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Unedited audio of the interview (in English)

Session 1

Anneliese Session 1 (English)Dr. Alexander Freund
00:00 / 1:42:24
Anneliese Session 2Dr. Alexander Freund
00:00 / 1:52:37

Session 2


Interviewee: Anneliese L.

Interviewer: Dr. Alexander Freund

Date of session 1: 30/Nov/1993  

Date of session 2: 06/Dec/1993

Place of interview: Surrey, B.C.

Language: English

Copyright information: Oral History Centre (UWinnipeg)

The edited transcript below is sourced from the original in English.

Part 1: Reasons for Leaving and First Steps in Canada
Part 1: Reasons for Leaving and First Steps
1.1. Life in Europe and Decision to Migrate
1.1. Life in Europe and Decision to Migrate


Anneliese: My decision to emigrate, of course that was when I was still in Germany, and I had completed a nursing training and I was working in a mental institution as a nurse. And then it was a big PR rush from Canada to attract German people, German girls especially, actually I don’t remember them mentioning men. It was on the Litfasssӓule, [advertising pillar] that was where I actually saw it first, big posters and published that Canada would welcome German girls for a new future in a new land and made it very attractive sounded. Land of opportunity and you can do almost anything you set your mind to and you were very welcome and you get a lot of financial help. So that’s where I read this first and I thought, “Geewiz that is a good idea.” Because basically prior to this decision I was always fascinated by travel and wanting to go in foreign countries and I had made an attempt once to emigrate to the States once and there were too many restrictions and it was too difficult and once in my really younger years, under Hitler, I wanted to go to Africa to the colonies, the German colonies they had at the time, but then I wasn’t old enough and you had to go to a very strict school. Anyway, this was the opportunity where it sounded like you were welcome with open arms. 


And I had decided with another German friend, who was also a nurse, the two of us were going to come together. And we applied together. At the end it turned out that she became very, very ill during the process of the preparation and she couldn’t go, she came later. But she had hepatitis, it was just impossible. So, I never for a minute thought I would back out of it, I thought: “I go by myself. And if it’s a good deal and if everything is as they say and I like, I’ll just stay there and wait for her to join me. If it’s bad, I will tell her I’ll only stay so long, till I get enough money to come back and then I’ll come back and say: ‘Well, not me.’” But as it turned out to be, I was just very willing to go ahead.


They had a real, real good physical examination. And then of course I was screened whether I had a criminal record and I had to really what my connection with Nazi Germany was. And I of course was in the Hitler Jugend [Hitler Youth], but this didn’t seem to ... everybody was in there, you know, so that wasn’t a hindering. It took a little while to get all the documents. My… -- I forgot in details now what they really wanted about my parents and my background, and I didn’t have… -- my parents died earlier, so I was all by myself. And actually, I come from the Eastern part, at that time the Ostzone, Merseburg was my hometown.

And I had illegally gone to the West and built a life there and everything was okay. So, there was... It took maybe between six and eight months till from the minute that whole process got rolling till the time when I was ready to sail, which was in September 1953.

Anneliese L., Session 1 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 30 Nov. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Anneliese: We went to Wilhelmshaven, and it was really, we got all gathered together, from the whole of the Western part of Germany and there was a whole bunch of excited people. We were — I don’t know what kind of accommodations they had, it was almost like bunk beds, I think that had improvisiert [improvised], just a temporary place to catch all those people. And they had one boatload after another of Germans. And I really would be interested to know how many really went. But there was no males I can recall. So, it was just really strictly a boatload full of young girls. I was twenty-nine — no, was I? I was born in twenty-four, that would make me -- can’t think -- Yea, close to twenty-nine. And the other were a little younger and the some quite a bit older. But they were all kind of unattached German girls, because most of them — I think, openly admitted there were no way you find a man in Germany after the war, everybody got killed, the proportion between male and female was so poor, like men could choose, like ten girls were there for one man, so this one thing if they wanted a family. 

Alexander: Did you agree with that?

Anneliese: That wasn’t my purpose to go out. I didn’t question whether that was good or bad thinking, that’s what they wanted in their life and they spoke openly about it. The majority wanted to find a man and find a family, maybe just whatever reason they had. They were just attracted by the offer as well. Maybe... It was hard in Germany, it was depressing, because everything hadn’t been rebuilt yet, and that was a country we were going to was not affected by war in a physical way, you know, you wouldn’t see any ruins anymore, and not always this kind of deprimierender [depressing] reminder of the war. So maybe it was another reason to leave the past behind and start a new life completely. And my thought was — I wasn’t thinking of really wanting to marry, but I wanted to go and see the world, and that was my first step to do that. I was going to work till I had enough money to buy a car and then pack things up and go and travel to South America, to — I wanted to see the whole world and that was just it. And Canada gave me, opened the door for me as a good starting point.

Alexander: So that was the only reason for you to leave Germany?

Anneliese: I had also, I had no attachments to Germany anymore, because my so-called Heimat wasn’t there anymore. The place where I was born in Merseburg was destroyed, I had no parents, my brother had died during the war, there was nobody close I would leave which would make it difficult for me. So, if my mother or parents still would have been alive, I don’t know whether I would have felt differently just to leave. But I had no emotional attachments; what would keep me back? So, it was just an opportunity and as I said, there was a little bit of an adventurer in my blood to start with, so I was really excited and curious and thought really no harm could be done.

I also found, yeah one reason too, was I found there was a safety attached to it. If I would have made this decision all on my own and ventured out to a strange country with not knowing the language well and not being protected, then I may have made a mistake or wouldn’t know where to turn to. But it seems such a safe thing; the government guaranteed you, for one thing, I couldn’t have probably afford it, they gave you the money to start; they knew who you were, you couldn’t get lost, nothing could have happened to you. That was maybe another reason really to — I saw a good safety feature in that. And if something would happen to me, somebody would — I felt — would know about it or take care of it, because I was registered, I was a number, they could follow me up, they could look for me if I didn’t pay, for instance, my repay them their what they owed me, so that was that, so many reasons.

Anneliese L., Session 1 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 30 Nov. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Alexander: You said earlier, before we turned on the tape, that you had this sort of feeling of freedom when you first came and you compared that to this German writer.

Anneliese: Yes, yes, yes. I do. And as I also told you the same feeling came across from those teenager movies. It’s just, I don’t know. It was just there. I felt… Why was it there? — I can’t think, because in Germany I wasn’t really... Yes, maybe I was restricted, yes, maybe because coming from East Germany — We weren’t allowed to listen to certain radio stations. Like under Hitler it was… You can’t, you were restricted to what you were allowed to read and what you... and then later on under the Communists, where I was in Merseburg, there were really great restrictions again — you weren’t to make contact with the West, you couldn’t travel as you want to, the borders were there — this is maybe the reason! Because all my life I had learned, “You can’t do that, you’re not allowed to do that. You can only read this book or you read... And you can’t travel where you wanted.” And this is what probably what created this tremendous sense of freedom, because here you can do what you want, you can say what you think. But you see, I guess most of my life, I wasn’t allowed to really say what I think. Now under Hitler where I was — we were all brainwashed, and I was happy. I didn’t think differently, so I was not in danger to say anything I wasn’t allowed to say, because I agreed with everything, because that’s the way I was brought up. But then later on when it turned out to be Communists, I certainly was restricted to what I was... And during the war also. I had to always... You felt you weren’t free to criticize. You weren’t free to express your opinion. And here — mind you, it shouldn’t have mattered that much, because I didn’t want to say anything and what I would have said would have been positive. But I had just that sense — You can say what you want and you can feel what you want and you wouldn’t be… And you could do what you want.

Alexander: Was that feeling of freedom when you came here sort of like that… I don’t know if you felt like that when you came over to West Germany?

Anneliese: Yes, similar. Yes. Yes. Yeah, from East to West? Yes, yes. Similar, yah. And even more extended to... Yes, very much so. That tremendous freedom, because I’ve crossed the border couple of times when it was forbidden, and then I felt like free when I was in West Germany. Now in Canada I felt even freer if that was possible.

Anneliese L., Session 1 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 30 Nov. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


1.2. The Ship and Train Journey
1.2. The Ship and Train Journey


Anneliese: We went on this boat, this old, old “Beaverbrae”, and we came over and that’s a story in itself. But maybe it’s not it so interesting.


The only thing was. We already got exposed to a little bit of Canadian way of life habits, and food, food, food. We had to start getting used to cornflakes and white bread and it almost made me sick to think about it. Gosh, and I was sick in that boat anyway, I was seasick, it was very poorly… There were no stabilizers there or anything. I was just green most of the days; it was about a nine-day journey. And I just was ... I couldn’t even think of... Ohh, when I think about it. I was not very much up on deck; I was mostly laying down in one of those little bunkbeds, three, one on top of the other. And that was a converted freighter, that boat, it wasn’t a luxury cruiser, by no means. And they looked after us well.

 The food, by their standards, was very good. Like really typical Canadian — bacon and eggs, breakfast and good meals. But it was so strange to me and to most of the other girls, too, that we didn’t really take much ... we were too sick to really eat. 


So, when we arrived in Quebec City, we were put on a train, and got... I think maybe spent there one night, I’m not sure... and with all our luggage to a little camp. And it was in the area of Montreal, way out in the country actually. It may have been a school or what, in German we would say a Lager [camp]. And I don’t even know, it was fairly new, whether it was extra built for, you know, to screen and receive the immigrants or whether it was used for something else and we just... Here again, that was mass accommodation, nobody had much privacy, there was a shower down the hall, there were rules and regulations in regards to mealtimes from there to there, and then we also had to clean our own place, so we were roster made out. Your name was up and you had to clean this and this and you had to do kitchen duty and clean up duty, so actually we all did our thing, we had to.


And at the end we were the last ones in the camp, so we stayed about two weeks longer and the next boat load was already going to arrive and they had to get rid of us.

Alexander: So, you were still in the camp?

Anneliese: Yea, we were still in the camp. Eventually everybody got placed in groups, they sent them out here and there and everywhere, had jobs for them. And the two of us finally came up that we were guaranteed — maybe that was one reason, because that is one part of the journey we didn’t have to pay back. Across the country, but it was no hardship, I mean it’s just like an empty seat was occupied, the train would go anyway. But there was the two of us. So, we got a bunch of tickets for the duration of the journey for three meals a day and we could go to the dining car and eat, but even that was, those trains they go just like a boat. And I was sick there too. And still hadn’t gotten used to, of course to the Canadian food. And I didn’t really use that very much, I did eat, but reluctantly.

Anneliese L., Session 1 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 30 Nov. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Alexander: I mean did you know any English then?

Anneliese: Well, I had school English, I could understand when they spoke in English to me if it was spoken slowly and in simple language, I would know what... I didn’t certainly not answer in English. You know you get a little shy when you’re not quite sure whether you say the right thing. I wasn’t very confident. But I knew enough to understand what we were supposed to do and the information we needed to know they gave us in English and in German. Even the little signs about the kitchen service, what we had to do, our duties, was always so we made sure that we understood what, you know. But they tried very hard to -- yea, I guess to eliminate the German eventually [laughs].

And in the train of course we were the only ones there I could think of. We huddled a together a little bit, because we did everything together, I would never go alone in the dining room without her. And she the same. We were a force as the two of us together, not knowing anything. But we were treated kindly and you could always make yourself understood enough to convey what you wanted to do or wanted to say or what you were supposed to do. Actually, I, thinking back, I didn’t find that an extreme great difficulty. Now it makes me wonder why it wasn’t; but it was okay.

So, then it was the train journey and I saw for the first time that vast, vast country and the prairies with the sunsets and I never found it boring for a minute. Everybody said, “Oh, it’s so terrible for days, nothing.” But I was so full of excitement and I saw something interesting or new. Maybe that’s this adventure part in me, you know I just really appreciated every tree I saw and every grain there in the field, it was just fantastic, and the way those farms were located and then acres and acres, it was so different from what we used to, landscapes. So, it was a great fascination. And then of course going through the Rockies and finally, of course at that time I lost that other German girl, she I think went out in Edmonton, and so then I was really on my own. And then it really came to me, “Oh, my gosh. What did I get myself into, alone in this big country?” But it was nice, it was good, it was a little bit excitement, a little bit sometimes uncertainty in me, but always positive feelings about it. I think the anticipation of something good happening or something exciting happening always overrode my fears or my apprehension I might have had. And nothing bad happened to me, so that was okay.

Anneliese L., Session 1 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 30 Nov. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


1.3. The First Steps in Canada
1.3. The First Steps in Canada


Anneliese: So then on a certain day, and I remember it was a Sunday, we arrived in Vancouver at the train station. And here I thought it was just really, really great. That’s where I the last little while, the last hour before I knew my journey was over, I started to worry, “Oh, where am I to go, who will be there, I don’t know anybody.” My friends didn’t know I would be coming that day. I knew their address and would probably be one thing I would have done, go to them if there would have been nobody there.

But it was fantastic. I got out of this train and somebody right away recognized that I — I mean I must have stuck out like a sore thumb, like they could see it could only be me, that was only one of those. And a lady from the Immigration Office was there to greet me. She was very kind. She looked after my luggage, she saw where to go, and she spoke only English. But in a wonderful, wonderful way. I could understand every word what she was saying. She invited me to a restaurant there right in the station. And we had lunch together. And she started to explain a little bit. But I had already a place to go, you see. There was that lady who wanted a German immigrant as a domestic. And she was called then right away, I think that’s the first thing this lady did, inform this lady that I am here. And she now stayed with me till I was picked up by the lady who would take me in her household. And I had two big suitcases, it wasn’t suitcases, what do you call those, like wicker baskets, those real old-fashioned things, and they were heavy. Because I almost had the limit of what I could take of personal things. And we left them there, because they didn’t fit in her car. But she picked me up and this other lady left me. So, I felt really good about it, because I wasn’t left alone. I had always this feeling I’m taken care of. And then right away, also she [immigration officer] gave me the information right away about the Y[WCA], where it is and where they meet, and I believe it must have been on a little written piece of paper. That’s where all the domestics meet, every Thursday is the day off for all immigrant domestics, and that’s where we spent the afternoon.

Anneliese L., Session 1 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 30 Nov. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


Part 2: Being a German Woman in Canada
Part 2: Being a German Woman in Canada After World War II
2.1. What Was It Like To Be German in Canada?
2.1. What Was It Like To Be German in Canada?


Anneliese: So, every Thursday was the day for the domestics in the city of Vancouver. And the Y was a building downtown, I don’t know whether it’s still there or not, I don’t know what they did to it. But that was the most important meeting place for us, to get together, to learn English; that’s where they gave us English lessons, speaking -- like conversational English, they would recommend... And we could talk to which must have been some sort of counselors; -- maybe there was a lot of volunteer people too, who helped. And the place was always crowded.

They served us tea and coffee and cookies and we would just intermingle, there would be people available for us to talk to. If we needed translations for job applications we could give it to them and next week pick it up; they would translate it free for us. They would make us aware of services. There would be maps about how to get around in Vancouver, how to use the bus system, and asking us what difficulties we had, what was our greatest problem. And then I remember — it didn’t apply to me, because I was happy where I was, I wasn’t mistreated — but there were some cases where the people were really very unhappy and employer/employee relationship, they felt they weren’t treated fairly; and money was something, I don’t know. I think there was a standard wage it seems to be, because it seems to be compatible, but all of us got about the same thing. And I forgot how much it was. And I always had to give a certain percentage to repay the government. And there was a minimum of just ten dollars a month, I had to repay. I don’t know, when I think about health care, I must have been protected there somewhere, but I happened to be... I didn’t get sick during the first time. But I’m sure that was taken care of.

So, this Thursday also, I forgot now, I think the whole Thursday was off, or only from noon on, I’m not sure, because I used that Thursday as well to visit my friends, the one, the connection I had in Vancouver. And they would help me a lot. They had a car by then, they had been in Canada maybe a year or a little more and they had a very rough start. Both worked very hard and very cheap accommodation and now by that time they had already kind of accumulated a little bit of more security, I wouldn’t say wealth, but comfortable, they had a car and they would take me around a little bit and show me the city. And that was my Thursday were I really… That was good to know that this was all available for us, the Y and my connection with my German friends. And I know if something would happen, they would kind of bail me out, or help me, or explain if I got stuck in a situation. So, I had that double security of my friends and the Y. There were always names, “if you have any problems, just call us”. And sometimes, I remember, there were people really unhappy and it was a mismatch of -- you know, like personality wise maybe, where they were employed. And they would look at… [interruption] And we really were protected. Now, whatever else happened, this year…


The other women I found — I think — very often they used this place to unload to their feelings, their anxieties, some were homesick, some were very homesick and they thought it was a wrong move, that they had made; they felt lonely; they had maybe trouble with English and maybe they... They were so stuck in their German ways that anything what didn’t quite fit into their German way of doing things, or perception of things, that it really greatly upset them, that they felt, “I wished I wasn’t here. I wished it was here like in Germany.” And they would stress how much better everything in Germany was more, starting form material things, like furniture more solid, houses better, you know, everything they would compare. And these people seemed to annoy me and they still annoy me, now, if there are people around who say, “Well, Germany or German is just the best in the world and the rest is just not.” Lots of things are different, I agree, but I think it’s all kind of in a balance, you know.

Or else they would say… And that would probably be… You had to as a person started to think differently about your appearance. Now, here I remember, I think everyone of us was a little upset how the Canadians would use make-up — RED lipsticks, lots of make-up. And it was also the trend of this time, now the make-up is much more subdued and more to your body, you bring out the natural thing. But at that time, it was more — old people would just be as smartly dressed or made-up, just like the younger ones. While we were used to from Germany — when you are a certain age, you wear dark colors — see that doesn’t apply anymore now, but it surely was strongly ingrained in us. You know, you would just wear black and dark blue and browns and here it was all so different, and earrings and stuff like that. So, they would make remarks on it constantly how different that was.

Anneliese L., Session 1 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 30 Nov. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Anneliese: And then… I found people friendly toward me, but they often — and I sometimes had to agree with that — you didn’t know there was that politeness about them.

Alexander: About who?

Anneliese: The Canadian people toward anybody and toward us that you couldn’t quite trust, we thought. It was a surface friendliness. While we felt in Germany you were sometimes a bit more blunt, but it’s honest. So, we were often discussing that — the difference in the way people appear or come across or the culture has developed, or whatever. I think that was very, very strong, because at the beginning lots of us, including me, I thought — phony; you know, make-up, friendly smile. Well, what you really feel you don’t really know. But it took me years to really appreciate or distinguish between the genuine feeling and the person they presented... It seems more important here in this country to present yourself as a good looking.... You keep that mask. And it takes a little while to get underneath, to find out how that person really felt; and lots of us felt better with the German way — often a bit blunt but more honest. 

Anneliese L., Session 1 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 30 Nov. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Anneliese: Also, with the language, before I forget to say that. As I of course stayed in this country longer the language came easier to me, but still I knew, it took me a long, long time, I can’t exactly pinpoint when the change came. But I remember it was a dramatic change almost from one day to the next, when I started thinking in English, and dreaming in English, and from then on it was a quicker process and I was freer to talk and I know I had gotten... I had adopted the language in mind and in my body, in my thinking. That of course isn’t an easy thing to do when you’re in a country where you forever you need your concentration to whatever is said to you, the wheels have to be spinning and you have to translate, and then when you answer, again, you have to translate again. But when the point comes where you don’t need to translate anymore, then it kind of makes it a lot easier. And in my case anyway, it was just a really abrupt thing from one day to the next.

Anneliese L., Session 1 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 30 Nov. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Alexander: Was it mainly German women who worked as domestic servants at that time?

Anneliese: Yes, yes. It was all I ever met and all I’ve ever seen and all I ever come in contact with at the Y and otherwise, were German girls. There might be some others, but I never met them.


Alexander: Do you know why it was all only Germans?

Anneliese: Yeah, because I think that was all in response in Germany to the Canadian government’s appeal for German girls between the years of eighteen and forty-five to come to Canada. And there was overflow of females in Germany due to the laws of war. The men died during the war. So, lots of them were very eager and tempted to — like I was — to leave the country and try to find a new future. So, it was specifically directed to German girls and that’s all I ever saw. I can’t recall any other.

Alexander: During these first three months, did you ever go to any German institutions here, like the German churches?

Anneliese: No. No, no, I never did. Also, I knew, and I know now that there is a The Goethe Institution and German Clubs, I didn’t at that time, I think maybe because my friends weren’t involved in that, and they didn’t go and so I didn’t go either, I wasn’t introduced. And I wasn’t interested actually, I wanted as quickly as possible to adapt to Canadian life and leave consciously the German connection a little bit behind me. And that was probably the reason. And that was later on the reason, too, that I never felt I needed to be among Germans. I tried very hard to make contact with Canadian, whatever was there Canadian, like the Y and swimming [...]

Anneliese L., Session 2 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 6 Dec. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Anneliese: For interest now, you see, when did I say we went to Prince Rupert, because this struck our mind. After we [her friend from Germany Gertraud] worked in the Vancouver General for a while we both thought we would like to get to know a little bit more of Canada, and get to see what it’s like to work among “the Indians” and we enquired and found out that the Department of Immigration, Indian Affairs and Department of Immigration, I think there was one department, they had an office downtown Vancouver and one day we went there and asked what were the opportunities to work among the Indians and what is there, we are from Germany and they right away told us — I wonder if there were many choices or not. They said there would be in Miller Bay hospital nine miles north of Prince Rupert, there would be openings and we could, if we were serious about it, we could apply and we did. Because you see that hospital has a lot of turnover, you know, people just for reasons, they stay there just for a little while, for experience, for adventure. Nobody wanted to make that a life time position up there, that wasn’t meant that way.

So, we applied, and the money was lot better, and they would help us to get up, they paid the transportation. And, so, date-wise, what did I say we end up there?

Alexander: September ’fifty-four.

Anneliese: In September, so that’s after a year, after I arrived. I came in September ‘fifty-three. So that’s when we went up there. And it was good, it was a good time, that was a good move, we learned a lot. Yeah, that was a very interesting Canadian experience, I thought. Because those native people, they were quite a challenge. They came from the reserves and they came in dirty and neglected and didn’t speak English very well ,and they always had to be de-flead and de-liced and having a bath first. And they were picked up by Social Service out as having TB [tuberculosis] and all the one who were diagnosed with having TB, they had to come into that hospital to be treated, and to be isolated from the rest of them. 

So, they didn’t like that very much, because they were taken away from their environment and from their reserves, and their attitude toward us wasn’t very friendly. They felt they were imprisoned by us, there. They were forced to undergo that treatment. The men there often escaped and went to Prince Rupert to get drunk, most of the time; you know, they missed their alcoholic beverages. And often they couldn’t be traced, they went back to the reserves and had to be recaptured again and start the whole process all over again — having a bath and be... It’s funny, now when I think of it, it was really degrading, because these people, I can’t think... I don’t think now of natives as being dirty people, but at that time they were considered kind of... And we saw them, in this kind of condition. I don’t know why that was, because I have met since lots of native people and never have the feeling they are dirty. But at that time, they came and they started, some of them, they got quite used after a while, because you see for them it was long periods of time they had to be in the hospital, because of the treatment of TB, you need to be undergoing this treatment for quite a long time [in 1950s circa. 18 months]. And so, they had activities for them; kids had school and the adults they got very much used to us making their beds and they got everything given to them, like clean gowns and clothes and they were encouraged to do their handicrafts. And the women, I don’t know why this upset me, but the younger girls, they got make-up kits. Either they bought them or got them given to them. They were most of the time they applied makeup, maybe that was something new for them, maybe they didn’t do that on the reserve, they were always those lipsticks and most of the time they would spent looking after their faces. -- Yeah, that was them.

And the people with me, I met lots of other German girls, the doctors, physios, teachers, they were people who — except actually for those teachers, those teachers been there for a long, long time, they were actually past retirement age, looked to me and they just liked that type of a job, maybe it wasn’t as stressful as being in the school system. You know, they were just very much on their own and could do what they wanted — but the physicians and people, we all stayed there, we all had our quarters there, all live-in, nobody got out of this compound, I would almost call it. The barracks where we were in. And they were interesting people. The Russian doctor, I remember, and other Europeans who were just kind of waiting for get their license in Canada to practice medicine. And some nurses, who had already seen half the world and came from Australia and this was just one part they still wanted to experience, the Canadian North and the Indians. And it was neat. Lots of input from all kinds of people. And we got along fine, there were no major — at least not what I can recall, quarrels. There were people we didn’t like. But apart from that human relations were really quite good.

Alexander: Why was it so attractive to work with Natives?

Anneliese: What made it attractive? Curiosity. When I later on got friends from Germany coming they always asked, “Well, where are the Indians?” I had kind of, not -- a strange… In my youth I read Karl May and the Indians as the braves and with their, to us, strange culture, with their certain way of living, and I just wanted to see for myself what they are like. And, I don’t know, as I said, I find them that they were so neglected on themselves, or so dirty, and always had to, lived under such poor conditions, we knew that when they came in and there was always that history where they lived on a reserve and that wasn’t the way I thought Indians were.

I just pictured them as I read in Karl May, in tents and actually quite clean and brave and all this kind of thing and healthy. But you see, I think, there is already what the white man has done to them, there was already that damage done. They were introduced to alcohol, which they didn’t have before; they were introduced to TB, which they didn’t have before; they had measles which they had and diseases they died of while there was no... So, I feel... And their way of living was destroyed through the white man’s influence and they knew that deep down and that was why they resented us. Also, as we got to know them on a personal basis, they were friendly with us, but underneath there was skin-deep there was that friendliness, deep down in there was that white man superiority which they resented. And that was very obvious and sometimes that could flare out. So, it was just to get to know the truth or just to get to know the natives, that’s why I went there. And I did learn a lot.

Alexander: Can you sort of describe for both, the VGH [Vancouver General Hospital] and that hospital a daily work routine?


Anneliese: So, shift was the same and the duties was the same. The nurses did the medication and the treatment and we would do helping the patients bath and make their beds and I think it was really, really funny actually, because it was supposed to be isolation and we should protect ourselves from TB and not among them to spread it, so we had to wear little paper masks, and I learned later that those masks are only good for maybe two or three hours, but we wore them all shift. We got one mask. And then they had little brooms, and when I think of it how actually ignorant that was — to make their beds we had to use those brushes or brooms to get the crumbs out, so made the germs all fly happily in the air. I never in a hospital before made beds like that. But they had all kinds of — when they did their handiwork or just from eating, you know the bed was full of crumbs and we had those brushes to brush the sheets and straighten the sheets and made their bed. Afterward, well they had just rest period, they had a lot of rest time, and we had to do some — we didn’t have charting to do, the nurses did that, but we had to report, there were discussions on patients, what we observed on them and they didn’t go out for walks or anything much, I wasn’t involved in that. So, it was more or less being there and if anybody needed help. Some of course, were quite sick, had a temperature and stuff and you had to look after them a little more, and help with the meal trays, give the meals out.


Our excitement was when somebody escaped and got drunk in Prince Rupert or was found dead drunk on the road, or a new patient arrived. Seldom would they go home, but they must have, yeah, after a period of time they were released back in the reserve, and often even during this time when I was there, they came back after two or three months, because it had reoccurred. You see that hospital isn’t there anymore and I think TB is not a problem anymore. They found better medication and better way of treating them. But at that time, as soon as they got back in their surroundings, they often re-infected, you know, or the virus came back out again and they had to come back. So, we had re-offenders quite often [laughs].

And the kids were a great concern. When you were in the kids’ ward you were always busy — you would play with them, they need to be changed. And I worked with kids and that’s where I picked up then the infectious hepatitis.

Anneliese L., Session 2 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 6 Dec. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Anneliese: To being a German, yeah. I felt often that lots of Canadians - I thought, I perceived this, after the war they didn’t really like the German, as a Volk, [people], as a country, because of the... and often it came out, maybe, I thought. But in my personal experience that wasn’t really true. I can’t recall that anybody said something negative to me, because I was German. But I know on T.V. or when you listened to sometimes people talk, “Oh, those Germans, they caused the war.” And I almost felt guilty that I was German. But then I worked for a Jewish lady in a household. And she didn’t mind me being German or so, and I didn’t mind her being Jewish [laughs]. We got along real fine. It was a process. It was more on my part that I was conscious of being German, and part of a country which caused so much trouble -- for... And they didn’t speak kindly of Germans as people. But personally, I couldn’t say that anybody treated me different. But I myself was always conscious of it and wanted to make an impression of a good German.

Alexander: What was a good German?

Anneliese: Not, like… Well you see, people get labeled. The Italians are lively, and the Germans are fleiβig [hardworking] and the Russians are whatever they are. People get unjustified labeled as a group.

Alexander: Stereotyped?

Anneliese: That’s it. That’s it, stereotyped. And maybe there are good points to a stereotype German, but there are… The negative part is maybe that we are argumentative, we think we know better, we are noisy, we are... And I wanted to not come across that way. I wanted to be the good German by being fleiβig and freundlich und hilfreich [hard working and friendly and helpful], and that was maybe also part in my personal... That’s my personal goals in my life. To be a good person apart from being German. But I wanted to make a real effort not to show the trend which people labeled the Germans with as not so pleasant. Doesn’t always kind of work. But that’s the way I felt, I needed to represent my country. Yeah, maybe that’s a good way, I felt I represented German people and I mustn’t do anything to — if I can help it, within limits — to give the impression: “Oh, she’s German, that’s why she did this or that.”

Alexander: Was it important to assimilate?

Anneliese: Yes, yes, yes. That was really... I wanted... Yes, yes, to me it was. I don’t know whether everybody felt that way, but I wanted to be part of Canada, I was interested in politics, I was following up, when I had the right to vote I never miss an election, I was very much... And that was Harvey too. When we ever went somewhere together, that was to a political meeting. We voted different. But that was very strong in me. And I felt it was important… That’s probably why I avoided to stick with German groups and stuff, for the reason to assimilate; to be a Canadian and not a German anymore. So that’s the way I feel; when I speak about my homeland, that’s Canada. I love it here, I like to be here and Germany is not a place where I want to go back to. Also, I do remember many, not many, but some of friends who never got this feeling of being at home here. And I know two went back to Germany, they just couldn’t hack it, it was just too difficult for them to adjust.

Anneliese L., Session 2 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 6 Dec. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


2.2. What Was It Like To Be a Woman in Canada?
2.2. What Was It Like To Be a Woman in Canada?


Alexander: What did you being a woman play in those first years, how did that influence how you were treated and how you behaved... if at all?

Anneliese: Yeah, I don’t know. Whether that was important. I didn’t know too many… Yes, I did know some men, like my friend’s brothers came over. Whether that was... No, female or male, I didn’t think about that, how would it be if I was a man, or how would men act differently than I’m doing. I thought of — this is me and that’s what I’m doing and I didn’t care so much from a broad point of view — is that the female thing to do, or is that… No, that wasn’t important, that wasn’t an issue, male or female. No, no.

You see, the profession I was in, like nursing, you’re surrounded by females all the time, it was really a female domineering, like nurses, of course there are male nurses, but you can count them on your fingers, so I was always surrounded by females. And things we did when we had like from work little parties, somebody left or so, they were always girls only. So, I don’t know what the other side looked like. So, and that’s maybe I wasn’t quite just to my son, because he came up — the father was never there or there was no close relationship, but he had to work his way around all in three sisters and a mother, but he did alright. Ha, I think. Yeah, but he didn’t, I think maybe that’s because of, part of me, maybe he never got, he never had a girlfriend here and the wife he married just less than a year ago is Chinese from Taiwan and he was so much closer to the culture, to that type of culture and a female attitude. Maybe that was because he didn’t get a good role model at home. I don’t know.

Anneliese L., Session 2 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 6 Dec. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


Part 3: Gender Dynamics in Marriage and Family
Part 3: Gender Dynamics in Marriage and Family
3.1. Family Dynamics
3.1. Family Dynamics: Parents, Sibling, and Extended Family

There is no mention of family relations and all of her immediate family passed away before her moving to Canada.


3.2. Marriage Dynamics and Family Structure
3.2. Marriage Dynamics and Family Structure: Husband, Children, In-Laws


Alexander: Maybe you can tell me about the way you met your husband.

Anneliese: I don’t know if I want to get into that. -- Is that a personal story which you need to know? Well that is really, he doesn’t even really want to admit that it happened that way, so he didn’t ever tell our children, but I did. I told them how I met him. That was just an idea we had and it was lots of fun, as I told you, we got piles of letters. And then he appeared in Prince Rupert and we met there. And I thought he was a nice guy and I didn’t…-- You see that’s very much about very personal feelings you are asking me there. It wasn’t a matter of falling in love with anybody, it was a kind of a marriage of convenience. And I thought… Well convenience is not the right word, I didn’t need any convenience. I was just thinking…-- I thought a marriage would be something you don’t need to fall in love. If there are two reasonable people, there would be a trusting relationship and you could build from there and it would turn in to — that was my idea — it could turn in to love in that sense of, well, trusting and having a companion and sharing things in life. And this is how I looked at it.

So, I… I met him here and we wrote in… Here, I mean in Prince Rupert and he came to visit and we wrote back and forth…


After we met and thought we approved of each other, so-to-speak, we kind of had fun together, and he was a bachelor and he was thirty-six and I was twenty-nine. We thought, “Well, maybe it will work.” And he had this house here and he was looking for somebody, he didn’t want to live alone in a house; so, we decided, “Well, let’s get married.” And that’s what we did. And I quit my job there and then — as I told you — I became ill and had this jaundice and we had to put it off for another six or so weeks. And then I came down here to New Westminster and we got married very quietly and I got used to married life in Canada.

And my husband didn’t have a nine-to-five job, he was with the airlines and he was away a lot, and so I was alone a lot. Within the first year — I got married in May, and next March, Shirley was born, my oldest. And then that kept me busy and I wasn’t lonely anymore. He was a real, well in Germany ein eingeborener Junggeselle [bachelor], he was used to his very independent spirit; like, marriage was something for him, I guess... He still did his own thing, he was far too long being by himself and me, I think when I think back, I think I needed a lot of space too. I was just as “bad” or as “good” in wanting... I don’t think I’m a person with very... I like people, but it’s more, -- I don’t think I’m very good in intimate relationships, or very close. So, to me it was almost a right match, because he didn’t demand that of me. But then later on in life as I learned and as I got older, I noticed there was a lot missing, because we couldn’t really never ever share things. At the beginning, he had — for two reasons I guess. The first reason — all the power in the relationship, because he was used to it for one thing, to do what he wanted, and I was glad somebody did the thinking for me, my English still wasn’t so good, and I soon had that child, and when I was pregnant I was very sick, like nauseated and I had all kinds of troubles, so was glad I didn’t have to think about how to spend the money and make the decision, it was always his. And when I later on thought, “Oh, that’s not the way it goes, I have my opinion, too,” that didn’t go over very well. Then it was already kind of he was used to me doing… He making all the decisions and I would just go along. So, when I finally woke up from this [laughs], and had my own opinion, and made my own decisions, so it was a bit difficult, you know.

Alexander: How many years did it take you?

Anneliese: Oh, well, you see, it took me years, you’re right, it was more than a year or two, because there came one kid after another, each year one, and I couldn’t think of anything else, of my personal, what I want out of life. My life now was — look after those kids. And having those small ones for, it was a twenty-four-hour-job and that even wasn’t enough hours in the day. I was just very busy, and I was still grateful too that he looked after everything. So, when they grew up and went to Kindergarten and to school, I thought, “To heck with it!” And I started going to work and I gave my full paycheque always to him, to look after it. And all of a sudden, I thought... And he had this idea to invest all that money or put it away and I had no decision making in that at all. And the day came when I said, “No, look, we should have separate accounts and it’s my money and I earn it.” And that didn’t go over very well. Naturally, if you’re used to that type of, you know. But then we kind of eventually that fell into place. There were other things, he liked drinking a little bit, and now of course as I told you, he is... Dementia is there and it’s sad and it’s bad and it’s difficult.

But at the beginning... You see, in life I don’t think there is any right or wrong, you make your decision as best as you can at that time. And I was hoping things were right. And he did a lot of things for us, in his way really went all out to... and he loved his kids... To make our life good, he worked hard to make it good for us. But it was always the way he wanted it, he never asked us, “Well, how do you feel about it?” and “Is that what you want?” And I thought maybe that’s the background where he comes from. Maybe also an attitude men used to have, you know? Most men, I meet a lot in this age group; they all kind of more or less similar. The wife sits at home and she has certain duties — look after the man, and clean the house and do that, and he is making the financial decision. When I got this freedom with that money, with my own paycheque, it was tough, and it created really serious problems, and it always backfires still. But it was a good decision for me and it worked out and I do the things with my money now, MY money and his money is two different things. What I want. I do go traveling, so that’s the way it was. That was our relationship, yeah.

Anneliese L., Session 2 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 6 Dec. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. e



Anneliese:  Harvey was away a lot, you know, his trips. So, he wouldn’t come home in the evening, and I had the kids all the time. And when he was here he was often very tired. You know it’s a long day and then he wanted to sleep and then… And he wasn’t talkative to me and he wouldn’t say very much. Anyway, so I was just kids’ conversation and I needed an adult outlet somewhere. So that was that. And that’s why I also liked to go back to work soon, because of… I arranged for a babysitter and I went to work after, full-time, after Irene, the youngest, was two years old.

Alexander: Was marriage rather a sharp change, a radical change or was it more a gradual change in your life?

Anneliese: Marriage? Yeah, I adjusted to that pretty good I thought. It wasn’t a drastic... It was more or less what I kind of thought it would be, except maybe I expected more in the personal relationship, a little bit more, that I could talk about things. He was never interested in what I was feeling or what my, “I don’t want to know about it. And he would not say anything about his own feelings from work, he wouldn’t come home and tell me what was going on.

Anneliese L., Session 2 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 6 Dec. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 



Alexander: The way you felt about yourself, did that change with marriage?

Annaliese: Yeah, it was a process, really. I went through a lot of frustration. I found it hard to handle. And there a couple of points where I seeked out marriage counselors. And was ready to divorce, actually. “That’s not the way...” And then I couldn’t. And actually, I was amazed, the marriage counselors I saw, they were very supportive of me, to one even I said, “How come what I’m telling you — my husband would tell you a totally different story — how come you believe what I’m saying?” Well, he just smiled and says, “I know, you’re telling the truth.” And they would… You see, you always have to make your own decision. Nobody can make a decision for you and that’s not what they’re there for. They just help you see the lights and tell you the options. And what he was kind of saying, “Well you have that option to get out of that, it will never really work the way you think it, I mean it should work and maybe, that’s the time to do, and how to go about it.” And I would come home and cry and think about it, and then I made the decision to stick it out. And right or wrong, but I couldn’t see, I think the main reason was, I wasn’t strong enough physically to fight him. Because I know it would be a fight, have the house divided. And he would be sticky about details. Whose car and where, and he wouldn’t take that very lightly. And me, where I am to go with four kids, you know, and he wouldn’t make a deal like I could stay in the house with the four kids and he would leave quietly. And I thought oh my gosh, I can’t face that. I just can’t do that. I’m not a strong enough character to do that. And I knew it would be a real fight and I wasn’t up to that. I had enough fighting to do.

And, so it always kind of came in waves. And then there was a period of tolerance again; we just lived side by side and it was kind of smooth, you know daily routine. Until something, because there were all those unresolved problems within him and within me and sometimes when a little thing came up and we would just fly at each other. And then there were always the times, “I can’t stand another minute, I have to go.” But then, it settled down and with his character, I think that’s almost partially his disease, like his mother said he should have had treatment from when he was a child, it’s part of his character. He would… You could not ever ever sit down and say, “Let’s talk about it, what’s wrong and how can we straighten that out.” He wouldn’t… When you start next morning after a fight, he would act like nothing would happen. And I would, okay let’s sit and what was going on and how can we straighten this out. It would be, “don’t always bring that up again” and he wouldn’t. “You never let go, do you?” Well, it wasn’t resolved in my mind. And so, then I accepted that in my mind. He willingly forgot about it or whatever, until it came up again. So, that’s the way it is.

Anneliese L., Session 2 of 2. Oral history interview by Alexander Freund, Surrey, B.C., 6 Dec. 1993, University of Winnipeg Oral History Centre. 


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