"He died so Jewry should suffer no more." These words on a Canadian Jewish soldier's tombstone in Normandy inspired the author to explore the role of Canadian Jews in the war effort. As PM Mackenzie King wrote in 1947, Jewish servicemen faced a "double threat" - they were not only fighting against Fascism but for Jewish survival. At the same time, they encountered widespread antisemitism and the danger of being identified as Jews if captured. Bessner conducted hundreds of interviews and extensive archival research to paint a complex picture of the 17,000 Canadian Jews - about 10 per cent of the Jewish population in wartime Canada - who chose to enlist, including future Cabinet minister Barney Danson, future game-show host Monty Hall, and comedians Wayne and Schuster. Added to this fascinating account are Jews who were among the so-called "Zombies" - Canadians who were drafted, but chose to serve at home - the various perspectives of the Jewish community, and the participation of Canadian Jewish women.
Ellin Bessner is a journalist and a professor of journalism at Centennial College in Toronto.