In 2018, the German-Canadian Studies Fellowship program awarded two German-Canadian Studies Research Grants and the German-Canadian Studies Undergraduate Essay Prize.
Melanie Carina Schmoll from the University of Hamburg received a Research Grant for her study entitled “History and Memory: Holocaust education in Canada and Germany or Does Canada do a better job than the country of perpetrators?” Schmoll questions why more institutions and programs in Canada teach about the Holocaust compared to Germany. Specifically, she looks to compare the province of Alberta, Canada and the State of Hamburg in Germany and is concerned with notions of guilt and trivialization, as her project aims to show that Holocaust education is insufficient in Germany.
Carmen Ponto, from Winnipeg, Manitoba received a Research Grant for her project “A German-Canadian family’s experience growing up in Europe during world war two, and their subsequent immigration to Canada.” The objective of her project is to interview her father, who grew up in Germany, about his life as the son of a Nazi party member. This will be done to gain insight into the experiences of German children in Nazi Germany and how they reconciled their upbringing after immigrating to Canada following the events of the Second World War. The final product will include recorded interviews, transcripts, photographs and research in the form of a book.
Aleksandra Manzura from the University of Winnipeg received the Undergraduate Essay Prize for her essay entitled “Women’s Woes: Experiences of German-Canadian Women during Their Husband’s Internment in the Second World War, 1939-1945.” Her paper explores the experiences and hardships of women left behind by the internment of their husbands during the Second World War. She uses the case study of the Schneider family of Little Britain, Manitoba to investigate six areas of experience: the hardship of mandatory registration and regulation of “enemy aliens,” the stress and uncertainty of early internment operations, censorship, overcoming financial loss, the division of household responsibilities, and the form of moral support and advocating for interned husbands by their wives.
Read more about the fellowship and award recipients’ research below.
Undergraduate Essay Prize
Between growing up in Israel, spending my summers in Ukraine, and eventually moving to Canada I have experienced a variety of cultures and languages peaking my curiosity for others. This curiosity drove me to take a German course as a personal elective which eventually spiraled into a minor and led me to take a German-Canadian history class in my final year. As a part of this class we were required to examine archives from a German settlement in Little Britain, Manitoba and choose a primary source to construct a final paper.
I chose to centre my final project on the letters Thilde Schneider wrote to her husband Fritz Schneider—who had established the Little Britain colony—during his internment at the beginning of the Second World War. While most letters were written in German, the few letters that were written in English reflected on some of Thilde’s struggles during her husband’s interment. I compared Thilde’s struggles to those felt by other wives and families of internees as documented in secondary literature, in order to draw some generalization about the experiences of women, which have been often overlooked historically. These struggles included bearing the responsibilities for farms and businesses left behind, being the primary caretakers of the children and households, as well as dealing with legal issues and the emotional distress of their husbands’ interment. This project was quite a venture from my regular school work and provided for a very fascinating opportunity to work with primary sources and archives.
Aleksandra Manzhura, University of Winnipeg
Carmen is a mother, social worker, and filmmaker living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is the daughter of a German immigrant, and niece and granddaughter to several strong German women whose strength and perseverance after World War Two continue to inspire Carmen to this day. Her work drives her to be continually fascinated by regular people’s stories. She lives according to the belief that everybody has a story that deserves to be told and heard.
Carmen was raised as an only child by her single father, and recalls hearing numerous stories through her childhood about his father’s questionable death as a Nazi official, his family’s subsequent fall into poverty, and the day-to-day life of him and his six siblings as they aimed to keep each other and their single mother alive in postwar Germany.
In an open-ended interview process, Carmen will visit with as many of her father’s siblings as possible, encouraging them to recount their family history—memories of their previous lives in Germany and Czechoslovakia, as wealthy Nazis, and, subsequently, as impoverished exiles; as children who acted as adults to support one another; their journey by foot from Czechoslovakia to Germany; and life in Canada after their immigration. She will archive her findings at the University of Winnipeg’s Oral History Centre in the hopes that these stories will continue to live on in a more permanent format.
Carmen Ponto, Winnipeg
It is a great honor and opportunity for me to receive the University of Winnipeg’s Research Grant in German-Canadian Studies. The grant supports my research on the comparative pilot study “Holocaust education in Canada and Germany—Does Canada do a better job than the country of perpetrators?”
Being a political scientist and lecturer in political sciences as well as a high school teacher for European history and politics, I recently finished a study entitled “’Holo… What?!’ Teaching the Holocaust in Germany—against all obstacles.” The study showed that teachers are confronted with barriers, incomprehension, and headwinds on a daily basis, but it is their task to ensure teaching the Holocaust against all obstacles.
Based on the bare figures of, for example, the Holocaust Remembrance Alliance as well as a first estimation, Canada prepares teachers and educators better than Germany due to the Holocaust and Holocaust education. “Better” is defined as the ability of teachers and educators to fulfill their mandatory task to teach the Holocaust against all obstacles.
Consistent with this finding, the main research question is: Does Canada do a better job than Germany when it comes to Holocaust education?
To answer this question the project seeks to develop a comparative pilot study on Holocaust education and the education and training of the teachers and educators in the province of Alberta in Canada and the State of Hamburg in Germany. The project seeks to explain the uniqueness of a very complex phenomenon, present a profound insight, and generate a hypothesis for a broader comparative study on Holocaust education in Canada and Germany.
Melanie Schmoll, University of Hamburg