Going back to the Spanish Inquisition, Jews have been dealt their fair share of discrimination. During the mid 1900s, the Holocaust happened. The Holocaust was the genocide of European Jews during World War II. Not only did the Holocaust result in the slaughtering of millions of Jewish lives, Jewish people were displaced from their homes and left with nothing. Jewish families began to flee Europe in search of better living conditions and greater opportunity. Here are two stories of Knockri employees who had families that survived the Holocaust and eventually found their way to Canada.
Dave’s grandmother was born in a small town in Poland. During the start of World War II she was sent to Auschwitz, which is one of the most well known concentration camps of the Holocaust. While she was there she was tortured, starved, and eventually put into a gas chamber. Fortunately, this was during a time when the Nazis were experimenting with various killing methodologies. While many of the methods used were painful, many were unsuccessful at achieving death. After several failed attempts to mass murder my grandmother and the other innocent Jewish people she was imprisoned with, the Nazis eventually gave up and sent her to work.
She was finally released at the end of the war, with no living family, not a penny to her name, and no one to help lead the way. She met my grandfather who had also been sent to a work camp, and the two of them luckily found their way to Toronto, Canada, where they raised three children — one of them being my father, Solomon. The experience of my grandmother is different from others because it could be told via first person. Many other Jewish people were not as fortunate, and died at the hands of the Third Reich.
Several of Amber’s family were also influenced by the spread of antisemitism and discrimination in Europe and other parts of the world during the early and mid 1900s. Her grandmother’s family on her father’s side made the decision to escape Germany and move to Israel when Hitler first rose to power, however most of her grandmother’s relatives, on both sides of her family did not survive the Holocaust. Her great-grandmother’s first husband was shot by his Polish business partner merely because he was Jewish.
These kinds of antisemitic persecutions and attacks were not confined solely to Europe. Amber’s great-grandfather, residing in Tunisia, North Africa, was identified as Jewish and subsequently severely beaten on the street while going back home from work. He was stripped almost naked, and threats were made against his family. Badly shaken, he made the decision right then and there to leave Tunisia where his ancestors have lived for many generations, and immigrate to Israel.
Starting Over From Scratch
Although moving to Canada was a blessing for Dave’s grandparents, this transition was not easy. During the years after the war, Canadians were not especially welcoming to Jewish people. It was difficult for them to obtain employment. For example, resumes with Jewish last names were dismissed because employers claimed that Jews did not belong or did not have the right temperament for work. Furthermore, academic institutions within Canada were still polluted with antisemitic ideals, and limited the involvement of Jewish people within academia.
With little job prospects and educational opportunities, Dave’s grandparents did what they could to survive. Saving penny after penny until they could establish themselves within the business community. With an undying motivation to lift themselves up from the ashes of a great world war, they eventually saved enough to successfully enter the property market.
For Amber’s family, the move to Israel came with its own unique challenges. Having to face international threats, wars, and economic and political struggles all took their toll. The family eventually immigrated to Canada at the beginning of the new millenia, but once in Canada, still encountered hatred such as being told antisemitic slurs, and coming across swastika nazi symbols drawn across synagogue doors in their neighbourhood.
Striving Through Adversity
Although Jews in Canada still dealt with periodic waves of antisemitism during the late 1900’s and into the new millennium, most continued to work hard and do their best to survive and make something of themselves. Dave is proud to say that he is the first member of his family to become an academic, which he knows would make his grandparents extremely proud had they lived long enough to see the day.
It is unfortunate to note that antisemitism is still prevalent today — on campuses, in workplaces, and in other social establishments. In the past few years, because of the reality that many hold prejudice against Jewish people, Amber felt hesitant to tell others her nationality in fear that it would put her at a disadvantage, or result in her missing opportunity. However, today she takes pride in her heritage, making sure to stand up and and fight against antisemitic slurs and defamations anywhere she comes across it.
What these stories, and many others like it suggest, is that no matter how bad things get, never lose faith, stand up for what you believe in, and always strive to achieve greatness in the face of adversity.