At the close of the war, there were 250,000 displaced Jewish refugees in Europe, among them many war orphans. The majority of them had no homes to return to. Even after the war, most countries still maintained their restrictive immigration policies barring Jews from entry. Among the most desired destinations for refugees to go were Palestine, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Between 1945 and 1948, Canada admitted 65,000 refugees, of which only 8,000 were Jews.

In 1947, approximately 1,000 Jewish children orphaned by the Holocaust were permitted entry to Canada. To be granted a Canadian visa, Jewish orphans had to be under 18 years old and in good health. They had to express a desire to come to Canada, “have the ability to adjust” and show proof of orphan status. Officials often excluded children who wore glasses or could not read.

With economic prosperity and an increased demand for labour came a change in Canada’s immigration policies. In the few years after 1948, 20,000 Holocaust survivors were permitted entry into Canada.



This teaching resource facilitates student engagement with historical context and individual testimonies from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre’s collection.

For Whom

The activities are recommended for students of grades eight to 12, with adaptations possible for intermediate grades


An investigation of testimony and primary source material fosters historical and critical thinking skills in students.


The guide complements the VHEC collection of testimonies, and is divided into three sections.

The NOW activities introduce students to the theme of the lesson cluster and engage them with selected testimonies. If a teacher only has one class in which to engage with Primary Voices, this is the recommended lesson.

The NEXT lesson deepens students’ engagement with the theme, introducing a greater range of testimonies.

Finally, the BEYOND activities encourage teachers and students to choose their own inquiry questions.



Students create a chart to compare the experiences of different immigrant survivors. A second chart is used to list the factors that influence or affect immigration. Students will move through stations to explore the different factors experienced by survivors.


After viewing the testimonies of two survivors, students will engage in a class discussion centering on the construction of new identities after the Holocaust. Using the testimonies and biographies, they will develop a series of questions to ask a survivor. Students will then create a timeline or case study of the survivors’ immigration to Canada.


Using the Activity Sheet: The Inquiry Cycle as a guide, and incorporating recommended testimonies as a source, students will design a powerful question related to the theme of arrival in Canada after the Holocaust.