This eulogy was delivered on May 29, 2017 at the Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Synagogue in Winnipeg, Manitoba:
It is with immense sadness and yet great pride that I am able to write these words to honour our father.
Our father was a man of great integrity, courage and strength. He lived at a time when the world and humanity was at its worst. Yet he managed to survive and act with kindness, compassion and sensitivity. His is a life that must be told and recorded. For he is truly an example of how we should all live and aspire. For this reason I use this opportunity to tell his story.
Our father was born Eliezer Katz in Rovno, Ukraine on August 4, 1918. Shortly thereafter the family moved to the shtetl Ludwipol also in Western Ukraine.
My grandfather Shmuel Katz died in 1925 when my father was only 7 years old. He grew up without a father and his only recollection is of holding his father’s hand walking down the street.
His widowed mother was left with 5 children Chaim, Laizer, Beryl, Leah, and Shmuelik.
The family had a yard goods store on the main market street and there my father worked from the time he was a young teenager to the time of the liquidation of the town in August of 1942.
Growing up he played soccer, was active in Shomer Hatzaear, learned Hebrew and developed a strong love for Israel.
His great math skills were well utilized in running the store and the store did well with his involvement. He developed good relationships with the Ukrainian farmers and other gentile neighbours. This would later be crucial in his survival. He treated everyone fairly and honestly and was therefore well respected in the community life of the Shtetl.
With the onset of World War II and the Nazi Invasion of his area in July 1941 life changed dramatically. The Germans created a ghetto of the town and movement was greatly restricted. Food became scarce and Jews were forced into labour battalions, everyone had to work.
My father was a slave working on the building of a road the Germans needed for their military. Those who could not work adequately were shot and some were buried into the road. If someone tried to smuggle food back into the Ghetto they too were shot. Food rations were minimal. At the Passover Seder when we say “We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt”, my father was a living example of that slavery.
In order to provide food for his family and others, he and his brother Chaim would sneak out of the ghetto in the middle of the night and buy or barter with the Ukrainian farmers. Dad would say that it was not uncommon for him to carry 100 lb sacks on his back for 10-15 km and then sneak back into the ghetto. Imagine the courage and strength that this would take.
On one occasion a Ukrainian patrol (keeping in mind that the Ukrainians were complicit with the Germans in persecuting the Jews) stopped my Dad as he was crossing a bridge. He could have been shot on the spot or turned over to Germans. They knew him from having played soccer with him and from the store and said that he was a good guy and let him go.
On another occasion the Germans were patrolling streets in the town and some of his Ukrainian friends shielded him from the Germans so that he would not be caught.
During the summer of 1942, Dad would have been 24 years old, it was clear that German intentions were to kill all the Jews. Many Jews began to escape and cross the Slutch river that ran near the town and into the thick forests on the other side. By August the situation became desperate. His younger brother Beryl had previously fled to Russia some time before and his older brother Chaim also had run away. His younger sister Leah ran away on August 20, 1942.
On August 22, 1942 my father pleaded with his mother and youngest brother that now is the time to run. My grandmother felt she was too old to be able to survive the life in the forest. His younger brother Shmulik who would have been 17 or 18 at the time, refused to leave his mother.
My father ran away that day, German troops saw him and started firing, he swerved around trees and managed to avoid being hit and made it to the thick forested area on the other side of the river. He was barefoot and just had the clothing he was wearing.
His mother and brother were rounded up by the Germans with the other Jews who remained, and were shot in the soccer field near the town and buried in a huge pit.
That day and the next he was on the run, trying to find food, water and shelter. He found his brother Chaim and sadly found the spot where his sister Leah had been killed either by the Germans or their Ukrainian accomplices. Dad did not get a pair of shoes until November of 1942. With his brother Chaim they would steal turpentine and make shoe polish in order to sell it for food. Starvation was prevalent, Dad would say that if you found a potato or an onion you ate it right away.
Dad joined Partisan units in the forest and was part of groups that destroyed railway tracks, telegraph lines and burned buildings. There were occasions where they would come under German or Ukrainian fire. Many people died.
One day he came upon two girls hiding in a barn. One of the girls was sick with Typhus. Dad brought them food and water. Miraculously, one of the girls survived the war and currently lives in Montreal. Thanks to the kindness and courage exhibited by our father she survived. There is another example, Boris Edelman of Florida ,would say that he owes his life to my father for saving him from the Germans in August of 1942.
After a year in the forest, the Russian Red Army had moved further west and were occupying the area. Dad was conscripted into the Red Army and he changed his name to Vasil Ivanovich. His basic training was with a single shot rifle with no bullets. That was the state of the Red Army at time.
He was fortunate to be transferred to the south of Finland for the balance of 1943 and into summer of 1944. The Finnish front was very quiet and relatively safe.
Beginning however in October of 1944 he along with the First Belarussian army division began its push through the Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. He was a Sargent in the army responsible for ensuring that telegraph communication lines would remain intact. On numerous occasions on patrol they would come up against German troops. On one instance, they were under fire and he told the soldiers under his command to stay low and do not stick your heads out. The soldier next to him needed to look and he was decapitated by a mortar shell.
Moving westward in the fall of 1944 the Red Army was approaching Warsaw. There they halted and allowed the Germans to burn Warsaw to the ground while they looked on. Dad was part of the Red Army that at that time consisted of several million soldiers on the Eastern front. As he would often remark he was lucky to be at the back of this huge number of soldiers.
As the Red Army approached the Polish/German border they were preparing to cross the Frankfurt/Oder river. To test German resistance, the Russians would send what Dad would refer to as the “inferior races”, Mongolians for example. Casualties for the Russians were very high. Again by sheer luck Dad was more to the rear of this onslaught and by time he crossed the river German resistance was light. I must add that Dad walked from Finland to the German border, there were no transport vehicles or trains.
Upon entering Germany, and particularly Berlin, buildings were routinely booby trapped. For example when he entered Berlin in January of 1945, his platoon was required to take Goebbels ministry of communication building. As the Russian troops were entering the building, it blew up. Dad was at the doorway and the explosion threw him 10 meters against a wall. Fortunately, he was not hurt. In fact he survived the war with just a scar over his left eyebrow from a bullet that narrowly missed him.
From Berlin he was transferred to Dresden. He would comment that even though Berlin had been bombed severely the devastation of Dresden was even worse.
In Dresden he would dea
l in cigarettes and other commodities to accumulate items of value. He kept them hidden in a suitcase in the barrack until one day a superior officer inquired as to whose suitcase it was. Fortunately no one spoke up, for it could have been the Gulag for my father. The officer obviously took it for himself.
Before closing on this chapter of his life, I would recommend that you watch two movies “Defiance” and “Europa Europa”. Both films depict the life in the forest of the fleeing Jews, and the battle for Berlin by the Russian Army.
After the war Dad worked for the Jewish agency escorting Jews from Europe to transfer points on their continuing journey to Israel.
There is one story when during one of these trips he was crossing the Czech border by train. The Czech border guards were notorious for extorting money and jewelry from the Jewish passengers. A young woman with a small child approached my Dad and asked him if he would hide her few valuables for her so that the guards would not get them, it was all she had. She said to Dad that he had an honest face. Sure enough Dad hid the valuables in his hat. After they crossed the Czech border and were off the train, Dad found this woman and returned the jewelry to her.
The Jewish Agency sent Dad to Brussels to help dismantle army barracks to be shipped to Israel. Dad was sick of war and did not want to go to Israel, so he and his brother Beryl remained in Brussels. There he worked in a sewing factory making purses. The woman sewing next to him asked him his name, he said Leizer. She said no that won’t do, I think your name should be Leon, and so it remained.
In 1947 in order to come to Winnipeg, where he had family, his mother’s cousins would sponsor him. Their last name was Raber, my grandmother’s maiden name.
The law at that time was only very close family members could come into the country, so his cousins in Winnipeg said that he and Beryl were brothers. Thus, Leizer Katz became Leon Raber.
Dad arrived in Winnipeg in October of 1947 with $10 in his pocket and a debt to the Royal Bank of $375 for his transportation costs to Winnipeg.
Here he worked as a sewing machine operator until he started his own factory “Sabina Sportswear” in 1952. He operated this business very successfully for 25 years.
Dad was well respected by the other members of the garment industry. They would often meet in his boardroom to arbitrate conflicts. His keen judgment and sense of fairness earned him the title of Rav Leizer.
Although Dad had witnessed the horrors of war and depravity, he always maintained an aura of kindness and gentleness.
He married my mom on March 13, 1949 and they celebrated 68 years together.
Dad realized how important it is to be able to help others.
When a cousin did not have money to buy coal to heat their house Dad looked after it. When his brother- in- law Shika needed money Dad helped him.
When his nephew Sheldon needed a guarantor for a bank loan to start his dental practice, Dad looked after that too.
I could go on with many other stories, suffice to say, that my sister and I are incredibly fortunate to have a father who taught us to be strong yet gentle, to be decisive yet fair. We love him very much.
I truly hope that in the world to come and the Garden of Eden where Dad deserves to be, he will meet his mother and father. They will be so proud of him, as are we.
Internment followed at Shaarey Zedek Cemetery.
Survived by his wife, Faye, children Frayda ( Charles), Label (Lynn), grand-children, Josh, Yossi (Julia) and Michael and great-granddaughters Samantha and Emma.
Pallbearers were Label Raber, Charles Wiseman, Josh Raber, Yossi Bokhaut, Michael Bokhaut and Joseph Gorenstein.
Honorary pallbearers were Sammy Katz, Burt Gorenstein, Dr. Jay-David Lifshen, Mark Cohen and Herb Grosney
CLARICE DANZKER (née YAREN) December 29, 1924 -January 9, 2024
After a life well-lived, the family of Clarice Danzker announces her passing on Tuesday, January 9, 2024 at the age of 99.
Clarice was born in Winnipeg to Nessie and Abraham Yaren, exactly 3 years to the day after her future husband, Ernie. She was the youngest of five children. She grew up in Winnipeg’s North End during the depression, and always described her childhood as happy. Her passing marks the end of an entire era as the last of her generation on both sides of the Danzker and Yaren families. She is survived by her children, Simmie (Larry) Nasberg, Lainey Danzker (Michael Werier), her grandchildren Steven Werier (Kimi Wertman), Alissa Nasberg, Nessa Werier(Jason Lichtman ), Benji Nasberg, her great-grandchildren Jacob, Sofie and Ozzie. She was pre-deceased by her husband Ernie, her siblings Lil Popeski, Jack Yaren, Harry Yaren, Sima Yaren and many in-laws, nieces & nephews.
Clarice and Ernie met on a blind date over a game of bridge. They were married in the great flood of 1950 and as the story goes, they relocated their wedding from the Alexandra Hotel to a relative’s home, which they accessed by boat. This elegant lovely woman, together with Ernie, the gregarious man who was her inseparable partner for over 60 years of marriage, built and sustained a family full of happiness, empathy, and love at which they were the constant center. Their home was characterized by singsongs, guitar, laughter and people on every possible occasion.
In the way she lived, Clarice taught those around her invaluable lessons. She was the eternal optimist, always finding something to be happy about. Nothing gave her more joy in her last years than spending time with her great-grandchildren. She was open-minded, progressive, fair, insightful, and dedicated. She treated everyone with respect & had a kind word for all. She was a person of strong convictions. She lived by the philosophy of healthy mind and healthy body, and she remained active in both throughout her 99 years.
Clarice was involved in many organizations, National Council of Jewish Women, the Shaarey Zedek sisterhood, school organizations, camp organizations, and the arts, which she loved – the symphony, the ballet, the art gallery, the theater.
Clarice & Ernie & their family shared amazing times at Winnipeg Beach, Naples, Florida and over 30 winters in Rancho Mirage, California, honing their golf skills and mastering their bridge games. They made lifelong friends everywhere they went.
Clarice always said “your visits made my day”, but it was she who made ours magical.
The family would like to thank Tess, Baby, Maybelle, and Letty for their dignified care these last months and Dr. Kristen Creek for her exceptional and compassionate care.
Funeral services were held on January 11, 2024
Donations in Clarice’s honour may be made to the Ernie and Clarice Danzker Family Fund, c/o The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba or to a charity of your choice.
Trudy was born July 29, 1926 in Winnipeg. She grew up in River Heights, attended Mulvey Elementary, continued on to graduate from Gordon Bell High School, and studied at a technical college to become a bookkeeper.
Trudy and Moe Yusim married on June 30, 1952 and raised their family, Alan, Norman, Susan and Robert.
Trudy was smart, beautiful, poised, dignified and elegant. She enjoyed bowling, playing bridge (she was a Life Grand Master who played well into her 90s.)
Moe’s sudden death in 1977 was heartbreaking. and Trudy faced her heartbreak with resolve, determination, strength, and resilience.
Trudy continued to live in the family home for another 35 years. She was an amazing cook and her meals brought the whole family together many times a year and for holiday celebrations. It was hard for her to leave the family home after her health took a turn, but during her 12 years at the Shaftesbury Residence she found continued comfort and a place to be social, to join activities, and a place where she could proudly entertain her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
As a grandmother she was Nanny Trudy. Her love for and interest in everything her grandchildren and great- grandchildren were doing was obvious. She absorbed their interests and made them her own. She celebrated all their accomplishments and achievements, both personal and professional.
Trudy passed away peacefully on January 8, 2024 at the Simkin Centre. The family is grateful for the tender care she received during her final months. Trudy leaves behind her four children and their spouses, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her parents Rose and Max Thow and her beloved husband Moe and her great- grandson Leo.
The family would like to thank Rabbi Matthew Leibl for officiating at Trudy’s graveside service. As a long-time family friend his eulogy to Trudy was both personal and poignant.
In conclusion, here are words written by Trudy’s eldest granddaughter:
“She was the strongest woman, going through the tragedy of losing her beloved husband suddenly and at a young age. Left with 4 children and without the love of her life. She persevered, and became a more independent woman than she ever was before. She still enjoyed life and continued on to live another 47 years with grace and love. She lived a full life of 97 years, with many different chapters. We love her and will miss her always.”
May Trudy Yusim be at peace.
And may her memory be a blessing.
Anne Novak (née Fink) passed away peacefully in her 100th year on January 24, 2024. She lived a life that spanned three continents and two centuries. Born in Sanok, Poland on March 18, 1923, Anne was the second of five siblings born to an observant Jewish family. Her early years in Poland were happy, but life became bleak when Hitler invaded in 1939. Before long the Fink family fled to their grandparents’ home in the Russian controlled part of Poland seeking safety. Unfortunately, the Russians deported the family to the depths of Siberia where they were resettled in work camps. The war years were filled with hunger and depravation, but ultimately six of the seven family members survived.
When the family was allowed to leave Siberia, they made their way to Germany and ultimately to Canada.
By the time Anne arrived in Winnipeg in 1948, she had married her beloved husband Oscar Novak and had her first child Carol. Having worked in kindergartens in Russia and Germany, she got a job at the Peretz School as a kindergarten teacher. Like many other immigrants, her husband bought a small grocery store and the young family began to grow and thrive. Two more children, Phil and Allan, completed the Novak family.
Anne’s best times were with family. Her siblings Sally, Sol, and Ruth were an important part of daily life and all lived close by. Last year, they were designated by the Shoah Foundation as the oldest Holocaust survivor siblings in the world. Her son Allan Novak recently made a film about the Fink family which had its world premiere in New York six days before she died.
Anne also took great pride in her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, delighting in their visits, family celebrations, and accomplishments.
Anne was a wonderful cook and baker, making legendary tortes and cakes for special occasions. Food was love to her and she showered her family with tasty delicacies until well into her 90s. No visit to her kids in Toronto was complete without a box of food containing homemade treats.
Although she was a quiet and refined person, she also had a great sense of humour and enjoyed the funny side of life. She was always kind to the people around her and was the peacemaker in the family.
The family would like to thank Dr. Hamedani and the nursing staff at the Grace Hospital for their kind attention in the final weeks of her life.
She will be sadly missed by her surviving children and their spouses Carol and Brian Sevitt, Allan Novak and Keely Sherman, her grandchildren and their partners Julia Sevitt, David Sevitt and Alexa Abiscott, and Evan and Samantha Novak, and by her great-grandchildren Theo, Zac, Miles, Simone, Matthew and Phil.
In memoriam donations can be made to Jewish Child and Family Services of Winnipeg https://www.jcfswinnipeg.org/donate