Today's Classical Music Video

Friday, July 1, 2011

Three Wartime Refugees and Their Contributions to Music in Canada: Blume, Newmark and Kraemer

During the early days of the Second World War a number of people from German-speaking countries found themselves in England. They were treated as possible threats to the Allied countries, rounded up and placed in internment camps. Many of them were later transferred to camps in Canada where they remained for many months or years until their status could be determined. After being released from these camps many of these people settled in Canada and went on to make major contributions to the country. Among them were Eric Koch, Helmut Blume, John Newmark and Franz Kraemer.

Eric Koch (1919-) studied to be a lawyer at Cambridge and at the University of Toronto but made his career in broadcasting with the CBC. He has also written several books about his experiences as a refugee. More recently, he has recorded a series of video talks in which he speaks about the war years. This is one of them. Helmut Blume (1914-1998) also was a CBC broadcaster but he was primarily a faculty member in the Department of Music at McGill. John Newmark (1904-1991) was a gifted pianist who became well-known as Maureen Forrester's accompanist. Franz Kraemer (1914-1999) produced music and opera programmes for CBC Television. Later, he organized concerts at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto, and later still headed the music section of the Canada Council. I didn't know Blume or Newmark - except by reputation - but I did have the pleasure of knowing Franz Kraemer very well. In fact, I succeeded him as music director of Toronto Arts Productions. He made an enormous contribution to music in Canada. His television productions were pioneering efforts and his encouragement of Canadian composers and performers was remarkable.

During the 1940s Canada was still in the early stages of its cultural development. World War II brought terrible suffering to millions but by chance more than by design Canada was greatly enriched by the many talented refugees from Germany and Austria who ended up here. Their contributions should not be forgotten.

Paul E. Robinson

For more about Eric Koch visit his website at



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