Camp Boys / Internment in Canada Video
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Internment in Canada
The civilian internees were imprisoned in makeshift camps in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick.
In some of these camps, Jewish refugees were interned alongside Nazi prisoners of war.
When they transferred us to Three Rivers, nobody had told them that we were Jews and they were Germans, so they put us together in one camp. Immediately we started fighting with them.
Dr Walter Igersheimer
The Nazis began to sing antisemitic songs, and we began to sing songs against them.
Hon. Fred Kaufman
The younger more enlightened officers very quickly began to see the differences, but this apparently was a phenomenon that caused some difficulties in the very beginning. An officer who had been through the First World War, when a prisoner of war was a prisoner of war – the real enemy – you have to treat them decently but that’s as far as you go. But the refugee internees not unreasonably wanted different treatment. For instance, we said, “Is there any reason we can’t get a newspaper?” “Well, newspapers are forbidden for prisoners of war.” “But we’re detainees.” “Well, as far as I’m concerned, you’re a prisoner of war and I’ll treat you accordingly, I’ll treat you correctly.”
Dr. Walter Kohn
They didn’t really know what it meant – that we were Nazi refugees. They were mostly World War I veterans. But I never felt any ill will on their part.
The one thing I do remember is they weren’t quite ready. The huts weren’t ready. There was only one water tap for almost a thousand people, so there was always a long line-up to get something to drink.
There we were at Sherbrooke in October – getting cold. Nothing was ready. It was incredible. It was an old railway engine locomotive repair shop. If you want to repair a locomotive, you do it from the bottom. There were rails and there were ditches. And there was water in the ditches. And the windows were broken. It was getting cold. There were no mattresses, no sheets…no latrines.
Dr Walter Igersheimer
So we all stood around, and the big portal of this machine shop opened. This huge man appeared – he was Sergeant Macintosh. A baton in one hand, and with a loud voice he yelled, “Now, we all know that you’re Jews, nevertheless you’ve got to keep clean!”
Dr Ernest Poser
I think eight toilets at most for 700 people, and the doctors quite rightly protested that, “This is not acceptable.” And they invoked the Geneva Convention. And the people said, “But you are prisoners of war second class. You must know by now that the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply to you. So do something. If you’re not satisfied, you could build latrines.” So, what was built in short order were two uprights and a crossbar on which people perched like birds.
Once it was equipped, it was perfectly comfortable. But we were 800 people in a room – I mean “perfectly comfortably” – 800 people in one room! Can you hear – can you imagine – what it sounds like when 800 people snore simultaneously!
It felt like prison. What could we do? We had this special uniform with red stripes and red circle at the back, and a cap with a red stripe in the middle.
Remember we were interned. We had no clothes – we had nothing. The authorities would issue us special prisoner of war suits.
A kind of blue shirt with a great big red circle at the back.
Which was a target for the soldiers in case somebody wants to escape, they have a target to shoot at.
But it was very ideologically undesirable for us to wear the uniform of prisoners of war when we were not prisoners of war, but civilian internees. It was absurd.
Dr Ernest Poser
Our heads weren’t considering escape. We were more centred on adaptation – what can we do to make what is more acceptable.