Daily Briefing: COMMEMORATING V-E DAY:  MAY 8, 1945 (May 8,2020)



The Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (Montreal and Toronto) notes with sadness the passing of our dear founding Board member Gustava Rosner Weiner.

Born in Poland and a Holocaust survivor, and possessed of remarkable intellect and strength of character, after emigrating to Canada she made a successful business career in Montreal and raised her only child, Eric.  She identified with the pro-Israel work of CIJR early on, and gave its Director unstinting, steady, and resourceful support.  A tough and determined enemy of antisemitism in any of its many incarnations, Gustava was a sweet and loving person to those who really knew her.

Her memory is a blessing, and we send Dr . Eric Weiner and family our deepest condolences.

Jack Kincler                                                                     Prof. Frederick Krantz
National Board Chairman                                               Director
                              Canadian Institute for Jewish Research

Piccadilly Square pictured as supporters celebrate VE Day, May 08, 1945. Photo taken by Sgt. James A. Spence, during his service in World War II. (Source: WIKIPEDIA)

Table of Contents 
75 Years Later: World War II and Covid-19:  Frederick Krantz, Isranet, May 7, 2020
Survivor:  Christopher Hitchens, Atlantic, Dec. 2004

The Jews in Hitler’s Military:  William D. Montalbano, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 24, 1996

75 Years Later: World War II and Covid-19
Frederick Krantz
Isranet, May 7, 2020May 8, 2020 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Germany’s unconditional surrender, ending the European phase of World War II. As we face an ongoing corona-virus pandemic likened metaphorically to a war, the opening toll of which has been far more serious than either Pearl Harbor or 9/11, we must not fail to draw lessons from an earlier generation’s heroic struggle against radical evil.
The Allies’ titanic six-year-long fight, led by Great Britain and the U.S.A., against the Axis aggressors, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy and their henchmen (and against Japan in Asia and the Pacific) was the most destructive conflagration in world history.  It cost mankind over 60 million deaths, military and civilian—a number constantly being revised upward by historians–, including over 6 million Jews, murdered by the German Nazis in their drive to impose a world-wide 1,000-Year Aryan Reich on an enslaved humanity. 
The war lasted 2,174 days, costing an average 23,000 lives a day, or 15 people killed a minute, for six long years.  Its cost, estimated at over $1.5 trillion in then-current dollars, is in reality incalculable.
In this global war of annihilation, civilian deaths far outweighed military.  Of a total of some 70 million combatants, 17 million were killed.  Often forgotten in the West, the Soviet Union in fact bore the brunt of Hitler’s aggression, suffering a total of some 21.5 million deaths between June 1941 (when Hitler abrogated the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact he had made with Stalin) and the war’s end four years later. A total of 6 million Germans died, with three million soldiers dying on the Eastern front (three of every four Wehrmacht deaths in all sectors).
France, occupied after May,1940, lost a total of 600,000 people, Italy (knocked out after the Sicily and Salerno landings in 1943 but occupied from Rome north by he Germans until 1945) suffered 800,000 casualties. (Japan lost a total of 2 million, bled by its invasion of China in 1937, the U.S. Pacific “island–hopping” campaign,   massive firebombings after 1944 and, finally,  by two atomic bombs, which ended the Pacific war in August, 1945,)
These staggering numbers must never be forgotten. British armed forces suffered 244,000 killed, with the Commonwealth and Imperial allies accounting for another 100,000 (Canada 37,000). The United States, a late entrant after Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, lost 300,000 servicemen (this for a country whose armed forces in 1940 stood at 269,000, 17th smallest in the world, after Romania—but which by war’s end, four years later, stood at 16 million men [and women]).  Poland, her antiquated but valiant army decimated by the German Blitzkrieg in September-October 1939, and under German occupation for six years, had the highest per capita death rate in the war, losing 15% of her population (over 6 million of whom, 50%, were Jews). (Jewish soldiers, it should also be noted, volunteering and drafted, and largely in the U.S., British and Russian armies, as well as from the Palestinian Yishuv, or settlement, totalled ca.1 million, together constituting the single highest percentage of any of the ethnic groups included in the Allied countries.)
 … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
(Prof. Krantz, a historian, is Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research and Editor of its Israfax and Daily Briefing publications.)
Christopher Hitchens
Atlantic, Dec. 2004
The literature of twentieth-century totalitarianism, whether in prefiguring the epoch of Nazism and Stalinism or in drawing on it, often relied on un homme moyen sensuel—the luckless particle swept up in the process, or the worm from whose eye the titanic, forbidding edifice could be squintingly, even cringingly, scrutinized. Kafka’s Joseph K was a prototype; Orwell’s Winston Smith was given autonomy as a character only to have it very annihilatingly taken away from him. (Rubashov, in Darkness at Noon, was more of a Miltonian figure, flung from the heights of power yet still pitilessly judged by the standards of his former comrades.)
Almost a decade ago, in Germany, the diaries of Victor Klemperer were published. It became evident at once that this was a nonfiction event that quite eclipsed the journals of Anne Frank. Here was a middle-aged academic, converted from Judaism to Protestantism, who had decided in full maturity to keep a record of every feasible day (and some inconceivable ones) of the “thousand-year Reich”: an enterprise that occupied him from 1933 to 1945 and filled two large volumes titled I Will Bear Witness. Superbly translated by Martin Chalmers, these appeared in English in 1998 and 1999, and gave rise to a very widespread critical and historical discussion about the Hitler period. Reading them, I noticed that at the end of the war—and after narrowly surviving the obliteration of Dresden—Klemperer had opted to stay in “East” Germany, and to identify himself with what became the German Democratic Republic. Given the attachment to liberalism and skepticism that he had demonstrated throughout his diaries of the Nazi years, and given also his addiction to journal keeping, I felt sure that he would have kept up his solitary labor on the other side of the Iron Curtain, and that this work would one day surface. And now it has, in the form of The Lesser Evil, a fourteen-year personal journey through the academic bureaucracy and party-state institutions of the GDR. It ends a few months short of Klemperer’s death, in 1960. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

These Jewish World War II Veterans Would Be Legends, if People Knew Their Stories
Aron Heller
NY Times, May 8, 2019
In April 1943, the Halifax bomber that Wilfred Canter co-piloted was shot down on the way back from a mission over Stuttgart. Canter parachuted out into occupied France, breaking a leg when he landed. The only member of the six-man crew to evade capture, he was given food and clothing by a local family, then passed to members of the Resistance, who smuggled him to Paris, then Bordeaux, then over the Pyrenees by foot into Spain. From there he made his way to Gibraltar and then England. King George VI personally awarded Canter a Distinguished Flying Medal at Buckingham Palace, where he was cited for displaying “courage and tenacity of a high order.”
After less than a month of home leave in Toronto, Canter — one of about 17,000 Jewish Canadians who fought in World War II — deemed himself fit for duty and returned to England to resume his bombing missions, including one in which his plane took fire but returned safely to base. In April 1944, Canter was shot down again, on a bombing run over Düsseldorf, and was captured by the Germans. After a lengthy Gestapo interrogation, he was detained for nine months in Stalag Luft III, a German prisoner-of-war camp made famous in the 1963 film “The Great Escape,” which recounted how 76 British and Allied aviators tunneled to freedom. All but three of the prisoners were caught, and 50 were executed. Records and chronology indicate that Canter arrived at that camp at least a month after the escape.
As the Allies were closing in on Germany, the camp’s remaining war prisoners were marched west, away from the advancing Soviet Army. Canter escaped and managed to connect with a British unit. Family lore adds that he was briefly recaptured by a German officer, but resistance forces shot the German dead, freeing Canter again and handing him the officer’s Luger pistol, which he kept as a memento.
I didn’t know Canter, but my grandfather, Mickey Heller, did. Zaidy — I’ve always called him by the Yiddish word for “grandpa” — speaks fondly of his friend Wilf, the fellow Jewish veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force who survived three near-death experiences and almost a year as a prisoner of war. Canter would be legendary, if only more people knew the legend. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

The Jews in Hitler’s Military
William D. Montalbano
Los Angeles Times, Dec. 24, 1996
Sustained by scholarship, peanut butter and a sense of mission, American Bryan Rigg is exploring an eerie and uncharted no man’s land of Holocaust history.

Rigg interviews former German soldiers of Jewish heritage, some of them high-ranking officers, who fought for Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich in World War II–during the Holocaust, when the Nazis slaughtered 6 million Jews.
“Thousands of men of Jewish descent and hundreds of what the Nazis called ‘full Jews’ served in the military with Hitler’s knowledge. The Nazis allowed these men to serve but at the same time exterminated their families,” Rigg said.
On a heady journey of personal and professional discovery, the 25-year-old Texan has talked with more than 300 of these veterans, including a handful in California. Passed along from one old soldier to another, he has crisscrossed Germany over four years, often by bicycle, sometimes sleeping in railroad stations to stretch his budget.
Rigg said he has documented the Jewish ancestry of more than 1,200 of Hitler’s soldiers, including two field marshals and 10 generals, “men commanding up to 100,000 troops.” In about 20 cases, soldiers of Jewish heritage were awarded the Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest military honor, he said.
This fall, Rigg, Yale ’96, arrived at England’s Cambridge University to begin a graduate degree in history, lugging his clothes, computer and documentation in a bulging knapsack. Jonathan Steinberg, a Cambridge historian, read Rigg’s files and hurried to find a safe place for them.
“When I saw Bryan’s archive, I couldn’t believe it. He’s like the sorcerer’s apprentice, calling these sources up from the depths. People keep coming and coming to him,” Steinberg said. “I guess what we are dealing with psychologically is people who have felt guilty all these years. A classic all-American boy comes along, and they open up to him.”
Along the way, Rigg, who is of German extraction and was raised as a Protestant, has discovered that he too has Jewish ancestry. Like many of the families he has visited, Rigg had distant relatives who were killed for being Jewish–and others who died fighting in battle for Nazi Germany.
The old soldiers give Rigg both documents and their stories of war, peace and suffering. He says many still struggle with a question that is a challenge to history: If I fought in the German army while my mother died in a Nazi concentration camp, am I a villain or a victim? … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]


GI Jews — Jewish Americans in World War II:  PBS — This is the profound and remarkable story of the 550,000 Jewish Americans who served their country in World War II. These brave men and women fought for their nation and for Jewish people worldwide.
National Museum of American Jewish Military History:  Our Stories
The Role of Jewish Canadian Soldiers in the Second World War: Bill Gladstone, CJN, Apr. 12, 2018 — One of the first books to be released by the Toronto-based New Jewish Press may turn out to be one of its most impressive.
The Fauda Effect: Israeli Active Defense on the Screen:  Asaf Romirowsky, BESA, Apr. 19, 2020 — The Israeli concept of “active defense” has long been used by the film industry as a tool with which to showcase the Israeli perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This week’s French-language briefing is titled:  La lumière au bout du tunnel?
CIJR wishes our friends and supporters Shabbat Shalom!  Keep safe and healthy!