Photographic transfers on 10 birch bark sheets processed by taxidermist Cheryl Johnson w/ denim Curtains and generic red card stock.
Loitering on the forest’s edge within the absolute middle of nowhere between Minto and New Brunswick’s capital of Fredericton, sits the remnants of internment camp B70, the only known camp within the Maritimes. Originally operating as a 22-hectare labour site along the Ripples rail-line during the Depression, B70’s pre-existing utilities were quickly and quietly converted to an internment zone for German and Austrian Jews, 711 men and teenage boys all fleeing the horrors of Nazi designs. Churchill had suspected them as spies, or perhaps suspected spies hiding amongst their status as migrants, and had requested Canada and Australia to house them as internees. These people who had expected safe harbour from the rumours of extermination instead found themselves stripped from their families and confined within a dense, inescapable wood.
Each man was to wear denim pants marked with a vague red stripe on the leg, and denim jackets with a large red circle on the back. These red markings could’ve been fashioned to denote the prisoners should they escape as the red fabric seemed ill fitting against denim, or just as likely act as targets. And so, under the duress of machine gun turrets and barbed fences, they spent their days cutting cords of wood to keep their stoves warm within scant barracks. It is equally suspected and disputed that at least 10 internees from this period died within the camp and it is still unknown how deeply these families were displaced. Their stories have been forgotten, scrubbed or selected to be secrets. As homage, an enigmatic group long after the camps closure had mounted 10 wooden faces upon trees scattered within the camp’s remains. Most of these faces have disappeared over the years but a few still the rest amongst the bark. They’re quite haunting if you ever notice them staring back. It’s makes one wonder what other tales lay deep within the wood; what things wait to be uncovered.
As the war grew beyond anticipation, these Jewish internees were offered a choice to return to England and join military ranks or obtain a sponsor to remain in Canada or the US. Many contributed to the fields of medicine, arts and so on, but most of their tales lest for the few notables were more or less forgotten. Camp B70 was soon reupholstered in 1941 into a prisoner-of-war-camp. Over the next four years, B70 would house 1,200 prisoners, German and Italtian merchant marines, Canadians who spoke out against the war, and those holding too close an acquaintance with fascist organizations.
It’s a strange and shadowy snippet within New Brunswick lore, and like so many other advents, its one that’s only available if you search past the colonial era that so many entities, until recent days, have fastidiously polished. Conversely, it’s difficult to find these things as some have been swallowed by the woods, perhaps better left forgotten.
Forlorn is a series of printed works detailing the forgotten, abandoned, and questionable areas of New Brunswick. Forlorn has been funded by ArtsNB and the Canada Council for the Arts Research and Creation grants.
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