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Concept 1 Subtopic


Moving to an unknown place can be overwhelming, especially when you do not know much about your new home. Many Holocaust survivors who were looking to start new lives knew almost nothing about Canada.

In the days before the internet, it was difficult to learn about a far off, distant place. Survivors had many questions: What did it look like? What were the people like? How did people live?

Use this section to learn about what Holocaust survivors knew about Canada before they arrived, and their first impressions of their new home.

Subtopic Background


Almost immediately upon arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration / Death Camp, the Nazi guards took almost all of their belongings. Their things were sorted and stored in warehouses in the camp before being given to Germans. Prisoners started to call these warehouses “Kanada” because they saw them as a “land of plenty,” just like the country. This nickname for Auschwitz’s storage house was some survivors' only image of Canada before immigrating.

Subtopic Background


One of the ways that Holocaust survivors learned about Canada before they arrived in the country was through movies. Popular films in the early 1900s such as Nanook of the North featured ‘Eskimos’ living in igloos. Because they had no other idea of what Canada was really like, many survivors expected to see these things when they arrived in the 1940s and 50s. Today we no longer use the word Eskimo. Instead, we refer to this group of Canada’s northern Indigenous Peoples as the Inuit and the Yupik.

Subtopic Background


Many Holocaust survivors started their new lives in Canada’s big cities, like Montreal and Toronto. Before arriving, many had no idea what Canadian cities looked like. Some assumed that they would be just like New York, with bright lights and tall skyscrapers. They were in for a surprise!

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