By: Aditi Dwivedi, News Writer
The Azrieli Foundation’s Holocaust Memoirs Program in collaboration with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, organized a book launch of Marie (Mariette) Doduck’s memoir A Childhood Unspoken. The book launch was held on January 22 at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.
Doduck was born in 1935 to a Jewish family in Brussels, Belgium. Doduck is a child survivor of the Holocaust. After the German invasions of Poland and subsequently Belgium during World War II, Doduck was separated from her mother and seven siblings. She lived in hiding with a foster family until she was reunited with four of her surviving siblings in 1945. She was one of 1,123 orphaned Jewish children who were brought to Canada through the War Orphans Project, started by the Canadian Jewish Congress in 1947. Well known in the community for her leadership and activism, Doduck is actively involved in Holocaust education and is also the co-founder of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.
A Childhood Unspoken is a record of her survival in the Holocaust, and the aftermath of being separated from her family and home. Doduck believes “survival is a coat you never take off.”
Lauren Faulkner Rossi, assistant professor from the department of history at SFU, approached Doduck to co-write her story. She said it allowed her to revisit the painful memories of her past and share her story with the world. She also received support from the Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program, which was launched in 2005 by the Azrieli Foundation to collect, preserve, and share the memoirs and diaries written by survivors of the Holocaust who came to Canada.
In her introduction to A Childhood Unspoken, Rossi wrote, “The act of preserving an eyewitness story like Mariette’s is important for many reasons: it becomes part of and builds on the historical record. It makes available that perspective to current and future readers.” She noted Doduck’s account of her life is not only part of the history surrounding the Holocaust and World War II, but also a significant piece of local history. Like countless survivors who came to Canada, Doduck had to “fight against Holocaust denial, antisemitism, and racial intolerance, which are still active threats around the world, including Canada.”
During the book launch, Doduck shared the process of writing her story with Rossi. She said it was “a very painful trip,” as she recalled not only her difficult transition from Europe to Canada but also the separation of her identity from her childhood self: “I was an old woman trapped in a twelve-year-old body.” To write the memoir, she had to put aside her life as Marie Doduck to revisit her childhood as young Mariette. “This Marie Doduck is who I created to fit-in in Vancouver, because we weren’t accepted. We were from outer space, we didn’t speak the language.”
The book launch was followed by a book signing event and was attended by an overwhelming audience, exceeding the seating capacity of the venue. Many members of the close-knit Jewish community of Vancouver attended the event; one audience member, whose mother was also a child survivor, spoke to The Peak about why it was important for her to attend the event. “Someone has to carry on these memories [ . . . ] It was important to me to be there, support her, and also support the community, and support my mom.”