'Notorious' PoW camp near Thunder Bay subject of book

A new book looks back at the history of a notorious prisoner of war camp located in Red Rock, Ont. during the Second World War.
The PoW camp in Red Rock, in northwestern Ontario, housed about 1,000 prisoners for 18 months during the Second World War. (supplied from private collection of the authors)
Michelle Beaulieu and David Ratz have written a book about the history of Canadian Internment Camp R In Red Rock during World War 11 8:59

A new book written by three Lakehead University historians in Thunder Bay looks back at the history of a prisoner of war camp located in Red Rock, Ont. during the Second World War. 

The Little Third Reich on Lake Superior: A History of Canadian Internment Camp R, tells the story of the camp, and its diverse collection of just over 1,000 prisoners. 

While the "notorious" camp was only open for 18 months near the beginning of the war, events there were well-recorded, and its influence was far-reaching, said Michel Beaulieu, chair of the department of history at Lakehead University, and one of the editors of the book. 

"And that's why Red Rock's such an interesting story," he said. "What occurs in those 18 months changes the very nature and structure and characteristic of prisoner of war camps both in Canada, and in the United States, for the rest of the war."

While Canadian officials were expecting only threatening prisoners to arrive from Britain, in reality what arrived was a mixed bag of Nazis, soldiers, merchant seamen, refugees and Jewish people of German descent.

The strange mix left Jewish prisoners, in particular, at risk of harassment, said Beaulieu.

"And all this begins to spill over where there's abuses, there's conflict, and the Canadian officials look at what occurs in Red Rock and eventually discover that the way they've gone about this was in fact incorrect," he said.

What happened at the Red Rock camp led to changes that improved conditions in other prisoner of war camps, said Beaulieu.

Research for The Little Third Reich on Lake Superior was begun by late historian Ernest Zimmermann, who died before the book was completed. After his death, the book was finished by his colleagues, and former students, Michel Beaulieu and David Ratz. 

The book is being launched in Thunder Bay on Tuesday October 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Thunder Bay Museum. 

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