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Produced and directed by Neal Livingston
Black River Productions, 1993. VHS cassette 47 min., $129.95.
Distributed by Lynx Images Releasing.

Subject Headings:
World War, 1939-1945-Concentration camps-New Brunswick-Fredericton.
Refugees, Jewish-Canada.
Political prisoners-Canada.

Grades 12 and up / Ages 17 and up

Reviewed by Brenda Reed

Volume 22 Number 4
1994 September

Both Sides of the Wire is based on a book of the same name by Ted Jones. The two-part videotape records the memories of German and Austrian Jewish refugees who fled to England in the early years of World War II and who were later sent to a camp in New Brunswick. Part I, approximately 22 min long, tells the stories of several individuals who were sent to Canada. The men recall their experiences in "Camp B," and they explain why they were interned there. The British government, apparently uncertain of the loyalty of Jewish refugees, decided to intern thousands of people in 1940, and approximately 800 refugees ended up in Camp B, where they were held from the summer of that year until mid-1941 or longer.

In Part 2, former prisoners continue to recall their camp experiences. Helmut Kallmann, the former head of the Music Division of the National Library of Canada talks with other men about conditions in the camp and the effect that internment had on their lives. After more than fifty years, these men do not refer often to the discomforts of Camp B, but they do express resentment against the stupidity of governments that cannot treat refugees with understanding. Dr. Paula Draper, who is identified as having written a thesis on the male refugees in Canada's war camps, notes that Jews were not welcome in Canada during the war years, but this issue is not pursued.

Both Sides of the Wire documents particular, and not a pleasant, moment in Canadian history. The presentation is straightforward, but because it consists mainly of men recalling their past it is not always compelling material. A more detailed explanation of the Canadian government's involvement with the camps would have been helpful. Where exactly was Camp B--and was it built for the purpose of internment? The name of the nearest town is mentioned once, but, unless this material is secret, the location could have been made clearer.

The technical aspects of the film are satisfactory, and the use of Leonard Cohen's "Who by Fire" is appropriate. However, not all high schools will have the funds to consider purchase. The film would be appropriate for senior high courses that examine the twentieth-century refugee phenomenon, Canadian involvement in World War II, or the treatment of Jews during World War II. Libraries with a strong collection of Canadian, World War II, or Jewish history will want to consider the video for its documentary value.

Brenda Reed is a librarian in Kingston, Ontario

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