Looking Back: Temporal and Spatial Connections of Post-War Migration and Displacement Through the Eyes of the Toronto Telegram

The Representation of War Guests, (Im)migrants, and Refugees Through Wartime Propaganda and Iconography

Photographers and photojournalists have a particular window in which they frame history for their audiences. The photographs taken depict a truth that is biased, edited, and presented to the world, regardless if the photographs depict an authentic truth for the subjects of the photos. The photos published by the Toronto Telegram are no different. 
 
Each photographic category conveys a different narrative of both the subject and the more general story that extends beyond the frame of the lens, and during wartime, the narrative that is developed by the media determines who are the heroes, the antiheroes, the villains, and the victims. All compelling stories follow a character's storyline of overcoming a personal struggle or battle with an antagonist or villain, and the majority of these photos were taken during a period of conflict or when the people within the photographs were experiencing their own struggles and inner turmoil. (However, the collection of photographs are not party to the same narrative, but many of the people in the photographs taken are their own characters with separate storylines). 
 
War Guests and Children as Unlikely Heroes and Discrete Canadian Propaganda

As stated by a former War Guest, many of the children arriving in Canada thought they were going on a vacation when they were evacuated from the war zone. But, the children in the photographs help propagate a completely different narrative beyond the obvious story of excitement they’re telling themselves. Carl von Clausewitz is famously quoted for saying “War is the continuation of politics by other means”, implying that war is conducted by state politics. However, during war and conflict, states engage in another form of politics by employing the media and pictures of children to promote “institutional values and practices.”

Germany’s merciless invasion of Poland, which triggered World War II (WWII), left Britain worried about their own fate as a nation, and as a result, established a series of  private and government-sponsored evacuation plans, where thousands of children were sent abroad to several Commonwealth nations, including Canada. As soon as the British children arrived in Canada in 1939, the Toronto Telegram was captivated with the War Guests up until they returned home once the War concluded in 1945. The photographs of the children were an exhibition of heroism and hope during the War. The waves of children arriving to Union Station and the Eastern ports of Canada are portrayed as survivors as if they had been in the centre of the conflict zone themselves. Yet, the images of the children created an additional narrative, that offered a distraction from the narratives focused on Canadian and Allied Soldiers and the increasing German advances. These photographs provided a new face of heroism and a sense of hope that if these children could survive the journey across U-Boat infested waters, and even survive torpedo attacks, then the Allied forces could survive the war against Nazi Germany.
However, the British War Guests also created a new sense of national identity in Canada, especially once the war concluded. Up until 1947, "there was no legal status of Canadian citizens, only British subjects." Prior to Canada establishing the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1947, Canada held a strong allegiance to the United Kingdom, but hosting British children allowed Canada to differentiate itself from the monarchy, and did so once the War Guests left. 


The Discernible Victims and the Villains Beyond the Frame

Winston Churchill notably stated “[h]istory is written by the victors”; however, what Churchill did not mention was that the villains are also determined by the victors. The photographs from this collection all exclude the villain from the frame, but explicitly show the victims. In many of the picture’s captions, the German’s are explicitly mentioned as the terrorizing nation during the war,and in many of the World War II evacuee photographs, there is mention of German bombings and torpedoes, and the implicit detailing of the anti-Semitic ideology in the pictures of people of the Jewish faith fleeing Europe or returning to their homes after the conflict had concluded. Millions of people were targeted by Germany's indiscriminate bombing, but were also targeted for specific reasons.


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Tassara, Ruth Barton. "Britain at War: 'War Guests' in Canada." The Telegraph. February 18, 2009.
von Clausewitz, Carl. On War. Jazzybee Verlag: Altenm├╝nster, 1940.
von Moos, Kirsty. "Digital Archives: Canada's Guest Children during the Second World War." Ingenium Channel Canada. April 5, 2018.

Wayland, Sarah V. "Immigration, Multiculturalism and National Identity in Canada." International Journal on Minority and Group Rights 5, no. 1 (1997): 33-58.

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