In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union concluded a treaty of non-aggression and neutrality. The Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union – commonly referred to as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – also delineated spheres of interest between both parties. The following month, German and Soviet forces invaded Poland and split the country into two zones according to the terms of their agreement. Between September 1939 and the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Soviet forces – hostile to the Polish population and its culture – imprisoned some 500,000 Polish nationals and deported a further 500,000 individuals in four waves of mass deportations from eastern Poland to labour camps in Siberia.

The Canadian government’s exclusion of the passengers of MS St. Louis reveals the anti-Semitic public and official climate of Canada in the 1930s, and underscores the harsh restrictions of Canada’s Depression-era immigration policies.

Manager of Research Monica MacDonald suggests that current debates on immigration are best informed by the historical contexts of immigration as well as the contemporary experiences of newcomers.