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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Watchmaker of Normandy: Murray Jacobs

Murray Jacobs, (Ellin Bessner photo).
I had the honour to interview Murray Jacobs last December, 2014 at his Toronto home as part of my research into the contribution of Canadian Jewish servicemen and women in the Second World War.
Murray was a former president of the Royal Canadian Legion #256 General Wingate branch in Toronto. He was a tireless campaigner to raise money to improve the lives of today's surviving veterans and to honour the legacies of those Jewish servicemen who didn't come home
Murray was a trained watchmaker from Toronto who was called upon to use his specialized trade in Normandy during the war in the battle that begun Aug. 7/8, 1944 called Operation Totalize. His commanding officer Lt.-Gen. Guy G. Simonds decided to get the workshop men to make it safer for infantry to get into the fight. He asked Jacobs and his team to turn 75 Canadian Priest tanks into so-called "Kangaroos" (or defrocked priests as they were called): take out the gun turret and reinforce the sides and voila you have a safer way to transport men into battle. They did the conversion work in three days in an orchard under the blazing August sun. These were the first use of armoured personnel carriers for the Canadian infantry in the field. And those men who rode in them suffered fewer casualties then the infantry who walked. The Kangaroos were used in the fighting to close the Falaise Gap. Murray also was a proud Jew who wore a prayer shawl under his uniform. He actually had two of these, because his father made a pair so he could wear one at all times (if the second was dirty or in the wash). He told me he was the only watchmaker the Canadian army had in Normandy. So sorry to hear of his passing.

On Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at home. Murray Jacobs beloved husband of Millie Jacobs. Loving father and father- in-law of Tami and Joel Kligman, Nancy and Marty Frankel, and Howard and Chris Jacobs. Dear brother and brother-in-law of Arlene and the late Sheldon Miller, and the late Bess and Bill Nowack, Kay and Moe Greenbaum, Morris and Ethel Jacobs, and Art and Sophie Jacobs. Devoted grandfather of Sarah and Brian, Joe and Julie, Sabra and Dan, and Dylan. Devoted great- grandfather of Jesse, Alexander, and Ben. Interment Jewish War Veteran's section at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park. Memorial donations may be made to the Murray Jacobs Memorial Fund c/o the Benjamin Foundation, 3429 Bathurst Street, Toronto, M6A 2C3, 416-780-0324 or