When I think of World War II, a number of words come to my mind: Holocaust, Hitler, Warsaw, Germany, destruction and enabling deafening silence. I have been fascinated by the two great world wars since I was a child and not in a glamorous way, as there is nothing glorious about any war.
What fascinates me is how so many humans like you and me, were complacent and silent to the heinous crimes being committed. Countries outside of Germany’s control knew what was going on in the concentration camps, yet there were ships full of Jewish passengers fleeing for their lives turned away at ports, and sent back straight into the snares of impending doom. Canada sent one ship away at a port right here in my province of Nova Scotia. Disturbing…
My mom said she remembers seeing my grandmother crying after watching a news reel in the theatre called “The Eyes and Ears of the World” by Paramount News. The general public were aware of the carnage and destruction going on and the goal of Hitler to cleanse the world of all who did not fit his Aryan mold. We had our Canadian troops in the trenches fighting for peace, our freedom and helping to prevent Germany from gaining further European territory.
Almost every Jewish friend I have has lost family relatives due to the Holocaust and have been personally impacted by parents, grandparents and beyond.
I want to share a story about a Canadian Jewish soldier who fought in World War II, whom I only became aware of recently.
Both sides of my family come from Ontario and back in the 1940s my great grandmother had a summer home or cottage in Muskoka, Ontario right on the lake.
My Mom and my uncle used to visit the cottage and stay with their grandparents in the summer and one of their summer home neighbors was a kind Jewish woman who would happily lend my uncle and his friend a small row boat so the two boys could row around in the lake.
One day my uncle came home with the boat and dragged it up on the grassy part of the property safe from floating away on the lake. My great grandmother asked, “why do you have the neighbor’s boat? They will want it back!”. My uncle said “she said we could keep it and it was a gift!”. My great grandmother was annoyed as she assumed since the neighbor was Jewish, she would want money for it.
I gasped with disgust when my Mom told me this part of the story; I was ashamed to be related to someone who would be spouting such ignorant and anti-Semitic words.
Granny, as affectionately called by my Mom and uncle, stormed over to the neighbor’s home and knocked on the door. She out right asked the neighbor why she gave the row boat to her grand son and his friend, and was she looking for money?
The Jewish lady said it was a gift to the boys who enjoyed it so much and she didn’t want any money. She explained the row boat belonged to her one and only son who had gone to war and had recently died during battle, and therefore she had no need for the boat anymore.
I was upset to hear that someone in my family would be so ignorant to buy into a stereotype and call someone out on it, and I hope my great grandmother felt awful and learnt a lesson from her foolish beliefs.
I don’t know the name of the neighbor, and I don’t know the name of her son, but what I do know is he was Jewish and Canadian and he fought for my and your freedom.
I meant to write this blog on Remembrance Day, but life gets in the way of plans. I want to remember our veterans who fought for our freedom and those who did not make it back home. We have so many men and women who went to war who were Canadian but who also from another culture or race.
It is a good reminder to always treat others as we want to be treated which is with respect, no judgment or preconceived ideas of who we are because of our race, sexual orientation, social status, where we come from, gender, beliefs or anything else for that matter.
I don’t know why I wanted to share this story, but I felt it was worthy of sharing and something to remember.
Peace and Love – Rachel