Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering Sam Geller on Rememberance Day

Today all of us are no doubt remembering family members and friends who fought in one of the wars. I am thinking of my father Sam, who as many of my friends and family will attest, was greatly influenced by his experiences as a Communications Officer for the King's Royal Rifle Corps during World War II.

But first a story about my daughter Georgia. When she was quite young she learned about Rememberance Day at school, and the tragic loss of life during too many wars. That Friday night when my dad came over for dinner she shocked and amused all of us when she asked: "Grandpa, did you die in the War?"

Today, as a recently graduated doctor, she is much more conversant with the difference between life and death!

My dad was not the type of person who would relish fighting with another person. However, as a young man in England, he like so many others, considered it his duty to go off to war. Fortunately, he was put in charge of communications, rather than be compelled to fight on the front lines. But unfortunately, that didn't stop him from being captured in Italy and taken to the Prisoner of War camps in Germany.

While my father was not a particularly provocative sort of person (I acquired this trait from my mother!), for whatever reason he chose not to hide the fact that he was Jewish while in the POW camps. As he often mentioned to my many friends who enjoyed listening to his war stories, this never was an issue until very close to the end of the war when the commander of one particular camp requested that all the Jewish prisoners be gathered in a separate area.

My father's commander then approached the German in charge of the camp and said something to the effect that they knew that what was being contemplated was completely wrong and in violation of the Convention. He added that they all knew the war would soon be over, and if anything happened to the Jewish prisoners, he would ensure that the Camp Commander was charged and punished to the full extent of the law.

As my dad told the story, the Germans backed off and a few weeks later the Camp prisoners were freed by the Americans.

After the War my dad returned to England to discover that his mother had been killed during the bombing of Bristol where they lived. He married and eventually moved to Canada in 1952.

Everyone who knew my father always commented on what a happy, positive person he was. He had a wonderful sense of humour, and rarely had a unkind word about anyone. I often think that while he never achieved great fame or success, he lived a wonderful life because he never really expected to survive the war. As he put it, after the POW camps, everything was gravy!

In his later years he was a proud member of the Shalom Legion and would annually participate in Rememberance Day activities. He died in July 2004 at the age of 92. 'A true gentleman'

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