Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thoughts on Remembrance Day

I know what I'll be thinking about at 11 a.m.

Over the past few weeks, a bit of World War II history came alive for me while I was working on a Remembrance Day article for our Nov. 11 issue.

Alan Caplan, a member of the Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men and Women (AJEX), wrote to The CJN last month from his home in Leeds, England. He was seeking relatives of seven Jewish RCAF airmen who were killed during World War II and are buried in Harrogate, about half an hour away.

The letter caught my attention. In 1987, I'd visited Harrogate and taken pictures of the graves he mentioned. I was interested at the time because my father, who was also in the RCAF, had been stationed in the area during the war.

The pictures were a sobering reminder that things could have turned out very differently for my dad, and – without exaggeration – for the entire world.

But the gravestones included few of the details that would make the men "real" in my mind.

That's changed, now that I've seen their pictures and spoken to some of their relatives.

Today, I think of Harry Ratner – a serious-looking young man with a direct gaze and a hint of a smile – as the guy who asked his kid sister, "Hey, Princess, how about polishing my shoes?"

And Morley Stock, who struck a jaunty pose on the steps of the officers' mess, combined a poet's sensibility with a bomber pilot's grit.

Robert Sirluck – looking like he could walk out of his picture in his flying gear and aviator sunglasses – was so committed to fighting the Nazis that he lied about his age to enlist.

Click here to read more about them. And, if you know anyone who is related to the other airmen – Jack Tass, Ernest Israel Glass, R.P. Marks or Joseph Zareikin – Alan Caplan would welcome a call or e-mail.

1 comment:

Andy Wade said...

Hello, I read with great interest about Ernest Israel Glass. He was the pilot of a Wellington Bomber that got lost in the fog and crashed into a hillside near Oakworth, here in West Yorkshire, England in January 1944. We remember these men every year at or near to the anniversary of the crash. Max Friebel is the nephew of Ernest Glass and visits every year if he can. Max always gives a speech of thanks and has actually stated that 'Israel' was just a popular name in use at that time and that Ernest was not in fact Jewish.

Kind regards,
Andy Wade.
Website administrator for the Oakworth Village Society.