Canadian Holocaust refugees meet

Orphaned Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Canada despite a closed-door policy held a reunion in Montreal.

About 20 of the orphaned survivors met Sunday to reminisce about the new life Canada offered after the Holocaust and to mark the 60th anniversary of their arrival.

Canada’s immigration policy during the war years was marked by a now-infamous “none is too many” stance. During the Holocaust, Canada admitted a total of only about 5,000 Jews – one of the worst records among Western countries – but it was also one of the first countries to cautiously open its doors to Jewish refugees.

In 1947, Ottawa issued just over 1,000 visas for orphaned Holocaust survivors. The Canadian Jewish Congress was charged with finding them homes, jobs and educations.

The vast majority were teenagers; only 37 of the young refugees were under 10 years of age. Most of the orphans settled in Toronto and Montreal, while a few hundred were scattered across Western Canada.

Despite language difficulties and virtually no money, they went on to prosper and to have families. According to one study, practically none fell into juvenile delinquency or crime.

The orphans, now in their late 70s, swapped stories of war-time horror and the hope Canada offered.

“We tried to make a living; we had no English, nothing,” said Eva Shainblum, who was 19 when she arrived. “But we evolved.”

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