Marie Doduck evaded Nazi capture for years before starting a new life in Vancouver
The Nazis may have stripped Holocaust survivor Marie Doduck of her childhood, but they could never take her stories.
Doduck was five when soldiers invaded her hometown of Brussels, Belgium, in 1940 and she was forced into hiding for years, until the war ended and she was sent to Canada to start a new life.
In her 2023 memoir, A Childhood Unspoken, Doduck recounts how she survived the atrocities in Europe before finding a home — and new hardship — as an orphan in a foreign, and sometimes unfriendly, country.
May is Jewish Heritage Month in Canada and to mark the occasion, Doduck, who now resides in Vancouver, spoke with The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn about the many incredible chapters in her life.
The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
You arrived in Vancouver after the Second World War. What can you tell us about why you came here and who you came with?
I came to Canada with other Jewish children in 1947 and arrived in Vancouver on January 3, 1948. I am the youngest child survivor to be accepted in Canada at that time and there were only 1,123 children. [The Orphan War Project was an initiative by the Canadian Jewish Congress to foster Jewish children who had lost parents in the Holocaust.]
I got off the ship, the Aquitania, in Halifax and we were not really welcomed because we were strange. We were from war-torn Europe and we were children in bodies, but adults in mind. I’m the youngest of 11 and arrived with three of my siblings.
We were children in bodies, but adults in mind.-Marie Doduck, Holocaust survivor who came to Canada after the war at age 12
So how did you end up in Vancouver after arriving in Halifax?
We were destined for Montreal and they put us on a train that stopped there and said this will be your home. I speak French but didn’t understand the Quebec accent so I said no, I can’t stay here. I ended up with my siblings in Vancouver after a stay in Winnipeg which was the dumping ground for all Jewish children until they found us homes.
And when you came to Vancouver, where did you live?
I lived with a foster family who became my parents and then I looked after them for 37½ years. They became grandparents to my children. But I didn’t feel welcome in the city. We had hid in Europe and felt like hiding here too.
All of us spoke different and many languages — I spoke seven — but had to learn English and Hebrew when I came here. We were the children that brought in English language classes because we couldn’t speak to anyone except in the common Jewish language, Yiddish, and most Canadians wouldn’t accept us because of our accents.
Our then Prime Minister Mackenzie King said when we came that none is too many and we were damaged goods. Mentally, yes, we had seen terrible things. I had been in hiding since I was five and lost my family.
So I started school and did Grade 1 to Grade 6 in 10 months. I did 14 years of school in seven while being told I was dumb and kids pushed me down stairs and dipped my hair in inkwells. But I made it, we all made a life in Canada, a good one.
How long were you in hiding?
From age five to 10 and then it took two years to get accepted to Canada so I lived in orphanages. I was also used in the French Resistance because I have a photographic memory.
Your memoir is called Childhood Unspoken. Tell me more about the unspoken parts of your childhood and why you felt like you couldn’t speak for so long.
Because my mother made the mistake of listening to Nazi propaganda and went to the police station and registered my family members by name and by doing that she condemned us to death.
To make a long story short, my brother was in the French Resistance and he separated us siblings and we went into hiding and before I kissed my mother goodbye he told me don’t give anyone your last name, don’t make trouble, don’t ask questions and don’t cry. And so I became a child of silence and that’s how I survived.
You became one of the founders of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. How have you seen the Jewish community change in the region since you first arrived?
When I came into Vancouver in 1948 there was only about 1,000 Jewish families and now there are more than 37,000.
Back then, at age 12, there were Jewish rules and I had no life really because I was watched by the government. To get married, I had to go to court and ask permission. That has changed of course.
And I went on to work with children and in education and, as you know, education is the most important thing.
Originally published in CBC News. View the original article here.