Have students explore this page of the website or pre-assign Reading: Perilous Voyage.

Students work independently to write a diary entry from the perspective of one of the refugees aboard the S.S. Duchess of York, S.S. Ettrick or the S.S. Sobieksi. The journal should describe conditions on the ship, memories about their lives in Europe and feelings about an uncertain future.

Students share the journal entries with a classmate.
Have students explore this page of the website or pre-assign Reading: Perilous Voyage.

Students work independently to write a diary entry from the perspective of one of the refugees aboard the S.S. Duchess of York, S.S. Ettrick or the S.S. Sobieksi. The journal should describe conditions on the ship, memories about their lives in Europe and feelings about an uncertain future.

Students share the journal entries with a classmate.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

As the Battle of the Atlantic waged on, three ships carrying refugees set sail to Canada in June and July of 1940. While German U-boats posed grave risks from the sea, refugees onboard the S.S. Duchess of York endured harassment and threats from Nazis on board. Clive Teddern, a German Jew and only 16 years old at the time, remembered: “It wasn’t the submarines we were worried about. It was the danger from the people we were with.” The refugees feared being thrown overboard or that the ship would be commandeered by the Nazis and re-routed to Germany.

Conditions on the S.S. Ettrick were so crowded that the refugees, unprotected by the Geneva Convention that applied to Nazi prisoners of war, were consigned to the bowels of the ship. Surrounded by barbed wire, they nicknamed their quarters “Torpedo Class.”

The S.S. Sobieski offered safer passage. Escorted by destroyers, it was one of five vessels involved in the largest overseas transfer of wealth ever seen – 450 million pounds sterling in gold and securiti Read More
As the Battle of the Atlantic waged on, three ships carrying refugees set sail to Canada in June and July of 1940. While German U-boats posed grave risks from the sea, refugees onboard the S.S. Duchess of York endured harassment and threats from Nazis on board. Clive Teddern, a German Jew and only 16 years old at the time, remembered: “It wasn’t the submarines we were worried about. It was the danger from the people we were with.” The refugees feared being thrown overboard or that the ship would be commandeered by the Nazis and re-routed to Germany.

Conditions on the S.S. Ettrick were so crowded that the refugees, unprotected by the Geneva Convention that applied to Nazi prisoners of war, were consigned to the bowels of the ship. Surrounded by barbed wire, they nicknamed their quarters “Torpedo Class.”

The S.S. Sobieski offered safer passage. Escorted by destroyers, it was one of five vessels involved in the largest overseas transfer of wealth ever seen – 450 million pounds sterling in gold and securities. In contrast to the other ships, conditions on the Sobieski were tolerable, the refugees had the run of the ship, and food was sufficient.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

In pairs (or, as computer access permits, individually or in groups), students view Video: An Enemy’s Welcome, which features internees recalling their arrival in Canada. Students should watch the video twice; on the first viewing, students watch and listen carefully, while on the second viewing, students should note the incidents described by the former internees.

As pairs or groups, students discuss:

•    How did the Canadian military receive the internees?
•    How do the internees describe their experiences of being robbed?
•    What are your thoughts about the irony of refugees of Nazism being received as Nazis?

As a class, discuss:

•    Do students think the refugees should be compensated for their stolen belongings? Why or why not?
•    The Canadian government has issued apologies and, on occasion, provided restitution and compensation for victims of historical injustice. Such actions have taken place with regard to the Read More
In pairs (or, as computer access permits, individually or in groups), students view Video: An Enemy’s Welcome, which features internees recalling their arrival in Canada. Students should watch the video twice; on the first viewing, students watch and listen carefully, while on the second viewing, students should note the incidents described by the former internees.

As pairs or groups, students discuss:

•    How did the Canadian military receive the internees?
•    How do the internees describe their experiences of being robbed?
•    What are your thoughts about the irony of refugees of Nazism being received as Nazis?

As a class, discuss:

•    Do students think the refugees should be compensated for their stolen belongings? Why or why not?
•    The Canadian government has issued apologies and, on occasion, provided restitution and compensation for victims of historical injustice. Such actions have taken place with regard to the denial of Sikh immigrants aboard the Kamagata Maru, the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War and to First Nations victims of the residential school system. Introduce concepts of redress and restitution to students and guide a discussion about the following statement. “It is important that governments acknowledge and redress past injustices.”

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Canadian military officials at the docks in Québec City were armed and prepared for the arrival of dangerous parachutists and spies. Instead, they were baffled by the sight of teenagers and religious Jews that disembarked among the civilian internees.

Once the ships had sailed, Britain had informed Canada that the majority of civilians on board were refugees from Nazism. As the ships entered Canadian waters, the men hoped their long and dangerous journey was over. They soon discovered that Canada was unprepared to deal with them, and that they were to be considered guilty until proven innocent.

The Duchess of York refugees were immediately sent by train to Camp R in northern Ontario. Eugene Spier, a German Jewish financier, described how they were met by “vigilant soldiers with rifles and fixed bayonets ready to charge at us at any moment.” These refugees remained unprotected from the Nazis in the camp for several months.

Refugees arriving on the Ettrick and Sobieski were shocked by the hostility of their reception. Many had their belongings “confiscated” by Canadian soldiers. When nothing was returned, they filed official Read More
Canadian military officials at the docks in Québec City were armed and prepared for the arrival of dangerous parachutists and spies. Instead, they were baffled by the sight of teenagers and religious Jews that disembarked among the civilian internees.

Once the ships had sailed, Britain had informed Canada that the majority of civilians on board were refugees from Nazism. As the ships entered Canadian waters, the men hoped their long and dangerous journey was over. They soon discovered that Canada was unprepared to deal with them, and that they were to be considered guilty until proven innocent.

The Duchess of York refugees were immediately sent by train to Camp R in northern Ontario. Eugene Spier, a German Jewish financier, described how they were met by “vigilant soldiers with rifles and fixed bayonets ready to charge at us at any moment.” These refugees remained unprotected from the Nazis in the camp for several months.

Refugees arriving on the Ettrick and Sobieski were shocked by the hostility of their reception. Many had their belongings “confiscated” by Canadian soldiers. When nothing was returned, they filed official complaints that eventually led to several court-martials.

In the hastily organized Canadian internment camps, refugees soon realized that officials expected them to be interned for the duration of the war. Neither refugees nor Canadian personnel were prepared for what was in store for them.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Students explore the web page about the HMT Dunera and research the experiences of the refugees aboard this ship, comparing the policies of Canada and Australia vis-à-vis the interned refugees.
Students explore the web page about the HMT Dunera and research the experiences of the refugees aboard this ship, comparing the policies of Canada and Australia vis-à-vis the interned refugees.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

Use Primary Source Evidence
Students consider what eyewitness testimony reveals about the internees’ arrival in Canada.

Take Historical Perspective
Students consider how Canadians viewed the internees arriving on their shores in 1940.

Understand the Ethical Dimensions of History
Students take a perspective on whether the Canadian government should take responsibility for belongings taken from the internees upon their arrival in Canada.

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