Detlef Kober was born June 25, 1938 in Berlin, Germany. He graduated from high school in Celle, Germany and did some university studies in business administration, as well as taking special training in systems analysis and sales administration. He worked as a district sales manager for an international company and is presently retired. He arrived in Montreal on May 18, 1961.

For more information about Jutta immigration experience, see the Learning Object Ute Kohnert: Interview with Sister of Immigrant to Canada

Detlef Kober was born June 25, 1938 in Berlin, Germany. He graduated from high school in Celle, Germany and did some university studies in business administration, as well as taking special training in systems analysis and sales administration. He worked as a district sales manager for an international company and is presently retired. He arrived in Montreal on May 18, 1961.

For more information about Jutta immigration experience, see the Learning Object Ute Kohnert: Interview with Sister of Immigrant to Canada


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

When did you go to Canada? What was the history behind such a move?

We immigrated to Canada in 1961. I was the first to leave Germany in April, with Jutta following in October. Germany at that time was in the middle of its post war "Economic Miracle." Canada, on the other hand, was experiencing a slight downturn of the economy with worries about unemployment. The Cold War was cooler than ever and another war in Europe was feared to be possible. The last wave of German emigration in the late-Forties and mid-Fifties was over. Not many Germans of our generation were considering leaving Germany for Canada. It was therefore extremely easy to obtain a Canadian visa. In our cases it took less than three weeks between applying for the visa at the Canadian Embassy in Hamburg and receiving it.

When did you go to Canada? What was the history behind such a move?

We immigrated to Canada in 1961. I was the first to leave Germany in April, with Jutta following in October. Germany at that time was in the middle of its post war "Economic Miracle." Canada, on the other hand, was experiencing a slight downturn of the economy with worries about unemployment. The Cold War was cooler than ever and another war in Europe was feared to be possible. The last wave of German emigration in the late-Forties and mid-Fifties was over. Not many Germans of our generation were considering leaving Germany for Canada. It was therefore extremely easy to obtain a Canadian visa. In our cases it took less than three weeks between applying for the visa at the Canadian Embassy in Hamburg and receiving it.


© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All rights reserved.

What exactly were the personal reasons behind your emigration to Canada and not the USA? Why did you come to Canada? What was the reaction of your family when you decided to come to Canada?

As always, there are simple reasons and more complex ones. The simple reason was I had a dream of becoming a commercial pilot. I already had a German private pilot license and was trying to somehow accumulate the necessary flying hours. It seemed like a good idea to gain the experience in either the U.S.A or Canada. I had really no intention of leaving Germany for good.

Before I left, I had gotten engaged to the love of my life, Jutta. Since my experience in Canada was such a positive one and it looked like that I would be staying a while I persuaded her to join me here. It seems that many young Germans of our age group in the early 1960s came to Canada out of a spirit of adventure or were transferred by their German employers and then stayed. The reaction of my family was generally supportive while Jutta’s sister and mother viewed the whole thing with a lot of apprehension and worry.

What exactly were the personal reasons behind your emigration to Canada and not the USA? Why did you come to Canada? What was the reaction of your family when you decided to come to Canada?

As always, there are simple reasons and more complex ones. The simple reason was I had a dream of becoming a commercial pilot. I already had a German private pilot license and was trying to somehow accumulate the necessary flying hours. It seemed like a good idea to gain the experience in either the U.S.A or Canada. I had really no intention of leaving Germany for good.

Before I left, I had gotten engaged to the love of my life, Jutta. Since my experience in Canada was such a positive one and it looked like that I would be staying a while I persuaded her to join me here. It seems that many young Germans of our age group in the early 1960s came to Canada out of a spirit of adventure or were transferred by their German employers and then stayed. The reaction of my family was generally supportive while Jutta’s sister and mother viewed the whole thing with a lot of apprehension and worry.


© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All rights reserved.

How did you travel? Which route? Which method of transportation did you employ? Did you come directly to Canada?

I had booked passage on a 3,500 G.R.T., German freighter leaving around the 20th of April 1961, sailing from Hamburg to Montreal via stopovers in Rotterdam and Zeebruegge in Belgium. It only carried three passengers. I reached Montreal on May the 18th and boarded the train for Toronto where I arrived the next day. Why Toronto? No reason. It was picked at random. Jutta departed on October 25, 1961 from Duesseldorf airport on board a Canadian Airlines’ Super Continental and arrived at the Toronto airport the same day for a happy reunion.

How did you travel? Which route? Which method of transportation did you employ? Did you come directly to Canada?

I had booked passage on a 3,500 G.R.T., German freighter leaving around the 20th of April 1961, sailing from Hamburg to Montreal via stopovers in Rotterdam and Zeebruegge in Belgium. It only carried three passengers. I reached Montreal on May the 18th and boarded the train for Toronto where I arrived the next day. Why Toronto? No reason. It was picked at random. Jutta departed on October 25, 1961 from Duesseldorf airport on board a Canadian Airlines’ Super Continental and arrived at the Toronto airport the same day for a happy reunion.


© 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 didn’t know anyone in Canada before my arrival. The two fellow passengers sharing my voyage over the Atlantic dispersed all across this big land. We never saw each other again.

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 didn’t know anyone in Canada before my arrival. The two fellow passengers sharing my voyage over the Atlantic dispersed all across this big land. We never saw each other again.


© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All rights reserved.

What kind of feelings did you have on arriving? What was your first impression? What was your first special experience in Canada?

Stepping out of the train station, in Toronto, on a brilliant sunny and warm day into a spotless, surprisingly quiet heart of the city made me feel optimistic and curious. It has been said that the first three people one meets in a strange place will shape one’s opinion of that place forever.

The first person was an English gentleman whom I asked for directions. He took the trouble of drawing a map for me and personally guiding me to the subway making sure that I was on my proper way.

The second person was an immigration officer who took one and a half-hours (without having had an appointment), making phone calls on my behalf. He was trying to line up job interviews with prospective employers and find a place for me to live.

The third person was my new landlady of the boarding house which the immigration officer had found for me. Not only did she make me feel warmly welcome but she also alerted some ex-tenants, who were Germans of my age, to the fact that a new compatriot had arrived. This as Read More

What kind of feelings did you have on arriving? What was your first impression? What was your first special experience in Canada?

Stepping out of the train station, in Toronto, on a brilliant sunny and warm day into a spotless, surprisingly quiet heart of the city made me feel optimistic and curious. It has been said that the first three people one meets in a strange place will shape one’s opinion of that place forever.

The first person was an English gentleman whom I asked for directions. He took the trouble of drawing a map for me and personally guiding me to the subway making sure that I was on my proper way.

The second person was an immigration officer who took one and a half-hours (without having had an appointment), making phone calls on my behalf. He was trying to line up job interviews with prospective employers and find a place for me to live.

The third person was my new landlady of the boarding house which the immigration officer had found for me. Not only did she make me feel warmly welcome but she also alerted some ex-tenants, who were Germans of my age, to the fact that a new compatriot had arrived. This assured me of a ready-made group of friends eager to introduce me to the mysteries and wonders of my new home. This was my first impression and special experience in Canada.

Jutta will never forget flying at night over a sea of city lights that seem to stretch to infinity. The first weekend drive to the Georgian Bay and Muskoka regions was overwhelming. The landscape with its countless lakes and colourful fall forests had no equal anywhere. The openness and friendliness of the people impressed her. It was encouraging to see people of all nationalities living peacefully together.


© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All rights reserved.

What changed in Canada (living standard, daily life, routine)? Did you miss something after a while? What were some of the differences between Canada and Germany you first observed? Cultural or otherwise? Are these differences still present? What type of activities did you do in Germany? How did these activities change in Canada?

Living standards at that time were better in some areas and quite different in others. On the one hand there were excellent choices in good and cheap housing, food and transportation. On the other hand there was only one museum of note, little theater life, cinemas were closed and alcohol was not served or sold on Sundays. Most restaurants were of the neon lights and plastic seat variety, and wine was only consumed by "drunkards". Good restaurants could only be found in a few established hotels. Variety in foods did not exist in supermarkets but could be bought in specialty shops run by Germans and other Europeans. The flourishing of the fine arts came much later.

Choices in weekend activities were, therefore, limited. In Germany, Jutta was an avid theater and concert fan. Here we exchanged that part with ex Read More

What changed in Canada (living standard, daily life, routine)? Did you miss something after a while? What were some of the differences between Canada and Germany you first observed? Cultural or otherwise? Are these differences still present? What type of activities did you do in Germany? How did these activities change in Canada?

Living standards at that time were better in some areas and quite different in others. On the one hand there were excellent choices in good and cheap housing, food and transportation. On the other hand there was only one museum of note, little theater life, cinemas were closed and alcohol was not served or sold on Sundays. Most restaurants were of the neon lights and plastic seat variety, and wine was only consumed by "drunkards". Good restaurants could only be found in a few established hotels. Variety in foods did not exist in supermarkets but could be bought in specialty shops run by Germans and other Europeans. The flourishing of the fine arts came much later.

Choices in weekend activities were, therefore, limited. In Germany, Jutta was an avid theater and concert fan. Here we exchanged that part with exploring our new land. On Friday evenings, we (together with half the people of the city) loaded the cars with supplies and left for the weekend trip to go camping, to the cottage, the beach or lake.

The appreciation of Canada’s spectacular nature and the feeling of freedom coming from living in the sparsely populated (by German standards) countryside have never left us. We also like the way people treat each other without judgment at first meeting. There is an ’all is possible’ attitude. For a Canadian 100 years is old and for a German 100 miles is far. Today much has changed. Toronto is now a sophisticated city. It can hold its own among any Metropolis in the world at any time. We don’t miss anything.


© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All rights reserved.

Did you encounter special problems because of coming from Germany? Did you feel respected when you came here?

We never experienced any overt discrimination as Germans. However, the Germans who immigrated shortly after the war in the early 1950s encountered some hostilities. As a result many have become bitter. Our Canadian friends were mostly of our own age group and were children during the war the same as we were.

However, we still have sometimes a moment of apprehension in anticipating a bad reaction when strangers become aware of our German heritage. Mostly the reaction is curiosity and this can lead to interesting discussions. My knowledge of German history has become much better as a result of explaining that there is more to the German past than 13 years of the 1000-Year Reich. In all, we never felt that being German was any disadvantage to our success here. In fact, it sometimes helped because more was expected of us. We always felt respected.
Did you encounter special problems because of coming from Germany? Did you feel respected when you came here?

We never experienced any overt discrimination as Germans. However, the Germans who immigrated shortly after the war in the early 1950s encountered some hostilities. As a result many have become bitter. Our Canadian friends were mostly of our own age group and were children during the war the same as we were.

However, we still have sometimes a moment of apprehension in anticipating a bad reaction when strangers become aware of our German heritage. Mostly the reaction is curiosity and this can lead to interesting discussions. My knowledge of German history has become much better as a result of explaining that there is more to the German past than 13 years of the 1000-Year Reich. In all, we never felt that being German was any disadvantage to our success here. In fact, it sometimes helped because more was expected of us. We always felt respected.

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

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

No. This country is a country of immigrants. It is most likely another immigrant who is the employer or co-worker. We both found work within a week. The better the skill level and knowledge of English the better the job. It may be difficult, however, finding easy employment in a specific profession as there may be limits to the recognition of foreign diplomas by Canadian authorities.
Was it a problem finding work as an immigrant in a new country?

No. This country is a country of immigrants. It is most likely another immigrant who is the employer or co-worker. We both found work within a week. The better the skill level and knowledge of English the better the job. It may be difficult, however, finding easy employment in a specific profession as there may be limits to the recognition of foreign diplomas by Canadian authorities.

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

Who assisted you in finding employment and shelter? Did German families live in your neighborhood? Did you join any German associations or clubs?

The first and most important help was given to me by the unknown immigration officer who helped me to find work and shelter. After that it was a network of friends and associates who provided the support.

There was no real geographic area that could be described as being a German neighbourhood. German families lived all over the city and countryside.

We did not join any German associations or clubs. We kept contact with our homeland and families by making frequent trips to Germany throughout the years.
Who assisted you in finding employment and shelter? Did German families live in your neighborhood? Did you join any German associations or clubs?

The first and most important help was given to me by the unknown immigration officer who helped me to find work and shelter. After that it was a network of friends and associates who provided the support.

There was no real geographic area that could be described as being a German neighbourhood. German families lived all over the city and countryside.

We did not join any German associations or clubs. We kept contact with our homeland and families by making frequent trips to Germany throughout the years.

© 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? Do you have any regrets today? Did you ever think of coming back?

My dream of becoming a commercial pilot was not fulfilled. Instead, we built good careers and a home for ourselves. We established a strong family with two daughters who are giving us pride and joy. Both are university educated. They have the advantage of dual citizenship and subsequently have become real world citizens. Tatiana, our youngest daughter worked in Japan for two years and now lives and works in London, England. Our oldest lived and worked for seven years in Belgium and Germany. Of our two grandchildren, one was born in Belgium and the other was born in Germany.

It seems that we have come full circle. We found friends of all nationalities all over Canada by having lived and worked in this country from coast to coast. Distances have shrunk, thanks to technology, to manageable proportions and many places are accessible. Our break with Germany, therefore, was never as final as it was for generations of other immigrants of a previous age. We have no regrets and Read More
What were your hopes and dreams for your new life here in Canada? Were they fulfilled? Do you have any regrets today? Did you ever think of coming back?

My dream of becoming a commercial pilot was not fulfilled. Instead, we built good careers and a home for ourselves. We established a strong family with two daughters who are giving us pride and joy. Both are university educated. They have the advantage of dual citizenship and subsequently have become real world citizens. Tatiana, our youngest daughter worked in Japan for two years and now lives and works in London, England. Our oldest lived and worked for seven years in Belgium and Germany. Of our two grandchildren, one was born in Belgium and the other was born in Germany.

It seems that we have come full circle. We found friends of all nationalities all over Canada by having lived and worked in this country from coast to coast. Distances have shrunk, thanks to technology, to manageable proportions and many places are accessible. Our break with Germany, therefore, was never as final as it was for generations of other immigrants of a previous age. We have no regrets and are not planning to come back.

© 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
  • Understand some of the experiences of German immigrants to Canada
  • Explain why individuals immigrate to Canada
  • Empathize with the feelings of new immigrants to Canada
  • Appreciate some of the positive characteristics of the nation of Canada

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