Sunday | July 22, 2018
Major Harvey has over 20 years of experience in the Canadian Armed Forces, having joined the reserves in 1992. While serving in the reserves and completing his university education, Major Harvey was deployed as a part of Canada’s peacekeeping missions in Haiti (1996) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (1999). In 2000, Maj. Harvey transferred to regular forces as an infantry officer. Since joining the regular forces, Maj. Harvey has been deployed to Afghanistan, trained with the Brazilian army, and returned to Haiti to assist with reconstruction. In February of 2016, Major Harvey visited Crestwood as part of a delegation from the Canadian Forces College, where he was studying at the time. He spoke with students about his various deployments, and the opportunities provided by a career in the military.

 

June 13th, 2016

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Freda Rosenberg is a Holocaust Survivor from Radom, Poland.  She survived the full weight of the war years, passing through a number of ghettoes and camps, including Auschwitz Birkenau.  When the Red Army was approaching, she was forced on a death march, which she recounts in detail here.  Surviving that ordeal too, Freda was liberated by the Russians.  She returned to Poland, only to discover that she was not welcome in her homeland.  Fortunately she was able to emigrate, and she eventually made her way to Canada, where she rebuilt her life.

Freda Rosenberg was interviewed for this project in September 2014 at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa, by Crestwood students Akib Shahjahan and Ahmed Izzeldin.

January 12th, 2015

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žFred Davies was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, into a family of six brothers and one sister. He graduated high school and volunteered for the RCAF. He chose the air force because he wanted to be a pilotž. After enlisting in the RCAF, Davies was sent to Manning Depot in Montreal for training.ž Davies was a member of No. 408 squadron and then No. 405 squadron, which became a part of the Pathfinders group.ž Davies’ 46th mission was to destroy some railroad tracks in Aachen.ž After being shot down, Davies and a crew mate avoided the German army with the help of the underground for a while, but a week after D-day, someone finally sold them out and they were handed over to the Gestapo. žThey eventually ended up at Stalag Luft III POW camp. Fred came to us courtesy of the RCL, and he spoke to Crestwood students Katherine Charness, Sam Friisdahl and Lindsey Swartzman in December 2010.

July 9th, 2012

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Michael Zarembo is a Lithuanian Jew, one of so many overwhelmed with the terrible events that befell his people and region during the war.  1941 saw the initiation of that horror…Germany initiated Operation Barbarossa, and within days Michael’s family was under the heel of the Nazi regime.  Life became increasingly difficult in the ghettos that were created, as Jewish families struggled to survive.  A mere teenager, Michael joined the Red Army, and he managed to survive several intense years of warfare, fighting as a member of a Jewish brigade charged with the liberation of Lithuania.  The Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators they were up against had nothing to lose, so the combat was intense.  Michael recalled their attempted flight over the Baltic Sea, and of the Soviet female fighter pilots who hunted them down.  Wounded in battle, Michael ended up in the hospital, and that is where the war came to an end, in a celebration Michael said he will remember forever.   He survived the war and the Shoah, and contributions on the battlefield helped to end both of those dark chapters.  He began to rebuild his life, a journey that would eventually take him to Canada.  

Michael Zarembo was interviewed at his home in July 2017, by Crestwood teacher Scott Masters.  The interview was set up courtesy of the Jewish War Veterans Association of Toronto, with special thanks to Anna Mordukhovich and her daughter Dorina.

Please note that this interview is in Russian, with English overdubs and translations.

October 12th, 2017

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Eugene Katz was born in Dyszna, Poland in in 1927.  He was one of five children, growing up in a Jewish family not too far from Vilna; he recalls a difficult life, beset by hunger and poverty, but also filled with family and friends.  When war came in 1939, Eugene’s family was in eastern Poland, the part of the country assigned to the USSR in the infamous 1939 Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.  The family suddenly found itself under Soviet domination; as big a change as this was, life continued, though clear signs of Soviet communism began to enter their lives.  1941 saw the real change though…Germany initiated Operation Barbarossa, and within a matter of days Eugene’s family was under the heel of the Nazi regime.  The family was quickly put in a ghetto, and Eugene’s oldest sister Sophie was murdered.  Life became increasingly difficult in the ghetto, as the young Eugene and his family struggled to survive.  Then the darkest of days arrived, with the liquidation of the ghetto by the Einsatzgruppen.  Most of Eugene’s family was taken to a killing site and murdered.  Eugene was there, witnessing these terrible events, but he and his brother escaped, taking advantage of the fog and running into the forest.  Now a teenager, Eugene joined the Russian partisans, and he managed to survive four intense years of warfare, often the victim of political intrigue and anti-Semitism in the Red Army.  Very crafty and clever and willing to do what he had to, Eugene made it, the only member of his family to survive the war and the Shoah.  He began to rebuild his life, marrying and working in Riga, and in the 50s he made it to Poland, and from there Canada.  Every step of the way his survival instinct kept him afloat, and he went on to create a prosperous business in postwar Canada, helping to build the country we know today.

Eugene Katz was interviewed at his home in July 2017, by Crestwood teacher Scott Masters.  The interview was set up courtesy of the Jewish War Veterans Association of Toronto.

October 11th, 2017

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Reuven Blium survived the Holocaust in Lithuania, a country where as many as 95% of Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.  Reuven was born in 1930 in Kaunas, into a family of limited means.  Reuven’s father passed away when Reuven was only 3, and his mother had no alternative but to put him in an orphanage.  Reuven spent his early years there, and he was able to escape the Nazi onslaught due to the foresight of a teacher, Mr. Zundell.  He had been concerned about the war’s coming to Lithuania for several months, and had been preparing the students for evacuation.  When the Kaunas airfield was bombed, he took many of the boys to the train station, and they headed east into Russia.  Many of the younger children at the orphanage did not make it, and many were murdered by Lithuanian collaborators at the orphanage’s summer camp.  Reuven believes that he can give them a voice.  For those who did escape, a harrowing journey ensued, where the train was repeatedly attacked by the Luftwaffe.  On the way, Reuven was jostled about, but he arrived intact into deep Russia, in the area of Galich.  There he spent time in an another orphanage, which he describes in very Darwinian terms.  Reuven learned to survive there, and he was lucky to get out after a year, making his way to the Volga region, where another orphanage awaited.  Along the way, Reuven attended school, and as he got into his teens, he began to work in war industries.  With the war’s end, he made his way back to Lithuania, to reconstruct his life.  With the end of the war, he ended up in the Red Army.  Later he was able to make his way west, eventually settling in Canada.  We interviewed Reuven at his home in Toronto, over several visits in the summer and fall of 2016.

September 6th, 2016

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Mike Smith was born in the USSR, in the former republic of Belarus.  He grew up near Pinsk, in a traditional Jewish family.  When the war came to the USSR in 1941, he joined the Soviet Red Army, where he became a member of the Scouts’ Brigade.  Doing some of the most dangerous work behind enemy lines, he and his platoon fought in a succession of battles on the eastern front, all the way to Berlin.  Mike then was working in a DP camp, where he helped to smuggle Holocaust Survivors to destinations in the west.  Seeing his opportunity, he defected and went to the west himself, eventually making his way to Canada.  He initially settled in the north, working as a lumberjack in Kapuskasing, Ontario and in the mills in Rouyn and Sudbury.  Fate took him to Toronto, and a career in sales followed, as Mike established himself in the community.

August 29th, 2016

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Max Sitzer is a Holocaust Survivor from Poland who has a family connection at Crestwood; he was interviewed by his young cousin Mara Bowman here at the school in March 2013.

Max lived in eastern Poland and was under Soviet rule for the first part of the war, but with the German invasion in 1941 he and his family fell into the hands of the Nazis.  Max and his father were lucky enough to survive, when they were able to use connections to go into hiding.  Much of the rest of the family was not fortunate however, and most were murdered in Belzec.  As the Soviets liberated Max from his hiding place, he joined the Red Army on their march to the east, and Max had the distinction of being an interpreter in war crimes trials, so he was able to assist in bringing to justice those who had killed his family and so many others.

May 1st, 2013

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Eddie Sterk lived in Holland at the beginning of the war. As his father worked in a hospital, Eddie and his family were able to evade the early deportations, which slowly saw Amsterdam’s Jews transported “to the east”.  Eddie’s siblings were eventually taken, and soonafter Eddie and his parents were rounded up as well.  Eddie was placed into several prison camps, including Westerbork and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Eddie was lucky to survive an injury he suffered while performing forced labour near Birkenau.  He also survived the death marches in the winter of 1944-45, as the camp was evacuated as the Red Army drew near.  Eddie was later liberated by the Americans and he returned to Holland, where he was fortunate to be reunited with his parents.

Eddie was interviewed at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa by Crestwood student Matt Laramie in 2009; in 2010, Eddie again welcomed us and sat down with Sam Wasserman and Madi Brown.  And in 2012, Eddie agreed to be interviewed again, this ime by Emma Myers, Brandon Lee, and Thomas Yanovski.

December 22nd, 2012

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Edith Pagelson’s personal story of survival began in Germany. She and her family were victims of Hitler’s Nazi regime well before the war began, feeling the sting of the Nuremberg Laws and Kristallnacht all through the 1930s. She and her family were deported from Duisberg to the Terezin Ghetto, where Edith’s father died. After spending some time, she and her mother were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they spent a few months before being selected as labourers and sent to Stutthof, on the eastern front. They laboured as the Soviet Red Army closed in and the end of the war drew near. After liberation, Edith fought to regain her health, and she and her mother managed to get back to Germany, from where they later emigrated to the United States, where she settled in Brooklyn.

Edith was interviewed by Scott Masters in her home in Portland, Maine, along with Chuck Sanford and David Astor, both of whom appear in the Military Veterans section of the Oral History Project.

July 9th, 2012

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We met Alex Levin courtesy of the Memory Project and the Azrieli Foundation, where he is a keynote speaker and author. Alex’s story is one of the most compelling ones we have heard; his family was from Poland, and they experienced the full weight of the war’s early years, invaded first by the USSR and then later by Nazi Germany. Much of Alex’s family was murdered when the Nazi killing squads began the “Holocaust by bullets”, and Alex was only able to survive when he and a few others escaped into the forests. They stayed there for years, surviving off the land, until they heard about the arrival of the Russians. Alex made his way out of the forest and entered the Red Army, following a Russian unit as they made their way into Germany and the war reached its conclusion. Alex stayed in the USSR after the war, where he rebuilt his life as a military man over the next decades. He emigrated to Canada with his wife in the late 1960s.

Alex visited us at Crestwood in April 2012, where he joined us for our Veterans’ Breakfast and then sat down with Michael Lawee, Natalie Krause, Victor Minkov and Antony Cook.

July 9th, 2012

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Michael Lakrits is a veteran of the Soviet Red Army who fought on the eastern front during WW2. He attended an air force academy and was at first a machine gun and radio operator in a bomber. He joined when he was 19 and first faced the Nazis in Estonia in 1941. In December of 1941 he was wounded and spent some time in the hospital. After his release he went to the Leningrad battlefield and was a commander in a scouting group. In September of 1942 he was again wounded, this time much more seriously. After his release from the hospital, he was sent to military school, where he became a tank commander. In November 1944, he was made a lieutenant and sent back to the battlefield in the Ukraine. He finished the war in Czechoslovakia in May 1945. Michael received many medals for his courage and bravery during the war. He is thankful for his experiences, his family, and the life he has built for himself in Canada.

July 9th, 2012

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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.

July 13th, 2018

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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.

We met Harry at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing in June 2018, where he was interviewed by Mr. Masters and a delegation of CPC students.

July 5th, 2018

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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.

June 27th, 2018

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Dr. Stephen O’Rourke is the grandfather of Crestwood student Ella Lee-O’Rourke.  Dr. O’Rourke originally hails from Ireland, where he grew up on a farm during the wartime years.  Blessed with academic ability, his parents made sure he attended school, and Dr. O’Rourke’s education in both public and high school came courtesy of the Christian Brothers.  That was followed by his time at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, where the young Stephen enjoyed time in the big city while he pursued his medical studies.  During this time the Cold War was heating up, and Stephen came across an ad in the newspaper while doing his internship, one placed by the Canadian Forces.  Canada was involved in the Korean War at the time, and was in need of medical personnel.  Stephen made the leap and enlisted, quickly becoming a captain in the Canadian army.  He was dispatched to Canada, where he learned that the first part of his three year stint would be spent in the Arctic.  He went north to Fort Churchill, Manitoba, where a new hospital had been built, and that became his introduction to life in Canada.  Stephen spent two years there, looking after the indigenous peoples and the Mounties and everyone else who needed his care.  From there he took an eventful trip to Ireland, courtesy of the American military, and that was followed by his deployment to Korea, where he cared for Canadian and Australian troops as the Korean War reached its conclusion.  The 1953 truce saw his return to Canada, where his discharge from the army led to work at various hospitals in Toronto, including St. Mike’s and Sunnybrook.  Along the way Stephen married and raised a family.

We first met Stephen at the Crestwood Veterans’ Breakfast in May 2018, and that was followed by an interview at his residence in June 2018, where Mr. Masters and four senior students spoke to him, courtesy of his daughter Kit.

June 20th, 2018

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Herb Pike is a Canadian veteran of the Second World War, and a proud member of the 48th Highlanders.  Herb grew up in prewar Toronto, where he remembers living a relatively good life, even against the backdrop of the Great Depression.  When in Toronto, Herb attended Bowmore Road Public School, and then Central Tech; he also spent time in the United States, when his mother moved there for work for a few years.  Back in Canada, Herb enlisted early on, hoping to secure a spot in the RCAF.  Unable to join their ranks because of age, Herb was undaunted and found an army recruiting office a few blocks away.  He signed the papers, and was soon off to training in Guelph and Kitchener.  Not too long after that, he made the trip to Halifax, and a troop ship took him to England, where a short stint in Aldershot was followed by a trip to Sicily, where he went into action for the first time.  Italy was the next destination, and here the 48th got into the thick of it, fighting through Ortona, Montecassino and the Hitler Line; Herb was wounded by shrapnel on one occasion, but he was back to his unit quickly.  In 1944 the 48th was redeployed to the northern Europe campaign, where they took part in the liberation of Belgium and the Netherlands.  Many of Herb’s fondest memories and proudest moments come from this part of the war, especially the city of Appeldoorn.  With VE Day, it wasn’t long before the 48th returned to England, and then to Canada.  Welcomed home by family, Herb went to work, and began to play his role in Canada’s postwar rebirth.  Within a few years he was married and had a family, happily falling into the rhythm of civilian life.
We met Herb Pike courtesy of the Memory Project, and Scott Masters interviewed him in his home in May 2018.

June 18th, 2018

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Russell Smith was born in 1919 in Toronto, and he grew up in Toronto during the interwar years.  Russell remembers well the difficulties of those Great Depression years, especially as he grew up in a family of eleven children, and his single mother needed all the help she could get.  The third eldest, Russell left school early on; the family needed any and all income, and Russell worked where he could – as a delivery boy, an apprentice bookbinder, whatever it took…With money tight, Russell remembers that he and his siblings did what they could to have fun, but for him it was about his bicycle, which was his transportation as well as a source of enjoyment.  Looking for something to occupy his time, Russell enlisted in the militia, and went into the interwar cavalry – he loved the horses and grew to love the discipline and mission that the military life brought to him.  With the coming of the war – an event that Russell and the other militiamen knew was on the way – Russell went into the army proper, where he excelled in the different facets of army life.  He was such a good soldier that the army made him a drill instructor, and in this capacity he helped to train Canada’s fighting men for that conflict.  Russell rose through the ranks during his time at Camp Borden, and he continued this during his time at Aldershot, the site of Canada’s overseas encampment in Britain.  Russell recalled the training and personalities in great depth, as recounted in this discussion.

Russell Smith was referred to us via the Memory Project, and he joins the ranks of the many collaborative ventures that we have done with that organization over the years.  Russell was interviewed for this project in May 2018, when Scott Masters visited him at his home in Oshawa.

June 15th, 2018

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Meng Fan was born in 1926 in Sumatra, Dutch East Indies, which now is Indonesia. Later he moved to Hong Kong.  When war came, Hong Kong had to support in war efforts. However, Hong Kong was lacking resources such as food. Meng Fan volunteered to join the army. He started with training and was barely 20 years old on the battlefields. He worked closely with the  American G.I as an army translator and soldier.  After the war he did some business but did not go well. Later in his years he moved to Canada with his family when China was recovering from the tragic aftermath. He is currently 92 years old. Fan MengXiang was interviewed by Miranda Su, Martin Chang, David Huang, and Arielle Meyer at the Sunnybrook Veterans’ Wing on November 3, 2017.

April 16th, 2018

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Lou Hoffer was born in the northern province of Bukovina, Romania in a small  town called Vijnitz. His exact date of birth is uncertain; however, it was around 1927. In 1939, the Russians and the Germans had invaded Poland making the neighbours to the north no longer under Polish rule but Russian. A  year later Russia gave Romania an ultimatum to withdraw from the two northern provinces, Bukovina and Bessarabia, within 24 hours and they did. The town of Viznitz in which Lou was growing up was now under Russian occupation. By 1941, everyone in the town of Viznitz was deported and sent across the Dniester River to the territory of Transnistria. On the way to the death camp to Transnistria, at the age of 12, Lou had seen the messages left behind by people who were taken prior to his deportation; that day he took an oath that he would make sure to share the truth with the world if he survived. The  conditions in the camps were so terrible that approximately 300,000 Jews died. In March of 1944, Lou and his family were liberated by the Soviet Army. With no place to go, he was fortunate enough to be allowed into Canada. He endured many hardships when he first arrived to Canada but at the end,  he succeeded and met his wife Magda with whom he raised a beautiful family.

Lou was interviewed for this project at Baycrest in January 2018 by a delegation of CHC2D students.

April 6th, 2018

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The Crestwood Oral History Project is hard at work this month. World War Two veterans and Holocaust survivors have been visiting with the CHC2D students, helping them to complete their oral history interviews.  Earlier this week Mr. Masters and Mr. Hawkins took 21 students to Sunnybrook, where 5 veterans were interviewed.  They included army, navy and air force veterans from World War Two.  Please watch the webpage for updates – http://www.crestwood.on.ca/ohp/.

               

               

February 1st, 2018

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Chang Shiying grew up in the Chinese city of Nanjing, where his family held a prominent position in the community. Born in the early 1930s, Mr. Chang was a child of 4 when the War of Japanese Aggression reached his city. Unlike so many others, the Chang family had heard the news of the Japanese advance, and they were able to get out of the city just before the horrific massacre began. They were able to hide in an adjacent village, where conditions were very difficult for the family. Even though they escaped the worst of the Rape of Nanjing, they lost many family members at the hands of the Japanese perpetrators, as well as to disease and starvation.
When the darkest days of the massacre were over, the Chang family moved back to Nanjing. They discovered that their house had been ransacked, so they did what they could, and they endured the taunts of the Japanese occupiers. Mr. Chang grew up against the backdrop of war, and he remembers well the abuses the people of Nanjing suffered, including the “comfort women” he saw in his old neighbourhood. With the end of the war, China fell into civil conflict, and much of Mr. Chang’s family fled to Taiwan. He remained though, playing a role in the revolutionary army and studying to become a doctor, which became his career.
He made the decision to emigrate to Canada much later, following family connections. Mr. Chang was interviewed for this project by Crestwood alumnus Daven Siu and his mother June Ong, who shared the video with Mr. Masters. Translation by Sarah Li followed. We thank all for their contributions.

February 1st, 2018

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Gerry Grossmann was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, into a prosperous Jewish family.  Gerry remembers his childhood in fond terms, as his parents created a home where he and his brother had so many opportunities.  1933 saw a dramatic change though; with the election of Hitler, things changed for the Grossmanns and for all German Jews.  With each succeeding year, more and more was taken away, and with Kristallnacht, Gerry’s parents sensed what was on the way, and they made arrangements to have their young sons evacuated on the Kindertransport to Britain.  Gerry and his brother arrived in England, where they registered as “enemy aliens” and started over with English families.  School soon gave way to war work, as the now teenaged Gerry made his contribution to the war effort.  When he was old enough, he enlisted in the British army, where he spent time training in Scotland before being sent across the Channel to France.  There Gerry saw combat, as he fought to liberate his onetime homeland from Nazi oppression.  Gerry was in the Battle of the Bulge, and as the Allies resumed their push into Germany in the spring of 1945, Gerry was wounded and sidelined from the action for a time.  In the period after VE Day, Gerry learned the fate of his parents, both of whom were murdered in the Shoah, and the army capitalized on gerry’s language skills, as he became a translator/interpreter, going through the Nazis’ documentation and interviewing officers, and playing his role in creating a new standard of justice at Nuremberg.
We met Gerry thanks to Historica Dominion, and Crestwood alumna Savannah Yutman and Grade 12 students Rory Peckham and Malcolm Leask interviewed him at his home in December 2017.

January 22nd, 2018

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John Rowe was born in 1925 in Toronto, and he grew up in the city’s east end, in the Beach. John shared with us his memories of interwar Toronto, and what it was like growing up against the backdrop of the Great Depression. He remembered it as a time when everyone was the same, not knowing that they had nothing. In spite of the tough times and family’s financial situation, John had fond memories of the time, playing baseball with his friends and hanging out at Balmy Beach. When the war came, John said the rationing had some impacts on his family, but overall the expectation of sacrifice was there, and people largely complied with C.D. Howe’s regimen. When he turned 18, it was John’s time to register and join up, which he elected to do rather than chancing conscription. A family friend helped him to join the Armoured Corps, and he began his year in the army in October 1944. Quickly stricken down by a bout of appendicitis, his tank training was delayed, and by the time the spring of 1945 came around, the war was winding down. John was discharged, and he began to look for work, and to adjust to life in now postwar Toronto.

John was interviewed at his home by Scott Masters in December 2017.

January 7th, 2018

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Kaneko Eishi served in the Japanese Imperial Army during World War Two.  From a working family near Kyoto, he grew up learning the traditions of interwar Japan, and he was imbued with the Shinto faith and an ardent athlete.  When the war came, he was identified as a strong math student, so the army prepared him for the signals corps, and he was given specialized training where he began to learn encryption and decryption in addition to the standard military regimen.  When his time came, he was sent to Manchuria for a time, where he practiced his signals and communications role.  From there he returned to Japan for a family visit, where the included photograph was taken.  The army next sent him to Bangkok, but American submarines thwarted their arrival and he ended up in the Philippines in 1944.  There, he and his men were constantly on the move, aiding their comrades and evading the Americans.  They finally surrendered in the summer of 1945, and later that summer they were returned to Japan, where Kaneko reunited with his family and began his postwar life.

Mr. Masters met Kaneko Eishi in Osaka, Japan in the summer of 1945, and he would like to thank Naoko Jin, who helped to set up the interview; former student Matthew Shapiro; Matt’s student Shahmir Kyani who aided in translating at the time of the interview; and Mr. Masters’ own student Yoshie Ishikawa, who did the translating and editing back in Toronto.

November 27th, 2017

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Pham Cong Lien lives outside Hanoi, Vietnam, in a state-sponsored home for the veterans of what the Vietnamese call the “American War”.  Mr. Pham turned eighteen and was conscripted by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) in 1967-68, just as the American involvement was reaching its apex.  Forced to leave school and his family behind, he went through brief military training before he followed the Ho Chi Minh Trial to the southernmost point of Vietnam.  After a brief period of combat, Mr. Pham was grievously wounded, the victim of a paralyzing back injury.  He was transported back to the north, where his medical treatment began.  With the North’s victory and the unification of Vietnam in 1974-75, Mr. Pham was moved to the veterans’ home, where he has resided ever since.  The state has and facility have since looked after him and his family, and have found ways for him to make his contribution to the national cause.

In July 2017 Crestwood teacher Scott Masters took part in Alpha Education’s Peace and Reconciliation Tour.  Seventeen educators, activists, lawyers, and documentarians toured China and Korea, learning about the Asian perspective on the Second World War, and exploring ways to raise awareness of this side of the war to a non-Asian audience.  The tour was organized by Don Tow, as part of his ongoing efforts to stimulate social justice education and to improve Asian-American understanding and relationships.  While overseas, Mr. Masters also visited Vietnam, where he was able to speak to Vietnamese people about the meaning of war in their recent national history.  Mr. Masters was able to visit and interview Pham Cong Lien with the help of Footstep Travel, and the translation efforts of Le Nguyen Giap.    

Please note that this interview is in Vietnamese, with the English translation at the end of each segment.

October 11th, 2017

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John Boyd was born in Alberta in 1915.  He grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression, though he said he was lucky to have been sheltered from the toughest times.  The harsh conditions did push his politics to the left, and John was attracted to the leftist ideals of the time.  After graduating high school in Vegreville, he made his way to Toronto, where he eventually joined the armed forces, choosing the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals.  After training John was selected as an editor for the army magazine The Signalman.  He pursued this occupation after the war too, as journalism was a natural fit for John.

We met John at the Sunnybrook Veterans Wing in July 2017, when he was interviewed by Crestwood students Arielle Meyer and Samara Black.

October 11th, 2017

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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.

March 31st, 2017

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Zbigniew Gondek served in the Polish Army during World War Two.  Born in Szemysyl in 1923, he and his family found themselves in the Soviet Zone of occupation after the 1939 Nazi Soviet Pact.  Zbigniew’s father, a police officer, was murdered, and Zbigniew and his mother were transported to Siberia, where they ended up in a work camp/village.  When Germany broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union, many of the Poles were released, with Zbigniew and many young men taking advantage of the opportunity to join “Anders’ Army”, organized by the Polish General Anders.  With that his odyssey began, and Zbigniew moved through a succession of countries in the Middle East, including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Palestine.  After a year of training and transportation, Zbigniew and his fellow soldiers landed in Italy, bound for the battlefield.  Quickly they found themselves at Montecassino, where the battle was raging between the Germans and the Allied forces.  The Poles played a major role in that battle, earning great distinction for themselves.  Following Montecassino, Zbigniew and his platoon came under machine gun fire at Loretto, where Zbigniew bravely threw several grenades, so the column could move forward.  He was gravely wounded at that time, losing his left hand and sustaining serious wounds to his leg.  He was shipped back to Scotland, where he spent a year in hospital recovering and learning to walk again.  After marrying he and his wife made their way to Canada.
We met Zbigniew through the efforts of the Royal Canadian Legion, and Scott Masters visited and interviewed Zbigniew in July 2016.

August 24th, 2016

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Kelman Cohen, born in 1925, was the son of Morris Cohen and Esther Minden of Toronto. Morris Cohen was a Russian immigrant.  Kelman grew up in the Great Depression and in his own words, ‘we all suffered’.  Kelman had a colourful childhood in downtown Toronto, and he shared many of his recollections from the neighbourhood and from school.  He joined the Canadian Army reserves in 1941 at age sixteen, went overseas with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry in March of 1945, and ended his service in the Queen’s Own Rifles as part of the Canadian Army of Occupation September 15 of 1946 . 

Kelman was interviewed at his home for this project by Willa Easton, Rory Peckham, Hartley Gelkopf and Harlan Rich in February 2016.

March 18th, 2016

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