The “camp boys” never forgot their internment. It marked their lives. Many found comfort in retaining their camp friends. Gerry Waldston explained: “This was my family. These were the people I was closest to. These were the people I understood.” Others chose to leave the stigma of their time as prisoners behind them.

With time, and a perspective on the enormity of the Holocaust, most former internees eased into their places within the communities in which they settled. “Naturally you lost several years of your life,” Heinz Warschauer observed. “My whole life didn’t develop the way I wanted it to. But these are romantic dreams. ...You make things do.” They realized that internment, unjust as it was, may have saved their lives and opened new horizons. There were those who never recovered from the experience of incarceration and the losses inflicted by the Holocaust. For others, imprisonment and the resulting hardships fuelled their motivation to succeed. As they reflected on their lives, the irony of their internment served to intensify their pride in their achievements.

Many of the former internees went on to positions of prominence in academia, business and the arts. Among them are Members of the Order of Canada and two Nobel Laureates. The remarkable achievements of the interned refugees belied the arguments of the government officials who opposed their settlement in Canada. Their contributions highlight the lost potential of the fragment of European Jewry that Canada might have saved during the Holocaust.
Paula Draper, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre

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

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