A book once owned by Adolf Hitler, which scholars suspect was a blueprint for a Holocaust in North America, has been acquired by Canada’s national archive.
The rare book, of which only a handful of copies remain, was bought online by government librarians last year and unveiled for the first time in Ottawa on Wednesday. The acquisition, which curators say will preserve a critical piece of history, comes at a time of growing antisemitism and Holocaust denial in Canada.
Published in 1944 by the German researcher and linguist Heinz Kloss, Statistics, Media, and Organizations of Jewry in the United States and Canada is a disturbingly thorough catalogue of Jewish residents in the two countries and reflects Nazi plans in the event they gained control over the continent.
“[The book] demonstrates that the Holocaust wasn’t a European event – it was an event that didn’t have the opportunity to spread out of Europe,” Michael Kent, a curator at Library and Archives Canada, told the Guardian. “It reminds us that conflicts and human tragedies that seemed far away could find their way to North America.”
Experts believe the book was once part of Hitler’s extensive library at his alpine hideaway and was probably removed by Allied soldiers or dignitaries who visited the complex following the defeat of the Nazis.
Kloss, who frequently worked for the Third Reich, used 1930s data, drawn from his extensive contact network of Nazi sympathizers, to sort Jewish residents in Canada by language and ethnic origins.
“I think that’s part of the horrors of world war two and the Holocaust – recognizing how much intellectual effort went into work of the perpetrators,” said Kent.
Acquired by a private collector in the US at a cost of US$4,500, the book will go on public display on Saturday, in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The item will become a permanent addition to archive’s collection of more than 22m books.
The book highlights Nazi plans for an eventual presence in North America. They made larger strides than is often realized: in 1943, the year before Kloss’s book was published, the Germans established an automated weather station in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. There are also numerous wartime stories in eastern Canada of German U-boats making headway up the St Lawrence river.
Kent likens the library’s recent acquisition to the Black Book, a list of prominent British residents identified as potential targets, in the event of a successful Nazi invasion of the United Kingdom.
While many Holocaust memorials in the US refuse to acquire Nazi memorabilia – including the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC – the library’s mandate is to preserve and document historical items that are important to Canadian history, said Kent.
“Obviously, given the provenance and given the subject matter of the book, there had to be a larger reflection than just our standard operating procedures,” he said.
The acquisition by the national archive comes at a time when scholars have warned of rising ignorance among Canadians about the Holocaust.
On Thursday, editors of a Toronto-based publication, Your Ward News, were found guilty of hate crimes for its depiction of women and Jewish figures. The judge called the paper’s views an “unrelenting promotion of hate”.
The verdict follows a study that found more than half of Canadian adults were unaware that more than 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and as many as two-thirds of young respondents failed to demonstrate knowledge of the event.
“I’m still fighting Nazis and white supremacists in ways that I never dreamed I’d be doing in retirement,” said Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “When I go into schools I see young people who have not been taught the lessons of the past.”
He hopes that better education – including the archive’s acquisition of the book – can combat the “absolutely horrendous” trend of ignorance among young Canadians.
“I don’t want Nazi memorabilia falling into the hands of neo-Nazis. I do want Nazi memorabilia falling into the hands of Holocaust centres, museums and archives,” he said. “That’s where they belong, that’s where they can be studied and that’s where lessons will be learned.”