Strongly influenced by Mosley and Beamish’s activities in England (Mosley founded the British Union of Fascists while Beamish served as the vice president of the Imperial Fascist League), Arcand spewed out hatred for decades to eager audiences. Now a first biography has appeared by historian and journalist Jean-François Nadeau, “Adrien Arcand, Canadian Führer” (Lux Éditeur).
The author of a 2009 study about the ultra-nationalist French historian Robert Rumilly, Nadeau has chosen yet another subject illustrating the extent to which brutal prejudice can inspire political allegiance.
Arcand learned xenophobia from his father, a Quebec labor activist who led campaigns against the tiny population of immigrant Chinese workers. Launching his own newspaper, Le Goglu (The Bobolink), in 1930, the younger Arcand alleged that Montreal’s most dangerous criminals were Jewish, while in 1932 he urged imprisoning Canadian Jews in ghettos, following Europe’s precedent.
In 1938, the French writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline, author of 1937’s viciously anti-Semitic polemic, “Bagatelles for a Massacre,” visited Canada and Arcand. Tormented by the possibility that France would “fall into the hands of Jews,” Céline plotted his possible escape to Canada, attending a Fascist meeting led by Arcand. The previous year, Arcand hosted another visitor, Beamish, who later stated: “After Adolf Hitler, I consider Adrien Arcand to be above all other Nazi leaders whom I have had the occasion to meet.”
When the Second World War broke out, Arcand and his fellow Nazis were interned, but by the war’s end, they were quickly freed again. In 1948, an article appeared denouncing Arcand’s wartime incarceration as “the end of civil liberty.” This article’s author, unbelievably enough, was Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a young Canadian law student who would later be elected the country’s Prime Minister.
Soon Arcand was agitating against the founding of the state of Israel, suggesting instead that the population of Madagascar should be transported to Liberia, and the world’s Jews imprisoned in Madagascar. Arcand’s statements won him the allegiance of pen pals from the PLO and like-minded organizations. Even after the war, until his death in 1967, Arcand troubled Jewish advocates, one of whom, Harry Mayer, commented in 1952 that Arcand was “Canada’s most dangerous antisemite, as he is genuinely eloquent…his audience, for the most part ignorant and even illiterate, accepts his lies as Gospel truth.”
Watch Jean-François Nadeau discuss his biography of Arcand here.