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Internment of Jewish refugees in Canada
Alfred Bader’s internment shirt from Camp I (Île-aux-Noix, Québec), circa 1940-1941. Bader arrived in Canada onboard the S.S. Sobieski and was interned for fifteen months before his sponsored release on November 2, 1941.

In spring 1940, when Nazi Germany attacks the Netherlands, Belgium and France, the British government imprisons nearly 30 000 refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria on its territory for fear of “Alien Enemies”. Some of these refugees fled Nazi Germany via the Kindertransport or by other means before the war, because they didn’t trust the Nazi regime. In June and July 1940, 2,354 Austrian, German and Italian male refugees, aged 16 to 60, are sent to Canada. Many of them will stay imprisoned in Canada for more than 3 years. The Canadian authorities expect dangerous Nazis and are not prepared to receive refugees.

These refugees are interned in eight camps distributed in three provinces of Canada (Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. Life in those camps was not properly speaking miserable. The survivors of this experience explain that for the youngsters among them, it has been a period that changed their life. Political, religious and artistic life develops in the camps. For the youngster prisoners, the internment is easier to bear than for older prisoners or those who had to leave wives and children behind in Europe. The younger ones have an incredible chance to do what they could not for so many years: get educated! Among the prisoners there are many qualified teachers and for the prisoners under the age of 20 (which represents 30 % of the prisoners) this means inexhaustible sources of knowledge. This way, schools are founded in camps. The hardest to endure in the prisoner’s life in Canada is the absurdity of their imprisonment. Many of the prisoners talk about this feeling.

Even if some of the prisoners understand the reason why Great Britain is acting this way, many find it ridiculous to be interned by Canadians, while their desire is the same: the fall of the Nazis. It is this injustice that is difficult to endure. And of course, some of the guards have mixed feelings between anti-German and anti-Jewish. Not to forget, among the prisoners are also some real prisoners of war. In certain camps, Jewish refugees are interned in the same camps as Nazis.

Many people call on the Canadian Government to release the refugees, but Canada, which is doing everything to resist pressures from all sides to accept Jewish refugees, does not want these refugees to manage to enter Canada through the door of internment. The duration of the internment of these refugees varies between a couple of months and three years. Some of whom will be liberated in 1941, will undertake military service in the Canadian Army.

After the war, more than half of these refugees return to Great Britain, while about 1,000 of them remain in Canada and become Canadian citizens. For more information about this story, visit the educational website of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre: http://enemyaliens.ca/
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The photograph is a courtesy Alfred Bader (Photograph by Jessica Bushey)
Anne Frank Guide
This day in history
Today: 23 April 2017
Then: 23 April 1942

Bombing of British cathedral cities by Luftwaffe

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