Friday, July 22, 2016

Enlisted because his friends had died in Dieppe: Toronto veteran Larry Levy dies

Larry Levy, April 2016 (Photo by Ellin Bessner)
I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Larry twice this spring at his Toronto home, where he gave me some amazing stories about his World War ll service, being Jewish in the military, even about a brothel, and the first open-air Jewish service held inside Germany in March 1945. He was a sweet, and energetic Jewish war veteran. I was writing about him on Friday morning and holding his file in my hand when the Legion emailed me to let me know he had passed away. Beshert. I am only sorry he didn't live to see his stories in my forthcoming book.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Canadian Dieppe Raid Veteran says it was supposed to be just another drill.

Miriam and Hon. Col. David Lloyd Hart, MM with Ellin Bessner
(Ellin Bessner photo)

I just interviewed a 98-year-old Canadian Jewish veteran of the 1942 Dieppe Raid from World War ll, Hon. Col. David Hart. He was on a landing craft just off the beach from Dieppe operating a radio wireless set. The then-Sergeant with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals was credited with saving 100 Canadian commandos, who hadn't received the signal to retreat. It had been sent from the raid headquarters ship offshore but they were too far away from the action. So he relayed the message again, and got through, amidst the murderous German gunfire on that terrible August 19 day. Hart and his wife Miriam still live in Montreal, in their own home, and were gracious to give up part of their Saturday to meet with me. His eye- witness recollections will be in Chapter 7 of my book "Double Threat" about Canada's Jews in Uniform in World War ll. They are about to celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary. Note the wartime photo of then Sergeant Hart in the background. It shows his citation for winning the Military Medal, which he picked up from the King at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in late 1942. Watch this wartime newsreel of the event. You can see Hart and his two brothers at about 8 minutes into the video.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Decorated Jewish Canadian World War ll doctor dies in Toronto: the pathologist who was also a hero of Sogel

Dr. Nathan Kaufman, MBE and MiD, (courtesy Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel)
One of the most highly decorated Canadian Jewish medical officers during the Second World War has died. Captain Nathan Kaufman, a Montreal native, was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire and was mentioned in despatches for his actions in Germany in April 1945. He went on to become a famous pathologist and was professor emeritus at Queen's University. He died Wednesday in Toronto, in his 100th year. Captain Kaufman and a Toronto dentist , Captain Harry Jolley, were tending to wounded men in an Canadian army medical field dressing station when it came under attack. Both unarmed Jewish officers put down their stethoscopes and picked up discarded weapons to fight off the German paratroopers and civilian snipers in Sogel. Funeral/internment is Sunday in Kingston. (Photo courtesy Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A lost Winnipeg airman's WWll logbook is now back with his family, seventy three years after his death. I helped.

It was sent back to the grieving father in Winnipeg in 1948. To the wrong address. That's why Samuel Jacob Donen's RCAF log book went back to Ottawa, and was placed in the Jewish airman's military files, where it sat for nearly seven decades. The family never knew it existed. I found it. On the eve of Remembrance Day, 2015. Here is the story. 
Thanks to Bernie Bellan at the Jewish Post and News in Winnipeg for publishing it this week.

Larry Donen, holding his uncle's Log Book.

Samuel Jacob Donen, in uniform. (Ellin Bessner photo)

Donen grave in Accra, Ghana.

Last page of log book. (Ellin Bessner photo)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Writing the Wrong: What Canada should know about the Jewish servicemen and women in WW2

It's been one year exactly since I received the green light from my college, Centennial College, in Toronto, to take a year Sabbatical in order to research and write my book about the untold stories of Canada's Jews in Uniform in the Second World War. The letter came from the Professional Development Leave people in late February 2015. Hard to believe nine months have passed! But some 250 interviews + seven cities + 15 archives + 2 FOI requests + tens of thousands of words later (and counting) +  six speaking engagements + 60 SDHC memory cards,  I am well into the manuscript. 
Centennial College's Centre for Organizational Learning and Teaching 
asked me to conduct a webinar about my research so far. If you missed the live broadcast, here is the replay. Don't panic if you see a different person when it starts: she is introducing me. I begin shortly after.

Speaking to Toronto Jewish veterans Legion Branch 256

Researching at Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, Winnipeg

Interview with Hy Chud(novsky)

Skype interview with Bill McAllister

Interview Elaine Zadjeman