Kim Han Soo was born in northern Korea in 1918, during the time of Japanese occupation. When the Japanese invaded the Chinese in 1937, Mr. Kim remembers an offhand remark from a Japanese officer, bragging about a Chinese girl he had raped and murdered. It would prove to be a powerful lesson for Mr. Kim, setting him on a path to righteous behaviour. Like many Koreans of his generation, Mr. Kim was conscripted for the Japanese war effort. First, he worked for a salt concern Korea’s north; later he was tricked by the Japanese into thinking he was needed for a lumber work project. He ended up in Pusan, and from there he was sent to Nagasaki, Japan, where he worked in the city’s shipyards.
Mr. Kim spoke to participants from the Alpha Education Peace and Reconciliation Tour in July 2017, with the hope that his story carries a message of peace to future generations. Translation was facilitated by Ahn Minseob, a graduate of Crestwood’s Class of 2012, and one of Mr. Masters’ former students.
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.
Please note this interview is in Korean, with English overdubs.
Oral History Project October 11th, 2017
Stefania Sitbon is a Holocaust Survivor from Poland. She was born just before the war began, so Stefania doesn’t remember the German invasion, or life before the war. The memories she has are of her childhood, a time when things had changed dramatically. Stefania grew up in the chaos and hunger of the Warsaw Ghetto, where her father had taken up resistance against the Nazis – he later participated in the uprising, which he survived. With the help of a righteous Gentile, Stefania and the other members of her family found temporary refuge in the Warsaw Zoo, the subject of the recent film The Zookeeper’s Wife. From there Stefania and her family were separated and sent to convents and surrounding villages, from which they were liberated in 1945. Her reunited family spent the immediate postwar years in Austria and Poland, after which they emigrated to the new nation of Israel, later deciding to go to Canada.
Oral History Project June 9th, 2017
Helen Zeller grew up in Poland. She was living a very comfortable life with her family when the war began, quickly changing everything. While most of her family was lost, Helen and a few others were fortunate to escape the liquidation. She was able to survive in a bunker and the forest, dependent on a few Righteous Poles to stay alive.
Helen came to us courtesy of Baycrest, where we interviewed her at a Cafe Europa in February 2013.
Oral History Project April 2nd, 2013