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
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
Marie Broere was born in 1926 in Rotterdam. As a teenager, Marie witnessed the Rotterdam Blitz of 1940. Marie remembers her daily life, living under the German occupation of Holland. She remembers her father being taken from the streets by German soldiers, and managing to escape and return with his family. Being the eldest child in her family, and wanting to help her family through the severe conditions of the Hunger Winter, Marie went to stay with her grandmother, where she worked on a farm in Lekkerkerk until the end of the war. Marie witnessed the liberation of the Netherlands, and in 1958 she immigrated to Canada with her husband and two children.
We met Marie Broere in April 2017 at the Castle Peak Retirement Suites in Bracebridge, where she presently lives. Marie is one of several authors/editors who assembled At Your Age, a collection of stories of those who live there. The residents felt it was important for them to record their stories, which serve as a great entry point into their generation’s collective experiences.
Oral History Project May 25th, 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
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
Reny Friedman is a child survivor from the Netherlands. She and her twin brother were born in 1937, just as prewar tensions were building up. Reny’s mother was from germany, and sensing what was to come, she looked for ways to protect her family. The family managed to secure the help of the underground, going into hiding in the countryside, in the Ardennes region, as well as in Brussels. In both cases they were discovered and forced to run, but not all family members escaped. Reny’s mother was deported to Auschwitz, where she was able to survive the brutality of slave labour at the hands of the Nazis. She returned at the end of the war, and Reny poignantly described her mother’s emotional state in the months and years after the war. Reny’s father knew he had to get his children to safety when his wife was taken away, so her turned to the underground, who took Reny’s brother to a monastery and Reny to a convent. Reny passed the remainder of the war there, where she learned how to live in this new, alien environment. As time passed, she began to enjoy the rituals and trappings of the Catholic faith. When her father came to get her at the end of the war, Reny remembers that he allowed her time and was patient with her return to her Jewish roots. Reny made her way to Canada in the 1950s, where she married Henry Friedman, also a Holocaust Survivor, whose story appears in this project as well. Reny was interviewed in her home in July 2016 by Scott Masters and Savannah Yutman.
Oral History Project August 24th, 2016
Leonard Vis was born in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1930. After the Germans occupied the Netherlands, his family went into hiding. They all survived and were liberated in 1945. Leonard After the war, Leonard served two years in the Dutch Army before moving to New York. In 1967, Leonard came to Canada for a job posting. Leonard came to visit us at Crestwood early in 2016. He was interviewed for this project by Marina Nevison and Aren Karshafian, along with students from Mr. Masters’ Grade 12 history class.
Oral History Project April 4th, 2016
The Crestwood Oral History Project is in the midst of its busy season! The CHCs are completing their oral history interviews – all 80+ of them. In the last week, we have had 2 in class visitors, and done one in home visit. Students from Mr. Masters’ class went to visit Kelman Cohen in his home last week; Mr. Cohen is a Canadian army veteran who went overseas as a replacement soldier in 1944. He told Hartley Gelkopf (whose father is Kelman’s doctor), Harlan Rich, Willa Easton and Rory Peckham some unbelievable stories, first about growing up in prewar Toronto, and then about the experiences he survived in the Netherlands. The next day Israel Glassman – another patient of Dr. Gelkopf – came to Crestwood to share his stories with a large group of Grade 10s. Mr. Glassman served in the navy during WW2, doing trans-Atlantic convoy runs and D-Day support missions in the English Channel. Both men were able to add to the students’ understanding of the war, and to give them an emotional connection to events that shaped Canada 70 years ago. This week Pinchas Gutter came to Crestwood; Pinchas is a survivor of the Holocaust from Poland. He is a renowned speaker who has lectured extensively around the world, and he was chosen by the Shoah Foundation for the holographic initiative – please click here for his appearance on the Today show. Crestwood students were lucky to meet Pinchas in person and to hear how he survived. Stay tuned for an update on our visit to Baycrest!
The Social Studies Department had some exciting visitors this week, creating great opportunities for students interested in Canada’s military history. On Monday, January 25th, five officers from the Canadian Forces College visited Crestwood, sharing their experiences in Canada’s recent overseas missions, notably Afghanistan. Majors Dennis, Lajeunesse, Harvey, Dias and Barker represented all facets of the military and all spoke eloquently about serving Canada overseas.
Then on Tuesday, January 26th, many of the Canadian History 10 students were lucky enough to have Lorne Winer visit their class. Mr. Winer is a Jewish Canadian veteran of World War Two who recently turned 98. Mr. Winer spoke of his time in Europe, from being stationed in England to being involved in the liberation of France and the Netherlands. Other Crestwood students will soon be doing their own interviews, when we visit Sunnybrook and Baycrest – stay tuned!
This week Crestwood was visited by Hedy Bohm and Leonard Vis, who spoke to Ms. Young and Mrs. Winograd’s respective grade 8 classes about their experiences during the Holocaust. The grade 8 classes have been studying the novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and discussing the social and historical frameworks surrounding the Holocaust. While Hedy is a survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Leonard is a hidden child survivor. Both Hedy and Leonard’s emotional stories are likely to remain with the students for their entire lives.
Hedy Bohm grew up in pre war Romania, in a region that later came under Hungarian control. As the war escalated, she and her family increasingly came under the influence of the Nazis, and the family was deported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944. Hedy was able to survive Auschwitz-Birkenau for three months; at that time she was relocated to a work camp, where she spent the remainder of the war as a forced labourer, producing military equipment for the Germans. After liberation by American troops, Hedy went home, where she was able to meet up with cousins, and where she married her husband, Imre. They were able to escape to Prague, where an aid organization arranged for this group of Hungarian orphans to get visas to Canada, where she arrived in 1948.
More recently, Hedy Bohm travelled to Germany from Canada to testify at the trial of Oskar Gröning, a 93-year-old former SS guard known as the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz”, who stands accused of 300,000 separate counts of accessory to murder. Last April, she testified as a witness about her Auschwitz experience. She was one of some 60 Holocaust survivors or their relatives from the U.S., Canada, Israel, and elsewhere who joined the prosecution as co-plaintiffs.
Leonard Vis was born in 1930, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, into a traditional upper- middle-class Orthodox household; with a family tree going back to before the French Revolution.
After the attack on the Netherlands by Germany, in 1940, the family thought it prudent to move to a smaller town, Bussum, some 25 kilometers from Amsterdam. Discrimination against the Jews started almost at once. In August 1941, Leonard was forced to change to a separate school, staffed exclusively by Jewish teachers. In May 1942, there follow the prescribed wearing of the yellow star, and in June 1942, the family was forced to resettle in Amsterdam. With the help of some family friends, Leonard was able to go into hiding in August 1942. His brother and sister had gone before him in July. His parents followed, a week later, when raids and round-ups of Jews became an almost daily occurrence in the city.
When the Netherlands was liberated by Canadian forces in May 1945, the whole family had, thankfully, survived the war. There remained very few families intact in Holland, where more than 80% of the Jewish population had perished at the hands of the Germans and their antisemitic helpers.
We are so thankful to both Hedy Bohm and Leonard Vis for taking the time to share their courageous stories with us.
Bill Millhausen was born on January 10, 1918 in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan. He went to university, where he studied math and engineering and this led him on his World War Two path. He became an engineer who built bridges in the war. He was recruited by the head of CN rail, a World War 1 veteran. Bill’s brother joined the Winnipeg Rifles band and was later put into a mortar team. Bill was trained in Petawawa at one of the top engineer training centers and then sent to teach other people how build and demolish military items . After that he was sent on the Orion to Farnborough in England where he then traveled to various places in England and continued training. Bill was also sent to Italy, where he narrowly missed the battle of Ortona. He was then sent all over Italy building bridges, and rebuilding communities. After Italy he was sent to the Netherlands to be involved in its liberation.
We met Bill at Chartwell in September 2015, when he was interviewed for this project by Alexander McLeod, Will Paisly and Navid Sarshar.
Oral History Project November 6th, 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
Oral History Project April 20th, 2015
Oral History Project April 19th, 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
Michael Boyer is a veteran born in Toronto, into a big family. Fairly well-to-do, Mr. Boyer and his family were less affected by the depression than many. He joined the army at a young age and became part of the Fourth Field Royal Canadian Artillery. Travelling to Europe, Mr. Boyer fought along allied forces such as the British 8th Brigade in battles that eventually liberated the Netherlands and defeated Germany. After the war, he returned to Canada to attend University.
The interview with Mr. Boyer was done at Sunnybrook Hospital in January 2015 by Crestwood students Steven Feng, Guanghao Chen, and Owen Salter.
Oral History Project February 16th, 2015
Frank Mendham was born in Toronto in 1924; like many his age he grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, dealing with the realities of day-to-day life. When the war came, Frank went into the cavalry, like his father before him. By the time of the Second World War, tanks had replaced horses. Frank spent time in England before heading over to France on D-Day; from Normandy, he and his regiment made their way through France and the Netherlands, into Germany.
We visited Frank at the Sunnybrook veterans’ Wing on February 27, 2014, where he was interviewed by Crestwood students Ahmed Izzeldin, Simon Yuan, and Jacob Gurdzy.
Oral History Project April 16th, 2014
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
Leah Segalowitz survived the Nazi invasion and occupation of the Netherlands. She went into hiding, working as a nurse, though she was an active member of the Dutch Resistance. When the war concluded, she emigrated to Palestine, spending a number of years in British detention camps and working in a hospital in Cyprus before arriving in Israel in 1948. She and her husband began their lives together there but emigrated to Canada in 1955, where they raised a family.
Leah was interviewed at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa by Crestwood students Alice Lee and Helia Laridashti in Fenruary 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.
Gunter Sander grew up in Germany in the 1930s. Like virtually all German teenagers of the time he joined the Hitler Youth and later became a part of the national work force. When he was brought into the military, he was initially sent to guard islands off the coast of the Netherlands, against a potential invasion by sea. From there he was able to enlist in the Luftwaffe, and training became a big part of his life in the middle war years. But young man that he was, Gunter did not follow all the rules, and a fly-over of his home town did not sit well with his commanding officer, and Gunter was sent to jail and dismissed from the Luftwaffe. He was later released into the infantry and sent to the western front, where he was taken as a POW by British and American forces and sent to a prison camp. There his longtime love of music came to the fore, and this became a key part of the life he would eventually pursue.
Gunter was interviewed for this project by a group of senior history students in January 2012.
Mr. Lloyd Queen served in the Canadian Army during the war. After training, he was commissioned as a ieutenant and sent to England. He went ashore in the first wave of the Normandy invasion and was in France for about a month before being deployed to the Netherlands and the Battle of the Scheldt. He did cross the Rhine into Germany before being returned to Britain, where he was decorated by King George VI. We visited Mr. Lloyd Queen at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in October 2008, where Crestwood student Eric Lee interviewed him in his room. He was also interviewed by Gr. 9 student Nick Andreoli in March 2009.
Jack Newman served in the Canadian Armed Forces during the war. After signing up, he was at Manning Depot at the Ex, followed by training at Brantford and Petawawa. He was assigned to the 4th Battery, 3rd Anti-Tank Regiment and shipped off to England. After time in Aldershot, he was sent with his regiment to Italy, where they battled their way up the Adriatic Coast, seeing action in Ortona. Attached to the British 8th Army, he found himself along the Americans at Anzio, where he participated in the Montecassino offensive. Finally, he was sent to the Netherlands to aid in the liberation of that country as the war concluded.
We met Jack at the Mount Dennis Legion in Toronto, where he was interviewed by Crestwood students Bryan Chung and Alex Ross.
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.
Murray Jacobs grew up in prewar Toronto, where he saw some of the city’s growing pains in the 1930s. That included the infamous Christie Pitts Riots of the 1930s, in which he was involved and was forced to confront the reality of local anti-Semitism. He enlisted in World War Two, where he would serve in the engineering battalions. He was sent overseas and eventually went ashore at Juno Beach in the week after D-Day. His regiment fought through Normandy, the Netherland, and into Germany. Murray has since visted the Netherlands, where he is a proud member of Canada’s army of liberation. Today he continues to involve himself in the Royal Canadian Legion and the Memory Project. He was interviewed for this project by Matt D’Ambrosio and Brian Schwartz.
Vic Henderson was a tank man in the war. he went ashore in France on D-Day + 7 and fought through Normandy, the Netherlands, and into Germany. We met him in the Brookbanks neighbourhood, and he was kind enough to share his memories with Crestwood student John Shahidi.
Norman Gulko served in the Canadian army in World War Two, where he saw action on several fronts. After training and the overseas journey, he was deployed to Italy. When that campaign was nearing its conclusion, he was sent to the Netherlands, where he fought through northern Europe and into Germany itself. Norman brought many personal insights about his wartime experiences to Brandon Chow, Katherine Charness, and Daniel Sugar, who interviewed him at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ residence in November 2011.