Audio tour opens ears to Holocaust survivors' stories in Montreal
Published Sunday, September 22, 2019 7:14PM EDT
Listeners can now learn about the experiences of Holocaust survivors in a new audio tour that tells the stories of those, who wound up making Montreal their homes after the Second World War.
Thousands of refugees arrived in the city between 1947 and 1955, and their voices can be now heard at refugeeboulevard.ca or by contacting the Montreal Holocaust Museum in the new interactive tour Refugee Boulevard: Making Montreal Home after the Holocaust.
"There are stories of discrimination and stories of hardships, but there are also stories of dancing, of dating, socializing and that's a really unique perspective on the Holocaust," said associate professor of conflict studies at Saint Paul University Anna Sheftel.
Ted Bolgar arrived in Montreal in 1948 as a young man and knew nothing of the city, but it was a paradise compared to Europe during the war.
"I survived the ghetto, five concentration camps including Auschwitz and Dachau, one death march and one death train," he said.
Those trials behind him, starting a new life in a strange new land was not always easy.
Anti-Semitism was common in Quebec and he couldn't speak the language.
"Somebody asked me where I lived, so I said, 'Gene Manse,' and he said, 'non, monsieur. C'est Jeanne Mance,' so I realized I don't speak (the) two languages in Montreal," he said.
Bolgar and other survivors relied heavily on support from the Jewish community and formed clubs.
"We called it 'new world club,'" he said. "We met once a week, and a lot of marriages, including mine, started there."
"Being single, you know, we lived it up," said fellow survivor Tommy Strasser. "We were called the Knights of Mount Royal Boulevard."
Strasser and Bolgar are two of the voices on the tour that describes what it was like for survivors rebuilding their lives in the neighbourhoods now known as the Plateau and Mile End.
"The stories of survivors rebuilding their lives in the post-war period, it works very well with the stories of people that continue to come to Montreal and try to rebuild their lives after having experienced trauma, loss," said Dawson College history teacher Nancy Rebelo.