review.

61. Deutsches Auslands-Institut [DAI] to the Auslandsorganisation der NSDAP [AO], 25 Feb 1935; AO to DAI, 28 Feb 1935; BA-R57/181 i40.

62. AO to DAI, 12 Feb 1935; BA-R571/181/40.

63. "Deutscher Bund Canada", Nordwesten, 2 Feb 1935.

64. See "Was ist and was will der Deutsche Bund Canada? Richtlinien", DZ, 22 Dec 1937.

65. See "Deutscher Bund Kanada Ortsgruppe Montreal", DZ, I 1 Dec 1935; "Deutscher Bund Kanada Stutzpunkt Blue Bell Sask.", DZ, 17 Jun 1936; "Deutscher Bund Kanada Ortsgruppe Kitchener-Waterloo", DZ, 17 Feb 1937.

66. "Hitlers Geburtstagfeiern Ortsgruppe Regina", DZ, 29 Apr 1936; "Hitlers Geburtstagfeier im Deutschen Bunde Ortsgruppe Edmonton", DZ, 6 May 1936.

67. "Satzungen des Verbandes: Canadian Society for German Culture, Deutscher Bund Canada"; BA-R57(neu)/1163/21-27.

68. See for example Samuel W. Jacobs' speech in the House of Commons in February 1934, Debates House of Commons, Vol. 1, 1934, pp. 1028-9; and these typical articles in the communist press: "The Nazi Network in Canada", Daily Clarion, 21 Sep 1937; "Oftener Brief an die Untersuchungskommission des Vereines Harmonia in Toronto", Deutsche Arbeiter Zeitung, 31 Jul 1935.

69. "Attacks on Democracy Come from Germany", Globe & Mail, 1 Dec 1937, is representative.

70. Debates House of Commons, Vol. 111, 1938, p. 3269.

71. Ibid., Vol. IV, 1939, p. 4723.

72. Ibid., Vol. 111, 1939, pp. 3291-2.

73. See the following: "Threaten German Editor", Leader Post, 21 Jan 1939; "Germans Only Can be Nazis", Leader Post, 17 Apr 1939; "Local Pro-Nazi Paper has Direct Connection with Hitler Official", Winnipeg Tribune, 11 Jan 1939; "Asks Probe of German Paper Here", Winnipeg Free Press, 26 Jan 1939.

74. "Does Rodde Read the Zeitung?" Winnipeg Tribune, 30 Jan 1939.

75. "Deutsche Zeitung für Canada", Winnipeg Free Press, 9 Jan 1939.

76. See Bott's pathetic response ("Who takes the count?" DZ, 27 Jun 1938) to the Winnipeg Free Press's mocking commentary on the defeat of Germany's Max Schmeling by Joe Louis in the heavy-weight boxing match of June 1938 ("Donner and Blitzen! Impossible! First Round KO is Rude Jolt to Local Germans", Winnipeg Free Press, 24 Jun 1938).

77. "Kampf gegen Windmuhlenfl Ugel. Der Henlein von Westkanada", DZ, 19 Apr 1939.

78. S. T. Wood (Commissioner of the RCMP) to Lapointe, 25 Aug 1939; PAC, Lapointe Papers, MG27, III, B10, vol. 50, file 41. Memorandum of the Dept. of Mines and Resources. Immigration Branch, 31 Aug 1939; PAC, Enemy Aliens, RG76, vol. 446, file 675985, Part I.

79. Honourable Ernst Lapointe, Debates House of Commons, Vol. I, 1940, 144.

80. Memorandum from N. A. Robertson describing plans for the internment of Enemy Aliens in case of war; PAC, RG25, G-1, vol. 1964, file 855-E, Part 1.

81. In his Historical Statistics of Canada (Toronto, 1965), p. 18, M. C. Urquhart lists 10,000 fewer Germans in Canada in 1941 than in 1931. An extreme example of denial is afforded by the response of many of Canada's German Mennonites. (See Frank Epp's Mennonite Exodus, Altona, Man., 1962) According to Epp, many Mennonites renounced their German background and became "Dutch". Many of their sons, to prove their loyalty to Canada, renounced their pacifism to fight Germany.

Page revised: 22 May 2010

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