Rolf C. Hagen

Portrait of Rolf C. Hagen

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Alexander Von Humboldt Schule, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Carl-Friedrich Gauß Schule, Confederation High School, Deutsachherren-Gymnasium, German Historical Museum, Gymnasium Isernhagen, Horton High School/Acadia University, Integrierte Gesamtschule Bonne-Beuel, Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and Deutsche Telekom, Ananas Productions, Schule ans netz,

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


President and Owner of Rolf C. Hagen Inc. (Importers, exporters, and manufacturers of pet foods) Born 1932, in Gromitz, Germany (N/E of Hamburg on the Baltic Sea). 66 years old. Arrived in Montreal, Canada in 1955. Internship with Kruse, Hess, and Co., certificate for Import and Export Business, spring of 1955. Das Verdienstkreuz 1st Class, October 9, 1996. Although he does not see himself as a leader in the German-Canadian community, Rolf C. Hagen’s achievements and efforts to support the German language and culture have not gone unnoticed with Montreal’s German community. Today he is President of Rolf C. Hagen Inc. which has 1,400 employees and sales of over $300 million. He is recognized as one of the top ten most influential people in the pet food industry. Hagen industries produce a wide variety of pet products and supplies and also has a large bird sanctuary in Rigaud, Quebec. Rolf C. Hagen is a major contributor to the Alexander von Humboldt Schule in Montreal.
  • President and Owner of Rolf C. Hagen Inc. (Importers, exporters, and manufacturers of pet foods)
  • Born 1932, in Gromitz, Germany (N/E of Hamburg on the Baltic Sea).
  • 66 years old.
  • Arrived in Montreal, Canada in 1955.
  • Internship with Kruse, Hess, and Co., certificate for Import and Export Business, spring of 1955. Das Verdienstkreuz 1st Class, October 9, 1996.
  • Although he does not see himself as a leader in the German-Canadian community, Rolf C. Hagen’s achievements and efforts to support the German language and culture have not gone unnoticed with Montreal’s German community. Today he is President of Rolf C. Hagen Inc. which has 1,400 employees and sales of over $300 million. He is recognized as one of the top ten most influential people in the pet food industry. Hagen industries produce a wide variety of pet products and supplies and also has a large bird sanctuary in Rigaud, Quebec. Rolf C. Hagen is a major contributor to the Alexander von Humboldt Schule in Montreal.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Rolf Hagen

Mein name ist Ralf Christian Hagen. My name is Ralf Christian Hagen.

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Alexander Von Humboldt Schule, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Carl-Friedrich Gauß Schule, Confederation High School, Deutsachherren-Gymnasium, German Historical Museum, Gymnasium Isernhagen, Horton High School/Acadia University, Integrierte Gesamtschule Bonne-Beuel, Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and Deutsche Telekom, Ananas Productions, Schule ans netz,

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Why did you come to Canada? Did you come directly to Canada?

I began to think about emigrating to Canada when my internship was finished in 1955, and I received a salary of only 300 Marks, which was not enough to keep an apartment in Hamburg and return the support given to me by my uncle and older brother. Then I thought that I needed to go to another country to find my luck. The German Economic Miracle was just getting started and wages were still low. There was a lot of Germans leaving in 1954, 55, and 56. Many Germans could not make ends meet in Germany. I had a contact in Montreal at this time. I was lucky enough to find the Hamburg-Chicago Line which sailed from Hamburg through the Great Lakes, and finally to Chicago. I boarded a steam ship (small freighter) in Hamburg in April 1955. My father said at the time, "You’re not taking that boat, it’s not taking you over the Atlantic." But it was a free ride as long as I helped in the kitchen and unload wine. We sailed from Hamburg to Bordeaux, then to Newfou Read More
Why did you come to Canada? Did you come directly to Canada?

I began to think about emigrating to Canada when my internship was finished in 1955, and I received a salary of only 300 Marks, which was not enough to keep an apartment in Hamburg and return the support given to me by my uncle and older brother. Then I thought that I needed to go to another country to find my luck. The German Economic Miracle was just getting started and wages were still low. There was a lot of Germans leaving in 1954, 55, and 56. Many Germans could not make ends meet in Germany. I had a contact in Montreal at this time. I was lucky enough to find the Hamburg-Chicago Line which sailed from Hamburg through the Great Lakes, and finally to Chicago. I boarded a steam ship (small freighter) in Hamburg in April 1955. My father said at the time, "You’re not taking that boat, it’s not taking you over the Atlantic." But it was a free ride as long as I helped in the kitchen and unload wine. We sailed from Hamburg to Bordeaux, then to Newfoundland. The whole thing looked like Homer’s Odessey.

We stayed in Newfoundland for one week because of icebergs, after the 5-week journey across the Atlantic, then two days in St. Pierre and Miquelon, and finally we arrived in Montreal on May 5, 1955. On May 7, 1955, I registered my name under Rolf. C. Hagen Registered Company for $2.50, I only had $7 out of the $50 I had left from Germany. My family thought I had been lost at sea because you could not contact them while on the ship.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

What were your hopes and dreams for your new life here in Canada? Were they fulfilled?

Initially, coming to Canada was a short term alternative. It was just a step in my life that I would make out good and return to Germany. Canada seemed to have a lot of freedom in the marketplace and Montreal was a very big city, which had the best of everything. I was not a spoiled person from the big cities in Germany, but one of ten children from a small town.

What were your hopes and dreams for your new life here in Canada? Were they fulfilled?

Initially, coming to Canada was a short term alternative. It was just a step in my life that I would make out good and return to Germany. Canada seemed to have a lot of freedom in the marketplace and Montreal was a very big city, which had the best of everything. I was not a spoiled person from the big cities in Germany, but one of ten children from a small town.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

What was the reaction of your family when you decided to come to Canada?

My family thought that I would return to Germany after being away for awhile. I come from a family of 10 children who have strong roots in Germany. My father was Lord Mayor of Gromitz and I still have two brothers who are on city council, one brother is the Chairman of the council. We were all close like friends and it is hard to leave a situation like that.

What was the reaction of your family when you decided to come to Canada?

My family thought that I would return to Germany after being away for awhile. I come from a family of 10 children who have strong roots in Germany. My father was Lord Mayor of Gromitz and I still have two brothers who are on city council, one brother is the Chairman of the council. We were all close like friends and it is hard to leave a situation like that.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Did you already know people here in Canada? Did you meet any new people on your way to Canada? If so, do you still communicate with them?

I had a contact in Montreal who was in the export and import business. It is always important to have a contact where you are going.
Did you already know people here in Canada? Did you meet any new people on your way to Canada? If so, do you still communicate with them?

I had a contact in Montreal who was in the export and import business. It is always important to have a contact where you are going.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

What was your first special experience in Canada?

I first saw icebergs in Newfoundland when they blocked our ship for one week; I still remember Water St. perfectly after 42 years. Also the Pet Food industry was very small, my competitor came to me and said that it was a very big cake and I was welcome to a share. They even paid many of my invoices in the beginning to get me started. This would have never happened in Europe. The pet store owners all needed local product badly because they imported it from the United States.

What was your first special experience in Canada?

I first saw icebergs in Newfoundland when they blocked our ship for one week; I still remember Water St. perfectly after 42 years. Also the Pet Food industry was very small, my competitor came to me and said that it was a very big cake and I was welcome to a share. They even paid many of my invoices in the beginning to get me started. This would have never happened in Europe. The pet store owners all needed local product badly because they imported it from the United States.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Did you feel respected when you came here?

Everyone in Canada that I met was friendly and open. If you ask me now, Canada is my home country but Germany is my Heimat land.
Did you feel respected when you came here?

Everyone in Canada that I met was friendly and open. If you ask me now, Canada is my home country but Germany is my Heimat land.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

What were some of the differences between Canada and Germany you first observed? Cultural or otherwise? Are these differences still present?

There are more freedoms here in Canada with business, the competition sometimes helps you out, the freedom and kindness of the people is overwhelming. Germany has tighter regulations in most areas, from business to law. In terms of culture, we have season’s tickets for sporting events like hockey and baseball, we go to the opera, and to the cottage in St. Lagard; it only takes 50 minutes and there is never any traffic. I participated in sports with my family in Germany as well.

What were some of the differences between Canada and Germany you first observed? Cultural or otherwise? Are these differences still present?

There are more freedoms here in Canada with business, the competition sometimes helps you out, the freedom and kindness of the people is overwhelming. Germany has tighter regulations in most areas, from business to law. In terms of culture, we have season’s tickets for sporting events like hockey and baseball, we go to the opera, and to the cottage in St. Lagard; it only takes 50 minutes and there is never any traffic. I participated in sports with my family in Germany as well.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Did German families live in your neighborhood? Did you join any German associations or clubs?

German families did live in my neighborhood. After the first week in Canada I found myself at the German Club Deukonia. It is here that I met Johannes Peter of St. John’s Lutheran Church and became associated with the church. A better question would have been when did you leave these German organizations. Immigrants belong to these organizations for a little while, then join a great deal of non-German clubs and associations. I still attend the German theatre and support the Alexander von Humboldt Schule.
Did German families live in your neighborhood? Did you join any German associations or clubs?

German families did live in my neighborhood. After the first week in Canada I found myself at the German Club Deukonia. It is here that I met Johannes Peter of St. John’s Lutheran Church and became associated with the church. A better question would have been when did you leave these German organizations. Immigrants belong to these organizations for a little while, then join a great deal of non-German clubs and associations. I still attend the German theatre and support the Alexander von Humboldt Schule.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Was it a problem finding work as an immigrant in a new country?

I founded my own business and this process as I had commented on earlier was easy because of the support I received from companies in Germany, my competition in Canada, and the demand for my products from pet stores in Canada.

Was it a problem finding work as an immigrant in a new country?

I founded my own business and this process as I had commented on earlier was easy because of the support I received from companies in Germany, my competition in Canada, and the demand for my products from pet stores in Canada.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

What type of activities did you do in Germany? How did these activities change in Canada?

There are more freedoms here in Canada with business, the competition sometimes helps you out, the freedom and kindness of the people is overwhelming. In terms of culture, we have season’s tickets for sporting events like hockey and baseball, we go to the opera, and to the cottage in St. Lagard and it only takes 50 minutes and there is never any traffic. Germany has tighter regulations in most areas from business to law. I participated in sports with my family in Germany as well.
What type of activities did you do in Germany? How did these activities change in Canada?

There are more freedoms here in Canada with business, the competition sometimes helps you out, the freedom and kindness of the people is overwhelming. In terms of culture, we have season’s tickets for sporting events like hockey and baseball, we go to the opera, and to the cottage in St. Lagard and it only takes 50 minutes and there is never any traffic. Germany has tighter regulations in most areas from business to law. I participated in sports with my family in Germany as well.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe the context of German immigration to Canada in the twentieth century;
  • Recognize that immigration affects the lives of individuals with a wide range of backgrounds;
  • Understand some of the experiences faced by German immigrants to Canada, both in Germany and in Canada;
  • Explain why individuals emigrate to Canada;
  • Empathize with the feelings of new immigrants to Canada.

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