Montreal, December 1, 2022– Students at Marymount Academy International in NDG were moved by the personal visit of Holocaust survivor Muguette Szpajzer-Myers who shared her emotional story.
The visit was organized by teacher Stacey Blumer, in cooperation with The Azrieli Foundation Memoirs Program. Ms. Blumer was a past recipient of a Riva and Thomas O. Hecht, Teaching of the Holocaust for Educators scholarship. Teachers were awarded these bursaries to study the Holocaust in Jerusalem and then integrate that experience into their classroom curriculums.
Muguette was born in 1931 in Paris (France). She lost her father when she was three years old. Since her mother had to work to support the family, Muguette had to go to school with her brother despite her young age. When the war broke out in 1939, Muguette left the city with her school. Her mother and brother fled to the small village of Champlost, 160 kilometres from Paris. Muguette joined them a few months later. The family returned to Paris in 1941 and managed to evade capture on numerous occasions thanks to the help of friends and strangers and, sometimes, by sheer luck. In July 1942, Muguette narrowly escaped the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of Parisian Jews by fleeing to Normandy the day before it took place. She was later reunited with her family in Champlost. Everyone in the village knew they were Jewish, but no one denounced them. The mayor ripped up letters of denunciation while the priest advised them to take French sounding names to keep their identity hidden. He gave Muguette a new Catholic name, Marie, taught her catechism and made sure that she attended mass every Sunday.
Muguette, her mother and her brother stayed in the village until liberation. When they returned to Paris, Muguette enrolled in business school. In 1947, the family immigrated to Canada, sponsored by uncles and an aunt from Brantford, Ontario, and settled in Montreal. Muguette returned to her studies for a short period of time before gaining employment in a men’s clothing factory where she met her future husband. They married in 1951 and had two children. Muguette is a volunteer speaker for the Montreal Holocaust Museum and also gives testimony across Canada on behalf of the Azrieli Foundation, which published her memoirs in 2015
About the Project
The objective of the EMSB Holocaust Education Program is to sensitize students and staff to the history of the Holocaust and acts of Antisemitism via special guests, lectures and visits to the Montreal Holocaust Museum and different exhibits and programming in the community. It is supported by a Nova grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal.