Refugee Boulevard: New audio tour shows listeners how Holocaust survivors made Montreal home

When Fishel Goldig arrived in Montreal in 1948, he says it was paradise compared to where he was coming from. 

"We came from hell," Goldig said. "Coming here was heaven."

Goldig is a Holocaust survivor from Poland, and the narrator of a new audio tour called Refugee Boulevard: Making Montreal home after the Holocaust

The tour captures the initial experiences of child survivors who settled in the St. Urbain Ghetto, which is today's Plateau and Mile End.

The multimedia project, a collaborative effort by the Montreal Holocaust Museum, Dawson College and Saint Paul University, took over a year of interviewing and going through archival tape. It was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Listeners are guided through the Plateau and Mile End as the survivors tell their stories. It's available for free online.

Goldig is one of seven people who tell their stories on the tour, and the only one who is not a war orphan. 

Listeners are brought back in time to find out "what it was like for these children and young adults to arrive in a new country alone or with surviving family members, build relationships, deal with adversity and discrimination, search for joy, and simply move on," the audio tour's website says. 

Although Montreal was a far cry from fleeing the Nazis by hiding in a cellar on a Ukrainian farm, Goldig says he faced adversity in his new home, too. 

He said Holocaust survivors were often unwelcome, even in Jewish communities. 

Alex Dworkin/Canadian Jewish Archives

"We felt like we had some kind of a disease or something. That bothered me a lot," said Goldig, who was 14 when he arrived in Montreal with his parents, aunt, uncle and cousin.

Tommy Strasser is another subject of the audio tour. He came to Montreal in June of 1948. Even though he was 22 at the time, he had falsified documents claiming he was 18 so he could come under the War Orphans Project. 

After the Second World War, Canada allowed about 1,000 Jewish youth to resettle here. 

"I was an orphan, but I was far from 18," Strasser said. 

Originally from Czechoslovakia, Strasser survived the Holocaust after being sent to a number of forced labour camps and then on a death march. 

"I still had to fight for my life, but not under the same circumstances as people who were deported to Auschwitz," he said. "At least we had the chance of surviving."

After the war, he found out no one in his family had survived, so he moved to Paris, and later Montreal in 1948. 

"Until the winter arrived, I loved every moment of it. Now, 71 years later, I'm still not used to the Canadian winters," Strasser laughed. 

Strasser, who now has several grandchildren, says many people who are featured on the audio tour have remained his lifelong friends. He has shared his story with thousands of visitors at the Montreal Holocaust Museum over the last several decades.