Gord Allen served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. He grew up in prewar Toronto, where he remembers the tough times of the Great Depression; Gord recalls his father being out of work, and he remembers that he and his friends used to bring food to the homeless men down in the Don Valley. Gord did recall some of the good times, the sports and the movies that kept he and his friends occupied; at the same time, Gord admitted that he was unable to finish high school as he had to help out around the house. By the time of the war, the young Gord was married, with a family on the way, but even with this life development, Gord felt it was his duty to enlist when the time came. The air force was his first choice, but when that did not work out, Gord joined the army, and he was soon sent to Camp Borden. While there, Gord opted for the tank corps, hoping for more action. As the army was being reorganized for the new technological warfare of the battlefields in Europe, Gord ended up in the 17th Light Ambulance, in the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade. They would attend to the wounded and/or evacuate them back to Headquarters for hospitalization. Within the unit Gord was a motorcycle dispatch courier, so he would communicate information from the frontline tank infantry to the ambulance unit right behind. In this capacity Gord found himself right in the front lines, where he witnessed the horror of Caen, Falaise, and so many other battles in France, Belgium and Holland. Along the way Gord was himself seriously injured in Bruges, where an accident left him paralyzed for several weeks. Still, once back in health, he rejoined the unit and ended up in Germany at war’s end, where he remembers VE Day as a hollow victory. With the end of the war, Gord remained on the continent for a few months, delivering relief supplies for UNRRA. By the end of the year though, he was on his way back to Canada and his family, where he fell back into the rhythm of civilian life and Canada’s postwar rebuilding.
Mr. Masters visited Gord at his home in Fowler’s Corner, Ontario in July 2018, when he was interviewed for this project. We thank Gord’s family for their help in setting this up.
Oral History Project July 13th, 2018
Harry Preston served in the Canadian army during World War Two. He grew up in western Canada, in and around Winnipeg, where Harry and his family experienced the realities of the Depression. Harry kept himself busy though, and with friends, he got involved in the militia and the Sea Cadets, where he was able to do training that would help him in the war to come. Harry joined the Winnipeg Rifles with the coming of the war, but when the opportunity to specialize in artillery came, Harry took it. He was trained as an anti-aircraft gunner, a process that intensified upon arrival in England. Harry was often stationed in vulnerable areas as England was repeatedly bombed in the 1942-44 period; he defended radar stations, airfields, and coastal zones. While in England, Harry – like so many young Canadian soldiers – met an Englishwoman and fell in love, later marrying this Land Army worker and bringing her to Canada. First, Harry endured the European campaign. He was sent to France after D-Day, and now a member of a self-propelled gun crew, he and his team provided support to the advancing Canadian infantry as they moved through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and into Germany itself. With VE Day, Harry returned to England and once his wife was cleared for passage to Canada, they made the trip together, settling and building a life for themselves in the postwar period.
Oral History Project July 5th, 2018
Richard Field served in Canada’s 2nd Division during World War Two. He grew up in Toronto during the Depression years, where he was able to finish school and join the prewar militia and sea cadets, two organizations that would teach him many valuable lessons in the upcoming war years. When Richard moved into the regular army, he chose the artillery, where he learned all the facets of life in a 25-pounder crew. His training began in Canada, and after an uneventful troopship passage across the Atlantic, it continued in England. Shortly after D-Day, Richard’s crew was sent to Normandy and quickly into Belgium and the Netherlands, and Germany itself. As an artillery crewman, Richard provided support to the front line infantry troops, and he remembered intense battles in the Reichswald Forest and other sites along the route.
We met Richard at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in June 2018, where he was interviewed by a delegation of Crestwood students and Mr. Masters.
Oral History Project June 27th, 2018
Oral History Project June 18th, 2018
Peter Nesselroth was born in Berlin on March 1, 1935. When the situation for Jews worsened, his family moved to Belgium when he was almost 4 years old. After Kristallnacht, his parents just couldn’t reconcile staying in Germany any longer, so they moved to Brussels. During this time, Peter couldn’t go to school, so his father taught him at home. When his father was taken away, Peter and his mother went into hiding, and the young Peter grew accustomed to his new life. Peter and his mother would be taken into custody too – arrested by the Gestapo – but as Peter was ill, he was allowed to go to the hospital, from which his escape would be orchestrated. At that time, he fled to Switzerland and was adopted by others. Peter is currently 83 years old and living in Toronto. Peter Nesselroth was interviewed for this project on January 11, 2018, when he spoke to English 8 and History 10 students
Oral History Project April 13th, 2018
Anne Eidlitz was born in 1936, just before the war started. She was born in Antwerp, Belgium and lived with her mother, her father, and her younger sister Rosa. Her first languages were Flemish and Yiddish. She was the oldest grandchild and had many privileges and was given many things that the other grandchildren were not. When the war began, the family went into hiding, and Anne was taught what to do should the Gestapo come looking for them. Her father was taken away early on, and the rest of the family stayed in hiding. When the Nazis came for her mother, Anne followed her mother’s instructions and the Gestapo left the young Anne behind. Her new family felt the situation was too dangerous, and Anne was sent to Switzerland, where she spent the rest of the war years. Following the war she returned to Belgium, where she learned of the murder of her parents. She went into the care of other family, and years later made her way to Canada.
Anne visited Crestwood in December 2017, where a group of CHC2D students interviewed her for this project.
Oral History Project April 3rd, 2018
Eugène Mutabazi et Rosalie Uwimabera sont les deux survivants du Génocide au Rwanda en 1994. Eugène à passé son enfance au Congo, et puis au Rwanda dans les années 80s. Toute la famille de son père à été assassinée dans les massacres avant le Génocide, entre les années 1959 et 1973. Quand il a retourné au Rwanda, il a été menacée simplement parce qu’il était Tutsi. C’est là où il a décidé de partir au Belgique. Sa famille, incluant sa grande soeur et sa grand mère, a été tué en avril, 1994. Eugène a crée une association qui s’appelle “Ibuka”, qui veut dire “souviens-toi”. Cette association à été fait pour commémorer les victimes du génocide.
Rosalie Uwimabera est né à Kigali est c’est là où elle a passée son enfance et où elle a fait ses études. Elle a fait des études de médecines, et en voyant les massacres qui commencés au Rwanda contre les Tutsis, elle a décidé de partir au Belgique. Au début du génocide, en 1994, la famille de Rosalie a cachée des filles et des femmes dans leur maison. Mais en avril 1994, ils ont été tous assassinées; la seul survivante était une jeune femme de 12 ans, qui après le génocide, a racontée l’histoire à Rosalie. Rosalie et Eugène se sont mariés, et maintenant ils vivent en Belgique avec leurs deux enfants.
Eugène Mutabazi and Rosalie Uwimabera are both survivors of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Eugene spent his childhood in the Congo, and then returned to Rwanda in the 80s. His father’s side of the family was killed in the massacres between 1959 and 1973. When he returned to Rwanda, he was repeatedly threatened, simply because he was Tutsi. This was when he decided he needed to go to Belgium. His family, including his older sister and grandmother were killed in April, 1994. Eugène later created an association called, “Ibuka”, which means “to remember”. He created this association in order to commemorate the victims of the genocide.
Rosalie Uwimabera was born in Kigali and that was where she spent her childhood. She studied medicine in Kigali and upon seeing the massacres that began in Rwanda against the Tutsis, she decided to leave. At the outbreak of the genocide, Rosalie’s family was hiding many young girls and women in their house. However, in April of 1994, the house was stormed and they were killed; the only survivor was a young 12 year old woman. This woman later went to Belgium and told the story of the genocide to Rosalie. Rosalie and Eugène are now married, and they live in Belgium with their two children.
Oral History Project March 29th, 2018
Jack Boeki’s World War Two story is a unique one. Born in Rotterdam in 1925, Jack grew up with fond memories of the city and its people, and of his family and childhood. All of it was shattered in May 1940, when the German blitzkrieg turned west towards the Netherlands, and Jack’s city came under assault. The family lost everything in the bombing and was forced to start all over, amid mounting restrictions on Jews which saw Jack go into hiding. The family he was staying with soon after warned him that it had become too dangerous and Jack took off to avoid capture. From there, Jack obtained a fake identity and began his series of remarkable escapes, repeatedly eluding the grasp of the Nazis. Jack left the Netherlands and escaped to France, where the underground put him in contact with agents of the American OSS, the original version of the CIA. They arranged to get Jack to Britain, where his talents were recognized, and Jack was dispatched to the United States for military training. In March 1944, as the liberation of occupied Europe drew near, Jack’s unit was ordered to England. Now an agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC), he had received special training to uncover war criminals and would soon put his skills to use on his most important missions yet. On June 8, just two days after the initial D-Day landings, Jack’s team of agents landed on Utah Beach in Normandy, France.
Oral History Project December 18th, 2017
John Hall was born in the Canadian West in the early 1920s. He grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, though he said he was lucky to have been sheltered from the toughest times. With his brother he made his way to western Ontario, riding the rails and working the ports of Lake Superior. While his brother stayed and worked the mines, John finished school and joined the armed forces in Toronto, eventually landing in the First Hussars. After training he boarded the Queen Elizabeth troopship and headed to Britain, where he spent time in Aldershot, completing his tank crew training. John became a radio operator and main gun loader and a member of a Sherman tank crew. John went ashore in France a few weeks after D-Day and the liberation of Caen, and he saw his early action in Falaise and the ensuing Battle of Normandy. From there he moved through Belgium and the Netherlands, where he has fond memories of the civilians greeting the troops. When the war concluded, John returned to Canada and built a life for himself.
We met John at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing in July 2017, when he was interviewed by Crestwood students Arielle Meyer and Samara Black.
Oral History Project August 9th, 2017
Jack Lewis was born in Montreal in 1925, the youngest in a family where both parents were war veterans. His father was a doctor, and his mother was a nurse, and they’d met in the battlefield hospital near Boulogne. They spent much of the Great War in that one location, and Jack remembers that in his war, he passed through that area in about an hour. Growing up in Montreal, Jack was insulated from the tough economic times of the 1930s, and he remembers a vibrant city where he and his friends enjoyed all that life offered. With the coming of the war, Jack’s ambition was to enter the air force, but his eyesight denied him this opportunity, and he ended up in the army. He was selected for an artillery unit, and circumstance saw his unit, part of Canada’s 3rd Division, selected for Operation Overlord, or D-Day. Jack recalls the preliminary bombardment, and the tragedy of a downed Spitfire, before going ashore in his LST in the third wave. Juno was taken by then, so he and his unit provided support to the infantry ahead of them, moving past Caen and Falaise, and then into Belgium and the Netherlands. It was there that Jack’s war ended; he spent some time in the army of occupation before heading back to Canada, where he settled into the rhythm of postwar life.
Jack was interviewed for this project in his home in March 2017, by his daughter Suzie and Scott Masters.
Oral History Project March 31st, 2017
Edith Gelbard was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1932. She lived with her parents, sister and grandmother. After the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, her family fled to Belgium and then to France. In 1942, her father was murdered in Auschwitz. Edith and her brother were hidden in an orphanage. She was liberated in 1945 and reunited with rest of her family. After the war, she lived in Paris and immigrated to Canada in 1958.
We first interviewed Edith at Baycrest in October 2016, and she came to visit us at Crestwood in January 2017, when Arielle Meyer, Zoe Shen and Sally Li spoke to her..
Oral History Project November 7th, 2016
Bill Tymchuk was born in Ukraine, when it was under Polish control; he went to school there for 2 years and immigrated to Canada in 1930 (his father had settled down in Canada in 1928). His family was on the farm, and he started school and learned English quickly. Later his family went to Stayner, Ontario and bought a farm there. His family couldn’t afford to send him to high school, so he went to work at the age of 16.
Bill was raised in the shadow of the Great Depression, the rise of Nazis, and he later became a soldier fighting for Canada against Germany on the battlefields of Europe. Bill was keen to join the Canadian army, and to fight in the war as a Canadian soldier in the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment. He is proud to be a Canadian, and he chose to fight for the country he called his home land. Once overseas Bill spent time in Britain, then he went across the channel, to fight in the Battle of Normandy. From there he went on to liberate both Belgium and the Netherlands, where he remained in occupation after the war. Before Canada, he returned to Britain, where he married – then it was back to Canada, where he became a bricklayer in Toronto’s postwar construction boom.
We met Bill at the Legion Branch 75 in October 2016, where he was interviewed by Lyndsay McCulloch, David Huang and Robert McHale. In April 2018 Mr. Masters visited Bill again, this time with Rishi Sharma, who interviewed Bill for his Heroes of the Second World War project.
Oral History Project October 17th, 2016
Tom Bradley is an American veteran of the Second World War, having served with the 29th Infantry Division in Europe. Tom hails from New Jersey, where he grew up during the Great Depression. When the war came, he was in school in Massachusetts, expecting to go on to college. But the government had other ideas, and he was sent off for basic training and then overseas to Europe, one of four brothers from the Bradley family who would do the same. Tom went ashore at Omaha Beach in the weeks after D-Day and along with the 29th he set out across France, and into Belgium and Germany. Tom served in the Ammunition Corps, keeping the front line soldiers supplied with needed materiel.
Scott Masters interviewed him at his home in Falmouth, Maine in July 2016.
Oral History Project July 12th, 2016
Ann Wigoda was born in Berlin, Germany on August 23, 1932. Growing up in the 1930s, she was too young to understand many of the political changes, but as a child she does remember the increasing tensions, in the house and especially with the other children in the neighbourhood. By the middle of the decade the situation deteriorated further, and her father went to Belgium, making arrangements for the family to follow. The family adapted, but the hatred followed them, and with the start of the war once again life was precarious. Her father was taken away, eventually dying in the final days of the war. Ann’s mother was able to get Ann into hiding, and Ann spent most of the war in a convent, protected by the nuns. With the end of the war Ann lived in an orphanage, run by the Tiefenbruner family, while her mother dealt with the emotional impacts of the Shoah and the loss of her husband.
Ann Wigoda came to us courtesy of the Azrieli Foundation. She was interviewed at her home by Scott Masters and Savannah Yutman in July 2015.
Oral History Project August 8th, 2015
Jim Shontaler was born in the Canadian west, growing up in the difficult days of the Great Depression. As there were some family problems, Jim spent many of his early years in an orphanage. With the war underway and with no firm direction before him, he joined up as soon as he was able, heading off to training and then overseas. Jim headed first to north Africa and Italy, to begin his “baptism under fire”. He were in the thick of it, right away, fighting through the defensive lines in Italy, where he was wounded. From there his unit was shipped north, and they participated in the liberation of France, Belgium, and especially the Netherlands, where Jim had many good experiencess. Jim’s memories of those times are clear, and his stories are ideal for Canadians looking to find insights in the minds of young Canadian men in the 1940s.
We met Jim in his room at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing, where he was interviewed for this project in April 2015.
Oral History Project May 12th, 2015
Alan Forster was born in Toronto, growing up in the city’s east end during the Great Depression. From a military family, he joined up as soon as he was able, heading off to training and then to England. Shortly after the D-Day invasion, Alan headed to France, to begin his “baptism under fire”. They were in the thick of it, right away, fighting through Normandy and into Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany itself. Alan’s memories of those times are clear, and his stories are ideal for Canadians looking to find insights in the minds of young Canadian men in the 1940s.
We met Alan in his room at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing, where he was interviewed for this project in April 2015. Crestwood students visited again in January 2018, this time filming Alan in HD!
Oral History Project March 31st, 2015
John Hishon and his mother lived in the Yonge & Bloor area of Toronto, where his Mom worked extremely hard to make a living during the Great Depression.. When the war broke out, John trained on the Canadian Exhibition grounds, where at first they did not have any equipment and were laughed at. He eventually was shipped to England, where he saw firsthand the Battle of Britain. His squadron was wiped out at Dieppe, but John was lucky to escape this tragic event because he was injured at the time. He was sent to France after D-Day and was involved in the attack on Caen on the fourth of July, 1944. He advanced with the Canadian army in northwestern Europe, through belgium and Netherlands, through to VE Day. We met Mr. Hishon at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in November 2013, where he was interviewed by Steven Feng and Hunter Kell.
Oral History Project January 3rd, 2014
Paul-Henri Rips was born on October 23, 1929 in Antwerp, Belgium. He lived with his father Isadore, mother Faja and sister Sina. Paul described his years before the war as his “golden childhood”. There were mutterings of what was to come but his childhood was pleasant. On May 10th 1940 Belgium was invaded by Germany. Paul was woken up by anti-aircraft guns. Paul’s first thought was that there would be no school. Paul and his family, along with thousands of others of refugees fled into France. They reached the River Somme where German soldiers were stationed. These soldiers were young and kind. They told them to go home and that the war was over for them. New regulations and rules were passed for Jews. A curfew was enforced and Jews were forbidden to walk on sidewalks and had to wear a yellow star. From there, Paul and his family experienced the escalating severity of Nazi policies, as they ended up in jail, in the Malines and Pithviers camps, and ultimately were fortunate enough to go into hiding, where they awaited the end of the war.
Paul-Henri Rips came to us courtesy of the Azrieli Foundation, who published his memoirs a few years ago. He was interviewed for this project by Sydney Swartz, Lili Mancini, Sarah Mainprize, Lara Franklin, and Tristan Lim.
Oral History Project March 14th, 2013
Mia Frank survived the war as a hidden child in Belgium. Her stepmother’s quick thinking did save Mia, but both her stepmother and father were killed during the Holocaust. Mia was interviewed by Crestwood student Hayley Goldsand on a Baycrest field trip in early 2009.
Eva Lang is a child survivor from Belgium. When the war began she and her family found themselves in southern France, soon arrested under the Vichy regime. While her parents succeeded in getting most of their children to safety through the OSE, her parents and many family members were deported to Auschwitz. Eva spent most of the war on the run and in hiding. After the war she made her way to Israel and Canada, where she divides her time. We were fortunate to hear her words of tolerance courtesy of Baycrest, where she spoke to Amanda Lee, Jenny Son, Benji Baker, and Noah Levin in May 2011.
Lorne Winer first visited Crestwood in February 2012, at the age of 95. He sat down with Canadian History 10 students Maxime Bernier and Nathan George, and told them about his life both before and after the war. Lorne grew up in Toronto, where he remembered life in the Ward during the depths of Depression. He enlisted shortly after the war broke out; after training and an overseas journey that he characterized as utterly miserable, he ended up in England, where he prepared for the D-Day landings. Once the regiment crossed the Channel, Lorne fought his way through Normandy, and into Belgium and the Netherlands, where he had fond memories of the Dutch people. In May 2015, Lorne was featured in a Toronto Star article on the Oral History Project Breakfast, and Mr. Masters did a follow-up interview with him, which is featured here, along with footage from class presentations that were delivered in January 2016 and February 2017, shortly after Lorne had turned 99. Lorne brought many personal insights and stories to this interview, and we thank Historica Dominion for their part in bringing him to Crestwood.
Larry Levy served in the Canadian Army in northern Europe during the war. After enlisting, training, and the overseas journey, Larry went ashore at Normandy and fought his way through northern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Larry served with Signal Corps, and it was his task to locate enemy artillery. Larry brought many personal insights and mementoes to his February 2012 interview, where he sat down with students Alex Galperin, Natasha Hare, and Brandon Deeb. Larry returned in March 2013, this time with Daniel Henareh, Nasir Jamali, Saeed Foodazi, and Henry Lui. Larry is a great raconteur, and we are thankful to Historica Dominion for introducing him to us.
Helene Kravitz is Crestwood student Sy Greenberg’s great-aunt. She was a hidden child in Belgium during the Second World War, along with her sister Rosa, whose story can also be found in this project. She was interviewed by Sy in the fall of 2009.
When World War Two began in 1939 Abe and his family went to Warsaw for just two weeks as Germans took it over and then to Bialystok. After Abe and family left Bialystok they went to Lida. From there Zaida and his family spent the rest of the war in Siberia, safe from the Nazis. During the war years Zaida worked hard at a logging camp. It was hard work but he enjoyed the beautiful outdoors and the most important thing was that he and his family were safe. After the war they went to Belgium and in 1957, Abe and his family traveled by ship to Canada.
Abe was interviewed by his grandson Jon for the Crestwood Oral History Project.