The Camps Where Canada Kept Hundreds of Jews during World War II

August 26, 2020 | Julie Masis
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When World War II began, Great Britain viewed aliens from enemy countries as suspicious, and sent many of them to internment camps in Australia or Canada. Included among them were many Jews born in Germany, Austria, and Italy, some of whom were refugees from the Nazis. Julie Masis writes:

Of the 2,284 Jewish men and boys who were held in Canadian camps—the British never arrested the women—966 were eventually allowed to remain in the country, according to Paula Draper, a historian who wrote her dissertation on the Canadian internment camps for German, Austrian, and Italian Jews during the war.

Interestingly, many prisoners went on to become extremely successful. Walter Kohn and Max Perutz received Nobel prizes in chemistry. Walter Homburger became the director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Freddy Grant (né Fritz Grundland) was a jazz pianist who, while imprisoned, wrote a song with the lyrics, “You can scream and you can shout, they’ll never let you out.” It became a popular hit in Canada during the war, called “You’ll Get Used to It.”

“They were kept interned because the Canadian government knew they were Jews and didn’t want them in the country,” [Draper] said.

In Camp N in Sherbrooke, [Quebec], the men were housed in an old train repair yard. It was cold. There was one water faucet for roughly 900 people, and only nine toilets. The men wore uniforms with a big circle on the back that looked like a target. There was barbed wire and watch towers. One prisoner lost his nerve and ran for the fence. The guards shot him.

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