Ellin Bessner is a journalist, a professor at Centennial College Journalism School in Toronto, and the author of “Double Threat: Canadian Jews, the Military, and World War II”. Ellin has spent eight years researching and interviewing over 300 Jewish WWII veterans and their families, to tell the untold stories of how and why Canada’s Jewish community mobilized to defeat Hitler and rescue the survivors of the Holocaust.
Bob Delson is the son of Canadian veteran and liberator of Bergen-Belsen, Bernard Delson. Bob possesses an extensive collection of his father's photographs from WWII, which have only now been revealed publicly. He also has a personally gifted, signed yellow Jewish Star from the striped uniform of one of the 60,000 prisoners that were liberated. The black and white photos from Bergen-Belsen show mass graves, bodies in shrouds before burial, and one shows a sign indicating the location of mass grave #7.
Linda Eisenberg is the daughter of Canadian veteran Jack Marcovitch, a soldier in a Montreal-based regiment, who helped liberate Vught concentration camp in occupied Holland in October 1944 and Bergen-Belsen in April 1945. Jack Marcovitch was also one of the Allied troops who captured the commandant of Bergen-Belsen, Josef Kramer (known as the "Beast of Belson") in April 1945.
From Canada, there were over a million men in uniform, including 17,000 Jewish soldiers, who helped liberate the Jews of Europe, rescued the survivors of the camps and the ghettos and the hidden children, and also worked after the war to reunite many with their families around the world, including here in Canada. For the tiny wartime Jewish community of Canada, the Second World War was what the prime minister of the day, Mackenzie King, called a “Double Threat”: he said Hitler was not only dangerous to freedom and democracy, but was a threat to the very survival of the Jewish people as a race. And for the 17,000 Canadian Jewish soldiers who went to help fight Hitler, the war posed a great personal danger, should the Nazis capture them.
The Jewish Underground Railroad
Anne Dublin is a child of Holocaust survivors, the award-winning author of biographies and historical novels for young people, a former teacher-librarian, and a popular speaker. She has a special interest in the Bricha, for her parents were Holocaust survivors who escaped from Poland to a DP camp in Austria with the help of the Bricha. Anne's writing has been honored with the Sydney Taylor Honor Book Award, the American Library Association's Amelia Bloomer Project Recommended Feminist Read for Youth designation, and many others.
The Hebrew word "bricha" means "flight" or "escape". The Bricha was the illegal underground organization in post-World War II Europe that helped Jewish Holocaust survivors escape to DP camps in Germany, Austria, or Italy. Anne will speak about the history of the Bricha, the harrowing journeys of the refugees, and the final dismantling of the organization in 1948 when the State of Israel was established.
Eyewitness Film Footage at Liberation
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum presents selections from unofficial films taken by American soldiers, who documented the effects of persecution and Nazi atrocities in liberated areas of Europe with their personal movie cameras. A film archivist will discuss how such amateur films complicate, contradict, and add nuance to the official film canon, which has defined how the events of the Holocaust have been visualized in the postwar years.
A STORY OF DISCOVERY:
How a Paraguayan Passport Faked by Polish Diplomats Saved My Mother's Family
K. Heidi Fishman, 2G/3G, graduated from Williams College and earned her EdD in Counseling Psychology from Western Michigan University. As a psychologist, she worked at Dartmouth College and in private practice. Heidi won the Joseph Zola Memorial Holocaust Educator Award from the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford for the proposal that led to "Tutti’s Promise: A Novel Based on a Family’s True Story of Courage and Hope During the Holocaust" (2017, MB Publishing).
Jędrzej Uszyński is a career diplomat in the Polish diplomatic service. Since 2015 he been serving as first secretary and counselor of the Polish Embassy in Bern. In 2013, he was an expert on human rights at the Polish Permanent Representation to the UN Office in Geneva. Since beginning of 2017, he has been involved in extensive research on the Polish diplomats who worked for the Polish Legation in Switzerland between 1939 and 1945. This research focused on the secret mission to save Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe - a partnership between Polish diplomats and leaders of the Jewish community in Switzerland, known as the ‘Ładoś Group’. Mr. Uszyński is an author on various articles on the efforts of the Group to save European Jews form the Holocaust and a co-author of the recently published book ‘The Ładoś list’ (“Lista Ładosia”), which enumerates more than 3000 names of people who thanks to Aleksander Ładoś and his collaborators were issued fake Latin American passports and citizenship confirmations.
The Last Eyewitnesses
In this one-hour documentary, heroic veterans vividly share their World War II liberation experiences in their own words, drawing parallels between the past and the present. By illuminating the powerful stories of these key eyewitnesses, the film shares their cautionary tale of what can happen when insidious hatred remains unchecked.
Two of Liberation75's Keynote Speakers, Dr. Stephen D. Smith and Dr. Michael Berenbaum, are featured in the film to add historical perspective to the events.
Liberation Heroes: The Last Eyewitnesses is directed by Vanessa Roth, presented by June Beallor Productions, directed by Vanessa Roth, and executive produced by Mickey Shapiro, Ceci Chan, Stephen D. Smith, and Andi Gitow.
Brought to Liberation75 by June Beallor of USC Shoah Foundation.