Connect with us
Israel Bonds RRSP

Features

Was a Nazi war criminal living in St. James forced to hang himself by a Jewish “avenger” in 1960?

Alexander Laak (supplied)/Soviet file photo

By BERNIE BELLAN The story of an alleged Nazi war criminal by the name of Alexander Laak, who was found hanging in his St. James garage in 1960, is one that has been revisited in this newspaper several times.

 

In October 1987, the late Gene Telpner first broached the story in our pages in one of his columns, when he wrote the following:

Quite a few columns ago I wrote about a book called “Forged in Fury”, which detailed the hanging in Winnipeg of an alleged war criminal by one or more Israeli “agents”.
They apparently had flown here, carried out the execution, and then caught a plane out of the city the same day.
At the time, the Free Press story reported the man’s death as a suicide, and the name given in the item was not his real one. His real name was Alexander Laak, and the wartime actions in which he allegedly participated took place in Estonia, near Tallin.
At one time, Laak worked at the RCAF base in Winnipeg. When he came to Canada from Europe he had received “clearance” from the British and Americans, but apparently the Russians wanted him back for further investigation.

Arthur Drache

Now all of this original story was in 1960, and not until 1970, when the book Forged in Fury was published, did the details emerge. Those details came as a shock to Arthur Drache, son of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Drache of this city, for several reasons.
For one, Arthur was a Free Press reporter when the “suicide” was printed and covered the story. Asked about it, Drache said, “We wrote a couple of stories “which received page one play, but did not give his name because of libel laws.”
But when Drache, who is now Arthur Drache Q.C. with the law firm of Drache Rotenberg in Ottawa, read “Forged in Fury”, he got full details for the first time. He wrote to the Free Press to tell them about the book’s revelations, but says he never got a response from the newspaper.
One of the saddest parts of the story to Drache is the fact that he and Laak’s son were classmates at Gordon Bell, and played on the school football team.
Laak was never publicly identified in Winnipeg while he was alive. It is believed that there had been accusations from some sources, but he protested his innocence.
Arthur Drache explained, “Only his ‘suicide’ allowed fuller disclosures and until I read “Forged in Fury” I was quite at a loss to explain his actions.”

Subsequently, in a February 20, 1991 issue of The Jewish Post & News, Myron Love had this story:
Manitoba RCMP looking into 30-year-old suicide of alleged Nazi
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have re-opened an investigation into the apparent suicide 30 years ago of an alleged Estonian Nazi living in Winnipeg. The new investigation was requested by the provincial Attorney-General’s Department, following an article on the case last winter in the Winnipeg Free Press, and a subsequent letter by a member of the public to the attorney-general, asking that this possible murder be investigated, in light of the war crimes prosecutions taking place in the country.
Alexander Laak was found hanging in his garage on September 6, 1960, according to Sargent Wes Border of the RCMP’s General Investigation Section. The section is looking into the matter, after a series of newspaper reports from the Soviet Union, alleging Laak was a Nazi collaborator. The Winnipeg police investigated his death at the time.
A coroner’s inquest, headed by Dr. I.O. Fryer, then the province’s chief medical officer, ruled the death an apparent suicide, and the case was closed.
In the early 1970s, an author named Michael Elkin published a book called “Forged in Fury”, in which he described how an Israeli agent named Arnie Berg came to Winnipeg from South America, and gave Laak the choice of committing suicide or having him and his wife killed by Berg.
Last February, Winnipeg Free Press reporter Dave Roberts wrote a story on the case, with reference to Elkins’ report. (Roberts is unavailable for comment. He is currently in the Middle East.) The article also led to the attack on retired journalist Keith Rutherford by a couple of Skinheads in Alberta last year. The Skinheads claimed they were paying him back for exposing Laak. One claimed to be Laak’s son, but there is no record of any family. (Ed. note: Gene Telpner’s story does disclose that Laak had a son – also someone whom Arthur Drache knew, so the notion that Laak’s son may have been part of a group that attacked Rutherford is certainly plausible.)
Sgt. Border isn’t optimistic the GIS investigation will turn up anything. “Thirty years is a long time,” he says. “People are dead. Reports are no longer available to us.”
He reports contacts have been made with the war crimes investigation unit in Ottawa to check their information on Estonian war crimes, and with Israel to find out if Elkin’s book was fact or fiction. “We’re waiting to hear back to see if we should look into this more seriously,” he says. “With everything going on in the Middle East, and considering this is 30 years old, I don’t expect this matter will be pushed to the forefront. It’s a case that will not be easy to investigate.”
We’re playing catch-up.”

In the summer of 2014 I had written about a book titled “The Avengers”, which was about a group of Holocaust survivors led by Abba Kovner (who went on to become a famous Israeli poet). Subsequent to that book review I was reminded of the story of Alexander Laak, and I decided to try to find out whether there was anything more I could find out about the story – which apparently had reached a dead end.
I decided to attempt to contact Arthur Drache who, Gene Telpner had written, had actually covered the story of Alexander Laak’s “suicide” in 1960. Arthur Drache has been one of Canada’s best known tax attorneys for many years, has been the recipient of many awards. Several years ago Gerry Posner profiled Arthur Drache in an article for our paper titled , which can be found on our website at .
I called Arthur Drache in 2014 – and was surprised when he answered his phone himself. In any event, I recall that Mr. Drache was quite obliging – and had vivid memories of his own personal involvement in the Alexander Laak story. Here is what I wrote in August 2014:
As Gene Telpner mentions in his story, in 1960 Drache was working as a reporter for the Free Press. Drache told me, during a phone conversation, that he was a student at Brandeis University at the time.
Drache says that his assignment editor had received a tip that Laak was living in Winnipeg. According to Drache, it came from a Russian source. The Estonian community in Winnipeg was quite small at the time, Drache said, and it was an easy matter for him to track Laak down.
He told me that he and another reporter went to Laak’s house in St. James and spent some time speaking with him. According to Drache, Laak downplayed the role he had played in the Jägala camp in Estonia, describing his duties as akin to being “the warden of Stony Mountain”, in Drache’s words.
As Telpner noted in his story, Drache went on to write about Laak, but without revealing his true name. Drache said to me that he found the notion that a Mossad agent tracking Laak down and forcing him to commit suicide highly implausible.
But, I suggested to him, the same information that had been given to the Free Press, presumably by Russian authorities, might also have been given to the Israelis.
Drache did concede that point. He went on to say that immediately after he wrote his story about Laak, which was in late August, 1960, he recalled, he drove to Boston to resume his studies at Brandeis. On the way he happened to pick up a copy of the New York Times, which published a major story about the suicide of Alexander Laak but, as was the case with the Free Press story about the suicide, the NY Times story did not reveal his true name.
Drache also mentioned his personal connection to Alexander Laak – through Laak’s son. As Gene Telpner had written, they had both attended Gordon Bell High School, were classmates in fact and even played on the high school football team together. It was the fact that he knew Laak’s son that led his assignment editor at the Free Press to ask Drache to go to Laak’s house to interview him.
When the book “Forged in Fury” was published in 1970, Drache says he was shocked at the allegations made in that book about Laak.
Drache told me, “We wrote a couple of stories which received page one play, but did not give his (Laak’s) name because of libel laws.”
But when Drache read “Forged in Fury”, he was made aware of the full details surrounding Alexander Laak’s alleged background as a Nazi war criminal for the first time. He wrote to the Free Press to tell them about the book’s revelations, but says he never got a response from the newspaper.
Laak was never publicly identified in Winnipeg while he was alive. It is believed that there had been accusations from some sources, but he protested his innocence.
Arthur Drache explained, “Only his ‘suicide’ allowed fuller disclosures and until I read ‘Forged in Fury’ I was quite at a loss to explain his actions.”

One final footnote to this story: In attempting to find out more about Alexander Laak, I came across this information on a white supremacist website:
Alexander Laak , former commandant of the Jägala camp in Estonia where a large number of Jews were supposedly massacred, is alleged to have committed suicide by hanging in his garage in Winnipeg , Canada. A number of Laak’s subordinates had at the time been given harsh sentences at a Soviet show trial. According to an article in Der Tagespiegel September 8, 1960, Laak had declared the Soviet allegations against him to be “99% lies and Communist propaganda.” In Michael Elkin’s book Forged in Fury (1971) it is claimed that a Jewish “avenger” named Arnie Berg travelled to Winnipeg to kill Laak, and that Laak hanged himself under Berg’s supervision in order to not have his wife shot by Berg.
This entire story was brought to mind again when I started to watch a ridiculous TV show called “Hunters” which, although it has a stellar cast, is really nothing more than a comic book fantasy about Jewish avengers pursuing Nazis in America. Still, the story surrounding Alexander Laak’s suicide could make an interesting movie. Maybe Jonas Chernick would be interested?

Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Features

Popularity of Online Casino Games in Canada

In recent years, the popularity of online casino games in Canada has surged, captivating the attention of a diverse audience seeking thrilling entertainment. With the convenience of accessing these games from the comfort of home, Canadians are exploring the vast world of virtual casinos that offer an extensive array of gaming options.

Diverse Selection of Casino Games:

One of the key factors contributing to the widespread appeal of online casino games in Canada is the vast selection available. There are hundreds of top casino games online, covering every genre imaginable. From classic table games like poker and blackjack to immersive slot machines with captivating themes, Canadian players have a plethora of options to choose from.

The Rise of Online Slots:

Among the various casino games, online slots have witnessed a significant surge in popularity. The ease of gameplay and the potential for substantial payouts make slots a preferred choice for both seasoned players and newcomers. With themes ranging from ancient civilisations to popular movies and TV shows, online slots offer a diverse and engaging experience for players of all preferences.

Convenience and Accessibility:

The accessibility of online casino games is a key driver behind their growing popularity in Canada. Players no longer need to travel to a physical casino to experience the thrill of gambling. Instead, they can enjoy their favourite games with just a few clicks on their computer or mobile device. This convenience has opened up the world of online gambling to a broader audience, attracting both seasoned gamblers and those trying their luck for the first time.

Technology Advancements:

Advancements in technology have played a pivotal role in enhancing the online casino gaming experience. High-quality graphics, realistic sound effects, and seamless gameplay contribute to an immersive environment that mirrors the excitement of traditional brick-and-mortar casinos. Additionally, the integration of live dealer games brings an authentic touch to online gaming, allowing players to interact with real dealers in real-time.

Regulatory Environment:

The regulatory environment in Canada has also contributed to the popularity of online casino games. While each province has its own regulations, the overall legal framework allows for a thriving online gambling industry. This has given rise to reputable online casinos that prioritise player safety and adhere to strict industry standards, ensuring a fair and secure gaming environment.

Social Aspect and Community Engagement:

Online casinos in Canada are not just about individual gameplay; they also provide a platform for social interaction. Many online casinos feature chat rooms and community forums where players can connect, share experiences, and discuss strategies. This sense of community adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the gaming experience, making online casinos a social activity beyond the solitary pursuit of winning.

The popularity of online casino games in Canada is undoubtedly on the rise, driven by a combination of diverse gaming options, convenience, technological advancements, and a favourable regulatory environment. With a wide array of top casino games available at their fingertips, Canadians can indulge in the excitement of gambling from the comfort of their homes. As the online casino industry continues to evolve, it’s clear that virtual gaming is here to stay and will likely continue to captivate audiences across the country.

Continue Reading

Features

Life in Israel four months after October seventh

Orly & Solly Dreman

By ORLY DREMAN

(Special to the JP&N) Feb. 1, 2024

In every news broadcast that we hear that “The IDF spokesman is permitted to announce”… then every person in Israel sits down, holds their breath and waits to hear the names of the soldiers fallen in action that day. This causes deep sadness to every family in Israel. For example, I found out the son of my T.V technician was killed and my handyman’s son was seriously injured. Death in Israel is so personal.

Our synagogue recently mourned twenty seven year old Inbar Heiman who was kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova music nature party on October seventh and was murdered in captivity. She was a gifted young woman filled with love and compassion. She was a creative artist that was supposed to enter her senior year at university this academic year. We had prayed and wished that she would return until her family received the tragic news of her death.

When we made personal medical visits to the Hadassah hospital, we often heard helicopters overhead bringing in wounded soldiers from Gaza. In the surgery department we saw a reserve soldier being released after six weeks in the hospital. His wife and newborn baby were with him. The department had a touching farewell gathering with Israeli flags, music and cakes. This is how every soldier who leaves the hospital is treated. More than fourteen thousand civilians and soldiers were hospitalized since October seventh with most of the injuries being in the hands and legs, burns, head and eye injuries.

We seldom are in the mood to go to a restaurant these days, but if we do, such outings are accompanied by guilt feelings. Is it right to go when our people are suffering?- the hostages are starving. We all wear the metal disc that says “Bring Them Home now- Our hearts are captured in Gaza”. They occupy our thoughts pervasively. Some of the hostages have suffered untreated gunshot wounds and the hygiene conditions are poor, many of them not showering for four months, sitting thirty meters under the ground in dark tunnels, with no electricity and suffering from extreme malnutrition. Some of them have diseases like Celiac, Asthma, Colitis, Diabetes, Fibromialgia, heart diseases and allergies. They are getting no medications and time is running out for them. Twenty five of them have already perished. What sort of civil society will we be if we abandon them?

Whole families are recruited for combat duty in different areas of the country. It might be a brother and a sister fighting in Gaza or a father in Judea and Samaria while another brother is fighting on the Lebanese border. If you ask soldiers who have lost their siblings in combat if they wish to go back to fight after the shiva, they do not hesitate, even though it is so hard on the parents. This demonstrates the dedication of Israeli citizens and their wish to complete the task of exterminating the Hamas, while at the same time knowing their family member did not die in vain. The grief is intergenerational and we are even acquainted with grandparents whose grandchildren are in combat and they are given the opportunity to go to workshops that help them with their anxiety.

In a Knesset Committee it was recently reported That many survivors from the Nova party have taken their own lives. Others continue to experience the trauma of the horrific events. They cannot sleep nor eat. Many were sexually abused and even though they were not murdered they continue to experience the pain- the sights, voices- cries for help and the fear. They are in a sense also fighters who awaken to a new existence everyday and continue to fight for their existence.

At the military cemeteries there is one funeral process after another and the families are asked to leave the site to make room to prepare for the next funeral. Wounded soldiers arrive in ambulances, on hospital beds or wheelchairs in order to eulogize their fallen comrades.

The reservists who return home after months of combat are having troubles adjusting because this war, like the War of Independence, is very meaningful. It is the most justified war our homeland has encountered. Upon their return there is a big downfall in physical and mental energy. A stranger cannot understand this. These soldiers were disconnected from normal civilian routine for a long time and they had difficult and intimate experiences with their combat mates. They have lost friends and did not have time to mourn. They must release the stress they were exposed to. They are back in body but not always in spirit. They also might be recruited again in the near future to the southern or the northern front, the war is not over. Many men who were injured worry about their future fertility and sexual functioning.

They entertain such existential thoughts as would it be better that I am killed in action before I have children and leave no descendants, or losing my life and leaving behind orphans. Dozens of children remain orphaned from both parents. They also have witnessed their family members being murdered and their homes burned down. Years ago, Solly treated and did a follow up on a family where both parents were murdered in a terrorist attack. Even though the children were adopted by loving relatives they suffered from survivor guilt and this expressed itself in such phenomena as dropping out of school, turning into juvenile delinquents and having trouble in intimate relations.

The evacuees from the south and the north are dispersed in hundreds of hotels in the center of the country. Hence, they have no permanent home, have no privacy and many have no work, nothing to do for months on end and experience feelings of powerlessness. Some pupils are not capable of returning to their temporary schools because of anxieties, depression and fear. Some teenagers have turned to drugs and alcohol which increases violence and vandalism. For them school is experienced as a waste of time. Their friends were murdered, some still have relatives in captivity and everything is falling apart. They also experience sleep disruptions and are in no mood to study. For them life is a living hell. Some families are moved from city to city several times. The children do not have friends in the new locations and they feel lonely and express a lack of social support.

In the realm of parenting many mothers even those who were NOT directly exposed to the dramatic events reported that their children cry more (eighty three percent). Others say the children have difficulties sleeping (seventy three percent), have concentration problems (fifty four percent) and many children are developing eating disorders. In sixty percent the anxiety of the children is so high it hurts functioning. For example, they are often afraid to leave the house. Other disturbances were reported such as bed-wetting, insisting on sleeping with their parents and acts of anger and aggression.

We, as Israelis are also concerned with our Jewish brethren who are experiencing thousands of antisemitic incidents, higher than the number of all incidents in the last decade. There are many Jews in the diaspora who are considering emigration to Israel after experiencing antisemitic events such as seeing their synagogue, Hebrew school, kosher butcher and other Jewish businesses being stoned and burned. For them Israel is their safest haven.

On a more optimistic note the Jewish people have prevailed over thousands of years despite terrible events. In spite of the uncertainty not everything is lost. We are united and strong. The soldiers are full of motivation and good values. I firmly believe that if we are patient and persist, the Jewish people and the state of Israel will prevail.

Orly Dreman is a 10th generation Israeli. Her cousin, Ruvi Rivlin, was a former president of Israel. Orly’s father was a diplomat who served both in North America and in Europe.
By profession Orly is an English teacher. She has dealt with children suffering from ADD.
Since childhood, Orly has been involved in voluntary work with the disabled, the challenged, new immigrants, the elderly and others. 

Continue Reading

Features

The Critical Job Roles in Online Business

More companies than ever are embracing remote working. As of 2023, around 16% of businesses have a fully remote working model, with many more adopting a hybrid one. All of this should come as welcome news to anyone looking for a better work-life balance. As well as saying goodbye to grueling commutes, remote employees can embrace lucrative salary packages, generous benefits, and more. Ready to reap the benefits of online work yourself? Below are just a handful of remote working opportunities to consider.

Video Game and Casino Platform Development

Whether it’s creating Canadian online slots for real money casinos or an open-world epic, great games need talented developers. Thankfully, this is one sector where the typical rules of the 9-5 don’t apply. In the US, an experienced game developer can expect to take home around $103,000 annually. For a midweight casino games developer, a starting salary of around $65,000 is fairly respectable.

Software Engineering

If you have a background in software engineering, you’re in luck. Currently, it’s one of the highest-paid online roles around, with an average salary of $108,000. There’s no one size-fits-all remit for a software engineer, but typical roles include designing applications, testing, and creating system upgrades.

UX Design

User experience is becoming increasingly important as companies strive to make their digital products more accessible. Unsurprisingly, there’s a high demand for user experience designers, with many positions now advertised as remote-first roles. You’ll need to have sufficient software and development experience to excel here. What’s more, you’ll need to work closely with clients to meet the needs of the consumer. If you think you could do well in a role like this, expect an annual salary in the region of $97,000.

Web Design

One role you’ll never struggle to find is that of a web designer. It’s a pretty broad field, so expect a lot of disparity when it comes to job remits and starting salaries. At a minimum, a web designer worth their salt should be able to create accessible websites for a wide range of clients. You’ll also need to be familiar with coding languages and testing. Less experienced web designers can expect to command a starting salary of around $43,000. If you’ve been working professionally for more than a few years and have a solid portfolio to back you up, you can easily negotiate twice that amount.

Entry-Level Online Roles

For digital natives, remote working will come as second nature. Don’t have the skills to land a web designer or developer job? Not to worry. There are an increasing number of entry-level remote roles out there.

Customer service roles are readily available, with positions to cater to all experience levels. At the bottom rung of the ladder, you might be tasked with making sales calls or resolving complaints from customers. A customer service agent can comfortably make around $40-50,000 a year. If you operate on a commission basis or can take advantage of a generous bonus scheme, you could easily double this annually.

Is Remote Working Here To Stay?

Even as many businesses encourage workers back to the office, there’s an deniable upward trend in the number of remote and hybrid-only roles on the job market. Video conferencing technology and collaboration tools are making it easier than ever for remote teams to remain connected. Meanwhile, company executives are finding it hard to argue with significantly reduced overheads and increased productivity.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News