Holocaust survivor, author, humanitarian and Bracebridge resident Eva Olsson has been appointed a member of the Order of Canada.
In a press release this morning, the Governor General’s Office announced Olsson has officially been made a member, “for relentlessly promoting tolerance and for encouraging Canadians to rise against bullying and discrimination.”
Via social media, Olsson said she was honoured to receive the Order of Canada.
“I arrived in Nova Scotia in 1951 with my husband, at the age of 27,” she says. “We were grateful for the opportunity to become Canadians and proudly adopted the values of this country.”
Earlier today Mary Simon, Governor-General of Canada, announced 135 appointments to the Order of Canada, including Olsson.
Created in 1967, the Order of Canada recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. More than 7,000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order. Those who bear the Order’s iconic snowflake insignia have changed our nation’s measure of success and, through the sum of their accomplishments, have helped us build a better Canada.
Appointments are made by the governor-general on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada.
From Crestwood Preparatory College’s Oral History Project:
Eva Olsson grew up in Hungary, born into a Jewish family in Satu Mare, Hungary. She remembers the family’s Hasidic traditions, and the poverty and simplicity of her early life.
Like other Hungarian Jews, Eva was comparatively isolated from the war raging all around them; they heard rumours and such, but as Hungary was allied with the Axis powers, day-to-day life was relatively unchanged. That was not the case after May 1944 though; Nazi Germany occupied its Hungarian ally, and Hungarian Jews immediately felt the weight of the Shoah.
Eva and her family were now inside the ghetto, and with in a matter of weeks the deportations began. The family walked seven kilometres and were boarded on to the waiting boxcars, where the brutal conditions were unrelenting for four days. They arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau and with the selections, the family was separated, with most going to the gas chambers and crematoria.
Eva and her sisters were selected fro slave labour, and after spending a few weeks in the camp, they were sent to Dusseldorf, and then Essen, Germany, to work in the Krupp factory system. Eva spent some time there during the winter of 1944-45, and was present during the day-and-night bombing that made up the Allies’ Ruhr bombing campaign. Bombs eventually destroyed the part of the factory where Eva was working, so she and the other forced labourers were herded into a hole in the ground, before being forced on to the boxcars again.
This time she was sent to Belsen, which would be her final destination. She spent several months there, barely surviving starvation and disease, when the British liberated the camp in April 1945.
That is when her emotional and physical recovery began, and during this time she made the decision to relocate herself and her sister to Sweden. There she would meet Rudi, her eventual husband, and a few years later the two made the journey to Canada, where they settled and raised their family.
Eva did not speak about her experiences for many years; in fact, it was only when her grandchildren were old enough – fifty years after the fact – that she began to open up, first to the grandchildren’s classes, and then to audiences all over Canada, and even at the United Nations.
Eva has a passion for social justice and her mission is to maintain the legacy and the memory of those that were murdered during the Shoah.
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