Canadian anti-Semiticism, as documented by Abella and Troper, was particularly virulent in Quebec and Ontario.Shockingly, of major nations that permitted Jewish immigration during the Nazis' twelve-year reign, Canada had the smallest number of immigrants (5000) after the United States (200,000), Palestine, Britain, Argentina, Brazil, China, and Bolivia and Chile."La semaine des deux Shylock." that is radically anti-Semitic.
A further important context for understanding the play is that in 1933, the Nazis staged 20 times.Abella and Troper further document how Jewish quotas existed in various professions, universities, medical schools and industries.Jews were restricted from buying property in some areas, from holidaying at some resorts, from joining many private clubs or using their recreational facilities and even from sitting on boards of various charitable, educational, financial and business organizations. There was even some violence as Jew and anti-Semite confronted one another on the streets of Toronto, Winnipeg and other Canadian cities .Even the University of Toronto, then the bastion of Canadian ivory-tower intellectualism was not excluded from this racial bias and bigotry.Abella and Troper quote from Mackenzie King's diary dated February 20, 1946: I recall Goldwin Smith [University of Toronto philosopher] feeling so strongly about the Jews.is anchored in these and Egervari's own experiences, when as a six-year old living in Hungary, both his brother and father were taken by the Nazis (they did not survive).It is important to remember the horrific toll taken on Hungarian Jews at Auschwitz: the gas chambers were at maximum production in the period from April to July 1944 during which time the influx of Hungarian Jews was at its greatest (some 475,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz during this period, at the rate of approximately 12,000 a day).The book notes how Vincent Massey, the Canadian High Commissioner in London and a person later to play a crucial role in the establishment of the Shakespeare Stratford Festival of Canada, "had become a fringe member of the aristocratic, largely pro-German and anti-Semitic Cliveden set, centered around Lord and Lady Astor" and that he worked actively to keep Jews out of Canada (Parenthetically, and with such a historical context in mind, if such a connection does exist between the founding of Shakespeare Stratford Festival of Canada and the kinds of ideologies at work in those working to turn it into a reality, the Festival (at least at its inception) may well have been a way of reinforcing perceived values (ethnic and otherwise) associated with Canadian Anglo-Saxon culture.The resultant play foregrounds the Shoah in relation to the Shakespearean play and produces a profoundly disturbing meditation on anti-Semitism and (in)human cruelty and savagery.Originally written in French, then translated into both English and Hungarian, the play has undergone multiple reworkings from 1977 to 1999: in 1977 it was performed by La Comédie des Deux Rives, the production company of the University of Ottawa.