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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Remembering the Liberation of Auschwitz

Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II), Poland, Cassidy

On January 27, 2015 thousands will gather before the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its liberation by the Red Army.  Beyond those gates are where approximately 960,000 million Jews and another 125,000 including Poles, Roma, ("Gypsies"), homosexuals and the infirm, were put to death.

In 2013 I had the opportunity to visit the site and stand before those gates as part of a Holocaust In Europe tour led by U of W history professor Dr. Jody Perrun.


 Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II), Poland, Cassidy

"Auschwitz" was actually a series camps in close proximity about 70 kilometres west of Krakow, Poland. Its name is a variation of that of the nearby town of Oświęcim. The three main camps were Auschwitz I, Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II) and Auschwitz-Monowitz (Auschwitz III). There were another 48 sub camps that dotted the countryside around them.

Auschwitz, Poland
Auschwitz, Poland

The best preserved of the sites, and the one with the infamous "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work will set you free") gate at the entrance, is Auchwitz I, built in 1940 as a concentration camp. For the most part, it was the processing and administration centre for the camps. People were warehoused here while their fates were determined.

Auschwitz-Monowitz, built in 1942, was a work camp filled with warehouses and factories employing prisoner labour. It was bombed near the end of the war, then dismantled and is now home to modern factories.

Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II), Poland, Cassidy
Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II), Poland, Cassidy
Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II), Poland, Cassidy
 Top to bottom: Main entrance, destroyed gas chamber, bunkhouse.

The true horrors of Auschwitz took place at Auschwitz-Birkenau located just kilometres from Auchwitz I, connected by a road and rail line. Built in 1941, it is where the majority of Auschwitz's victims were killed. 

Prisoners were kept in basic bunkhouses, a number of which are still standing, as are many of the administrative buildings. In the dying days of the war the Germans blew up the most incriminating buildings, such as the furnaces and gas chambers, leaving behind mostly rubble and tonnes of ash.

Another part of the camp destroyed was a compound called as Kanada (Canada). Named for Canada, known as a land of riches, it was where prisoners were deloused in "saunas" and separated from their possessions, everything from clothing and jewellery to hair and gold teeth. The remainder of the Canada complex were the warehouses where these items were sorted and stored for reuse.

Auschwitz, Poland
Auschwitz, Poland
Auschwitz, Poland

This will be the last major anniversary of the liberation where a significant number of survivors will be able to attend. As they pass on, the question arises about what to do with the Auschwitz sites?  

In the decades since the war, tens of millions of people have made the pilgrimage to their gates and they are a major tourism draw for Poland. The buildings, however, are starting to crumble.

Up until the turn of the century, the museum that runs the site was able to maintain it, the exhibitions and the thousands of artifacts housed within there from gate admissions and other on-site sales. A survey of its nearly 200 acres which contains about 150 buildings and 130 ruins found most of them in poor condition and in need of major renovations.

A call went out for international aid to raise the approximately $130m U.S. needed for the restoration. Germany responded with $80 million, the U.S.A. with with $15 and Australia with $6 which allowed for some desperately needed work to be done.

As someone who has visited the site and generally in favour of building preservation, I have to admit that I can see merits in both sides of the debate.


Auschwitz, Poland

That, though, will be a discussion that will be picked up another time. Today is a day to remember the victims and survivors of one of the modern world's darkest chapters. 

Auschwitz Information:
Auschwitz-Birkenau homepage
Auschwitz Site U.S. Holocaust Museum
The History of Auschwitz PBS.org

The preservation debate:
Auschwitz's historic grounds falling into disrepair National Post (2013)
Can Auschwitz be saved? The Smithsonian (2010)
Should Auschwitz be allowed to decay? BBC News (2009)
Auschwitz Repairs Stir Up Tough Preservation Debate Wall Street Journal (2002)

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Nursing Sister Margaret Lowe of Binscarth

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at 100 Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.

http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/497437?Margaret+Lowe#inline_content_modal_12

Margaret Lowe was born in Morayshire, Scotland in 1888 and came to the Binscarth area as a young child with her parents, Thomas and Christina Low. (It is noted here that her birth name was Low but while living in Winnipeg, the Henderson Directories list her as Lowe and she enlisted under that spelling.) 

Lowe came to Winnipeg to study nursing. By 1914 she was working at the Winnipeg General Hospital and living at the Nurses' Home at 781 Bannatyne, now demolished. By 1917 she was living at the Malvern House Apartments at 753 Wolseley Street, which at the time was the Graduated Nurses Residence.

On March 24, 1917 Lowe enlisted and on  April 3, 1917 she and five other Nursing Sisters left Winnipeg by train: Margaret Harper; Margaret Fenton; Elizabeth McPhail; Mary Watt and Bernice Petch.

Top: May 23, 1918, Winnipeg Tribune
Middle: Aftermath of attack on 1st CGH (source)
Bottom: Destroyed nurses quarters after attack (source)

At first, Lowe worked at a number of field stations in England then in January 1918 went to France and the 10th Canadian Stationary Hospital. Soon after, she was transferred to the 1st Canadian General Hospital in Étaples. She had only been there four weeks when the hospital was bombed in an air raid. It was one of a number of allied hospitals targeted by the Germans in late May 1918.

Her Circumstances of Death certifcate states:

Died of wounds. While at work in No. 1 General Hospital, Étaples, on May 21st, 1918 she was gravely wounded in the right chest and sustained a compound fracture of the skull from fragments of a bomb dropped by an enemy aeroplane. She was taken to No. 24 General Hospital, Étaples, where she succumbed one week later.

Lowe's funeral procession (source)

Lowe, 32, is buried in the Étaples Military Cemetery in France and commemorated on the Binscarth War Memorial and the Nursing Sisters Memorial in Ottawa. 

In all, 132 nurses from the Winnipeg General Hospital served in World War I. Four did not return.

Related:
Margaret Lowe Canadian Virtual War Memorial (includes more funeral photos)
Margaret Lowe Canadian Great War Project
Margaret Lowe War Service Record Library and Archives Canada
The Nursing Sisters of Canada WWI Veterans Affairs Canada
Finding the Forty-Seven: Canadian Nurses of the First World War

Image Sources:
Canada's First World War Experience - Women Working Overseas 
Battlefront Nurses in WWI Maureen Duffus

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Stuart Scott McIntyre of Winnipeg

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at 100 Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.


Stuart McIntyre was born in Winnipeg on June 29, 1897 to Daniel and Mary McIntyre. Being the son of a famous educator, his father was the superintendent of public schools in Winnipeg for over 40 years, education was important and he enrolled at the University of Manitoba.

Before graduating, McIntyre enlisted with the 196th (Western Universities) Battalion. Based in Winnipeg, it recruited from universities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. (One short-term recruit was John Deifenbaker, who was injured during training and sent home.) McIntyre was later transferred to the 1st Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles.

http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/1594194

McIntyre was killed in action along with twenty-six other members of the 1st Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles on October 26, 1917, the start of the Second Battle of Passchendaele.

It was yet another tragedy that Daniel and Mary McIntyre had to contend with. Two of their children died in infancy. Mary died of appendicitis in 1921.

Related:
Canadian Virtual War Memorial entry
Canadian Great War Project entry
Attestation Papers
1st Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles Ypres Salient.com

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Sidney Fritz of Winnipeg

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at 100 Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.


Sidney Edwards was born in Bournemouth, Hampshire, England and came to Winnipeg around 1910 as a young adult with his parents, James and Mary Edwards, and at least one sibling, brother Harry. The family settled on Arlington Street.

Soon after, Sidney soon moved out on his own, initially renting a room on Alexander Avenue and by 1914 renting a home at 872 Burnell Street with an A. Fritz. He worked for Eaton's as a painter in their contract services division which did painting and decorating of  homes and commercial buildings. He was better known around town, though, as a soccer player for United Weston of the Winnipeg and District Football League.

In October 1914 he enlisted with the 27th Battalion in October 1914, listing three years of previous military experience, with the King's Regiment (Liverpool) before coming to Canada. Oddly, he chose to sign up under a pseudonym, Sydney Fritz, which was the last name of the person he lived with on Burnell Street. This change in name is noted on his grave registration, (more about that later.)

April 18, 1916, Winnipeg Free Press

Though his Circumstances of Death Certificate simply reads "died of wounds at No. 17 Casualty Clearing Station", the April 6, 1916 entry in the war diary of the 27th Battalion describes the actions of a fellow soldier who received a distinguished conduct medal for trying to save Fritz:

"On April 6th 1916 at St Eloi, Sgt Haines, although wounded in side by shrapnel and badly shaken went to the assistance of 71690 Sgt D. Fritz* (27th Bn. Bombers) who was severely wounded and lying 200 yds in front of our trench. Sgt Haines went out under heavy shell fire in daylight and carried Sgt, Fritz under shelter and saw that his wounds were dressed and that he was properly attended to." 
* It is noted later by a researcher that D. Fritz is actually Sidney Fritz.

http://www.lijssenthoek.be/en/address/9566/-sidney-fritz-alias-edwards.html

Fritz died the following day, age 27, and is buried as Sidney Edwards in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium. Both newspapers noted that he was Mentioned in Dispatches and awarded the Military Medal just days before his death, though his Virtual War Memorial does not note this and I cannot find mention of it anywhere else on the internet.

As for Sydney's pseudonym, it was an odd choice given that Fritz is short for the German name Friedrich or Frederick, and was a nickname widely used by Allied forces to refer to German soldiers. This was not a wartime thing for Sydney as he is Fritz in sports stories and the Henderson Directory for a couple of years before enlisting as Sidney Fritz. On his attestation papers he lists Mary Fritz of 872 Arlington as his next of kin and that he was not married.

Sources:
Canadian Virtual War Memorial page Veterans' Affairs Canada
Attestation Papers Library and Archives Canada
 Circumstances of Death Certificate

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Radio Edition for January 18, 2015

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Join me and Kerri tonight at 7 pm on 101.5 UMFM for another West End Dumplings - the Radio Edition, the show about Manitoba history !

INTERVIEW

Cindy Tugwell of Heritage Winnipeg talks about the 30th Annual Heritage Winnipeg Preservation Awards that will be presented in February. They are seeking nominations now.

SHOW LINKS

The Winnipeg Victoria's 1902 Stanley Cup win in front of a home crowd at the Civic Auditorium. Coverage here and Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame entry.

Black History Month in Manitoba kicks off February 2015. A calendar of events, including a screening of Mighty Jerome. More about Swan River's Billy Beal here and here.

A history of the now demolished Winnipeg International Airport.

PLAY LIST

Come Fly With Me by Frank Sinatra
Cheap Flights by Fascinating AIDA
A Love Song For Queen Victoria by Mayor McCA
Homage to Queen Victoria of Great Britain by Johann Strauss I, (The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Georgiadis)

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Behind the Photo: Orkin's Millinery (1909)

Often I will see an old photo or ad and spend some time digging into the back story. Sometimes I find a great story, sometimes not. Either way, I learn a few things about the city's history. Here's my latest attempt:

December 1909 ad, Winnipeg Tribune 

I saw this 1909 Christmas advertisement in the Winnipeg Tribune and wanted to find out more about the man behind the jaunty fur hats ! Henry B. Orkin was his name and at one time he was the fur hat king of Winnipeg.

December 7, 1909, Winnipeg Free Press

Henry Orkin opened Orkin’s Millinery on September 1, 1908 at 259 Portage Avenue at Garry, the corner where the Paris Building now stands. Most of the hats he sold were his own designs, one ad boasting that he had 500 one of a kind creations in stock. In 1913 the name of the store changed to H. B. Orkin’s, or just Orkin’s, to reflect the expansion of his line into fur coats, dresses and suits for women.

Buoyed by his success and Winnipeg's red hot economy from 1909-1912, Orkin decided, like many other businessmen of the day, to try his hand at property development. He was a tenant on the corner and had taken out a 50 year lease with an option to purchase the property. He even had a four storey building to go there.

March 2, 1915, Winnipeg Free Press

Orkin was caught out when the heady days of the early 1910s turned sour. In 1913 Winnipeg faced a recession that caused land prices to plummet. The start of World War I made things worse and dealt a heavy blow to those dealing in luxury goods. A nearby casualty of this was the luxurious Olympia, now Marlborough, Hotel which went bankrupt after the start of the war.

In 1914 and early 1915 Orkin struggled to keep up with his obligations to the store and the development deal. He surrendered his option on the property to the eventual developer of the Paris Building and suddenly closed the shop with creditors chasing him.  When the creditors entered the store, there were a number of items missing, including the financial books. Also, a number of high-end fur coats and hundreds of muskrat skins, for which the wholesaler in Montreal had yet to be paid for.

They followed the trail and discovered that many of the coats were being sold at furriers around the city. One testified that Orkin had been selling them off for cash after the store closed.Others were found at a temporary shop that he set up on Albert Street.

June 9, 1916, Winnipeg Free Press

Broke, Orkin retreated to his Dugald, Manitoba home, which was in his wife Olga's name. In March 1916 police showed up at his door, charging him with numerous accounts of attempted fraud against his investors.  Though he was granted bail, he could not afford it.

The cases, two separate ones, went to court that summer and in June and July 1916 he was found not guilty on all charges. It's hard to explain why. Just as today, media make more of an issue over someone being arrested and charged, but their acquittal only gets a brief mention.

September 15, 1917, Winnipeg Free Press

Orkin did try to make a comeback. In September 1917 he opened Orkin's Limited, a store selling ladies clothing and accessories. It was short lived. He went bankrupt and the contents were sold off in May 1918.

Orkin family (Source: 1916 Prairie Census)

Orkin's personal life is a bit of a mystery. Though his 1915 ads states "since 1904", I can find no listing for an Orkin going back that early in the Winnipeg Henderson Directories. His personal life did not make the newspapers until his arrest, and even then, little was mentioned outside of his business dealings.

In the 1916 prairie census there was a Henry B. and Olga Orkin, with two sons and a 3 year-old daughter Beatrice Fairy in the R.M. of Springfield, where Dugald is located. Henry and Olga were Russian Jews who had their three children in Winnipeg starting in 1909.


Using that information, I came across Notes from a Wayfarer - Nathan Keyfitz's Memoir. He met Beatrice in Ottawa in1936 and would marry her in 1939. He recounts that Henry and Olga owned a small Ottawa bakery called "Orks"on Bank Street. You can read about them and the bakery here.

Henry died at Toronto in 1958. Olga died at Toronto in 1964.

Grand opening ad, Orkins Millinery
August 31, 1908, Winnipeg Tribune

 Advertorial describing the store
October 3, 1908, Winnipeg Tribune

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Radio Edition - January 11, 2015


The show is back for 2015 !

Join me tonight at 7 pm on 101.5 UMFM. my guest will be James Hope Howard, formerly of Slurpees and Murder and this radio show. We'll find out what he's been up to in the wilds of northern Saskatchewan, talk about old Winnipeg hotels, John A.'s 200th, CJOB's Red Alix and other things that tickle our fancy !

Come back later for the show links, play list and podcast !

Show Links:

- A history of the Redwood Bridge

- Manitoba Circuit OST at Slurpees and Murder

- Sir John A. Macdonald's 200th anniversary official site and his warts. Also, the back story to Charlie Angus, M.P.'s song.

Play List:

- Good Morning by Red Alix (album Good Morning)

- 60 When Passing Workers (Highway 1) by Hope Chip (album Manitoba Circuit OST)

- Sir John A, You're OK by Mike Ford (album Canada Needs You vol. 1)

- Four Horses by Charlie Angus, M.P. 

- Flin Flon Cliffs (Highway 10) by Hope Chip (album Manitoba Circuit OST)