Understanding the Past

At one point, Irv, a friend of Barney’s says “remember how when we were young the pepsis marched down Main chanting ‘Death to the Jews’ and Le Devoir read like it got its ideas from Julius Streicher?” (202). This one sentence is packed with allusions, allusions that I was for the most part unfamiliar with. Let me see if I can break down all the allusions is this sentence.

The first thing I had to look up was the part about ‘pepsis’. Luckily for me there was a footnote about this. Pepsi was used to describe French-Canadians because they have a stereotype of drinking pepsi for breakfast. I am not really sure where this comes from.

In the 1930s-1940s a fascist group was created in Montreal and was led by Adrien Arcand. This group was named the Parti National Social Chrétien or in English the Christian National Socialist Party. This party brought on anti-Semitic rallying, boycotts, propaganda and literature. It also would encourage other Nazi-like organizations to form in Canada. It is likely that some, if not all of the pepsis shouting “Death to the Jews” were part of the Parti National Social Chrétien.

Le Devoir is a French newspaper in Montreal. Julius Streicher was a prominent Nazi writer who had a newspaper in Germany called Der Stürmer which he was used as propaganda for the Nazi party. He also had a publishing firm that published Anti-Semitic books for children.  To have the paper appear as though Streicher, a man who was later convicted and executed for crimes against humanity shows the amount of Antisemitism that was coming out of Montreal.

Okay so now that I fully understand the allusions in this quote I am able to better understand the Antisemitism in Montreal. Sure the having people shout ‘Death to the Jews’ should have instantly made me realize how bad Antisemitism was in Montreal, but the added image of Streicher-esque writing and Antisemitic political groups allowed me to fully understand just how bad it really was.


While analyzing this one sentence I have been able to see just how different my Canada and Barney/Richler’s Canada is. Today Antisemitism is absolutely wrong, but for Richler it is something seem everyday and something as that he had to deal with everyday as a Jewish Canadian. Barney talks about these things with Irv as though is remembering the good ol’ times of his childhood instead of the terrors. This is another example of how aspects of Canadian history have been hidden in the shadows.


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