The Very Narrow Bridge: A Memoir of an Uncertain Passage


310 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-9696226-1-9
DDC 940.53'18'092




Reviewed by J.L. Granatstein

J.L. Granatstein, Distinguished Research Professor of History Emeritus,
York University, served as Director of the Canadian War Museum from 1998
to 2000. He is the author of Who Killed Canadian History? and co-author
of The Canadian 100: The 100 Most Infl


This is an uncommonly well-written memoir by a German-born Jew who
escaped the Holocaust. Erwin Schild was 13 when Hitler came to power in
1933, and he details the way the regime increasingly came to exercise
control over his and his family’s life. His school initially had only
a few Hitler Youth in it, but the numbers and peril increased steadily.
He led a rich Jewish life for a time but after Kristallnacht he was
among the thousands of Jews rounded up and sent to the concentration
camp at Dachau. Terrible as it was, Dachau was not a death camp, but
Schild was fortunate to be released after a short time and to escape to
Britain. There he began to study for the rabbinate but, after the fall
of France, he was interned as an enemy alien and sent to an internment
camp in Canada. Naively, Canadian authorities had pitched the Jewish
internees into camps with Nazis and prisoners of war. In the chaos and
confusion of 1940–41, it took some time for matters to be untangled
and for Schild and his friends to be released. Many of the internees
made distinguished contributions to Canada, as did Schild. By 1947 he
was a rabbi at a Toronto synagogue, at the beginning of a long,
distinguished career.

The author professes little bitterness over his Canadian camp
experience, but he does make the point that “Our internment was … a
bizarre Jewish shlemiel joke. A Jew imprisoned on the suspicion of being
a Nazi is a shlemiel! Kafka could not have dreamt up a more grotesque
absurdity.” Absolutely, absurdly correct.


Schild, Erwin., “The Very Narrow Bridge: A Memoir of an Uncertain Passage,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 13, 2024,