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Montreal’s Black Market Babies: Sold Man Tells His Heart-Wrenching Story

An estimated 1,000 babies were sold to adoptive parents in Canada and abroad through a black market ring that operated in Quebec during the 1940s and 50s. Most of those infants ended up in Jewish families who were ready to pay for a chance to raise their adopted children in Judaism.

In an interview with Sputnik, Harold Rosenberg, who was “sold” as a baby in 1949, and who thought he was born in Montreal, told Sputnik about how he had finally learned the truth.

“The 1940s was a period of Great Darkness in Quebec where local churches and mental hospitals were busy selling newborn babies to adoptive parents,” Harold said.

The law on adoptions enacted in Quebec in 1924 made sure that the adoptive parents were well-established in society, financially secure and were Christians.

“The church preferred the children to live in orphanages as Catholics rather than be raised in Judaism in Jewish families,” said film director Monique Fournier, who knew many of those “illegal adoptees.”

She added that the stringent rules imposed by the clergy on single mothers resulted in orphanages being full of babies born out of wedlock.

Back in those days there were thousands of Jewish families in and around Montreal who were eager to adopt children.

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To meet this growing demand some local wheeler-dealers started faking birth certificates thus turning babies born by Catholic mothers into Jews and selling them to Jewish families.

“My father met Mme. Baker, a matchmaker from Montreal’s Jewish diaspora, who found him a baby, that is me, and he named me Harold. This is the only name I’ve got,” Harold Rosenberg said, adding that he had accidentally learned the truth from his cousin.

Harold had enjoyed a happy childhood living in a middle-class family in Montreal. When he finally learned the truth, his adoptive parents were already dead.

He eventually managed to learn that his birth mother’s name was Marie Boyko. He got in touch with her husband, Eugène Trembley, who said, ”we’ve been looking for this boy for 53 years now.”

Harold Rosenberg also found out that his mother had given him up for adoption even before she got married,and that he had a half-brother, Eugène Trembley Jr., who lived in London, Ontrario.

“She apparently gave her first-born up for official adoption and promised never to do it again. Unfortunately, eighteen months later she got pregnant again and, feeling ashamed, she probably sold me to this black market in Montreal,” he said.

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The black market baby ring that was broken up in 1954 was making $3 million dollars a year selling newborn babies to adoptive parents for $10,000 apiece through doctors, lawyers,  social workers, Rabbis and sometimes even middlemen who transferred them directly from their parents to would-be adopters also in the United States.

“We are now looking for a third baby, maybe a year or so my senior, who was legally adopted in Quebec. That’s the end of this story,” Harold Rosenberg said.

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