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History Table of Contents
1991 Summer Conference
 
Summer Conference 1991
Growing up on the Edge: The Emerging Generation and Canada's Future

Couchiching's Diamond Jubilee

ERIC KOCH,
Author, CIPA Director

I love Couchiching because it reminds me of prison.

You think I'm kidding; I'm not.

Kurt Swinton, who is no longer with us, and I come from the same kind of prison.

Patricia described us very well in the book. We are refugees from Nazi Europe. And we came to England; Kurt I think came in 1938. I came two or three years earlier. He came from Vienna, I came from Frankfurt.

We came to England to be educated and in 1940 we were interned six months after the outbreak of the war, because the British could not distinguish between German refugees, like Kurt and I, and Nazi spies.

Although an attempt had been made at the beginning of the war to draw distinctions and there were special tribunals, we had to appear before judges.

Then, in May, 1940, during the fall of France, the British interned most refugees of German and Austrian nationalities.

After a few weeks, about 3,000 of us were shipped to Canada. The Canadians, in order to help the Mother Country, took it upon themselves to have Kurt Swinton and Me interned in Canada.

These were real camps, with machine guns and military. There was a sergeant major and we were bullied and yelled at.

For years in the camp we had discussions with a lot of bright people, isolated from the "Real World" and devoted to interesting, important and, to some extent, survival subjects. We had Couchiching.

Kurt had been at the Polytechnical in Vienna, and electronic engineer. He was devoted, he was a great organizer, and he was one of the first to organize in this kind of internment camp Couchiching schools. This is where Kurt and I developed a taste for what we are doing here.

We managed to get out of this camp legally and within a year or two I drifted into the CBC. Kurt drifted into many things, among others, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and later went into business. But his real passion was always education.

In the CBC, I continued the kinds of things I had done in the internment camp. I was in the department which created the radio dimension of Couchiching. And Couchiching became big and nationally important because of the CBC. And in 1952, it put on these discussions for one week, Monday to Friday nights from 8-10 on the Trans- Canada Network.

That was how we exercised influence. We set the agenda, we didn't make decisions, or recommendations.