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Conference Proceeding

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Between April 1947 and March 1952, 1121 Jewish orphans arrived in Canada as part of a refugee project sponsored by the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). This paper will focus on the early steps of their migration in Europe, especially by focusing on their visa application files that were mostly written by International Refugee Organization (IRO) and American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) workers.

Those files are first attempts to understand the orphans’ experiences and highlight specific conceptions of family, childhood and children’s “best interest” (Doron, 2009, Zahra, 2010). The caseworkers’ descriptions strikingly illustrate how they perceived the orphans’ past and how they imagined their future but also how the young survivors represented themselves.

Focusing on those files also reveals a specific selection process of potential candidates and let us grasp how the JDC and IRO social workers were pressured to present coherent profiles not only exactly fitting the strict Canadian immigration standards but also the potential foster families’ expectations.

This research seeks to contribute to the comprehension of immediate post-war trajectories of Holocaust child-survivors, stating that latter perceptions and representations of their experience and trauma cannot be understood without focusing on those early steps, transitional years that were most of the time overshadowed by wartime and resettlement stories (Grossman, 2007).