(JTA) — A German-born sergeant in the Canadian Army was fined roughly $2,200 and given a “severe reprimand” after joking about the Holocaust while conducting an infantry training course.
But the 38-year-old officer was not demoted, even though a military tribunal considered handing down that punishment.
The sergeant, identified as K.E. Bluemke, pleaded guilty last October in an Ontario court martial to one count of “conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.” He was charged after 12 participants in the training course said he had made multiple antisemitic jokes and comments about Jews and the Holocaust.
According to court documents, which were first reported on Friday by CTV News Vancouver Island, Bluemke began the training course by asking, “Is anyone here Jewish?” Throughout the course, he proceeded to make comments such as, “Move with the sense of urgency as a certain group did leaving Germany in 1939,” and “Why do Jews have big noses? Because the air is free.”
The military judge who issued the penalty said he was distressed by the Holocaust jokes.
“I am having difficulties finding the right word to qualify the use of stereotypes and the reference to the unspeakable horrors suffered by the Jewish community before and during the Second World War to make adverse comments intended as jokes,” Cmdr. Martin Pelletier, the judge, wrote in his decision. “The word ‘distasteful’ does not suffice. It is in my opinion utterly disgusting. Regardless of who in the [Canadian Armed Forces] engages in such conduct, it should make a reasonable member cringe and worry about belonging to the same organization as the perpetrator.”
The proceedings offer a window into how the Canadian military handles the presence of people with possible neo-Nazi sentiments, seen as a growing problem in multiple countries’ armed forces. Germany has been grappling with the rise of far-right extremists in its military ranks, and according to the publication Roll Call, a 2020 Pentagon report said that “Despite a low number of cases in absolute terms, individuals with extremist affiliations and military experience are a concern to U.S. national security because of their proven ability to execute high-impact events.” The National Guard airman who was recently arrested for leaking intelligence documents also reportedly spread antisemitic invective online.
Bluemke was born in Potsdam, Germany and immigrated to Canada as a child in 1995. He enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces in 2002 after completing high school.
Soldiers in the training course described Bluemke’s conduct as “offensive, demeaning, and unprofessional,” according to court documents. Pelletier specifically cited a Jewish soldier’s victim impact statement as an “aggravating factor” in Bluemke’s sentencing.
That impact statement, filed on behalf of a soldier identified as Master Corporal Mahar, noted that Bluemke’s comments were “extremely disturbing,” whether or not Bluemke was joking when he made them. Mahar added in the statement that his confidence had been so eroded and he was so angered that he could not retain the information he was being taught.
According to the court documents, another master corporal enrolled in the course said Mahar did very well on the course, and did not feel that Mahar had been negatively affected by Bluemke’s comments. But Pelletier acknowledged in his decision that harm to the Jewish participant may not have been apparent to others in the group.
Pelletier referenced “The harm that the conduct caused to MCpl Mahar, as detailed in the victim impact statement introduced in evidence, regardless of the fact that the suffering experienced may not have been externalized and visible to others.”
Pelletier wrote that Bluemke had successfully completed counseling and probation, but condemned his remarks in the sentencing decision.
“He has made comments adverse and indeed demeaning to an entire community who has suffered unspeakable harm in history,” Pelletier said. “This conduct needs to be sanctioned with punishments that have a strong enough symbolic impact as well as a strong personal impact on the offender.”
In his severe reprimand, Pelletier said, “Sgt. Bluemke, I cannot understate how concerned I am with the conduct you displayed in front of course candidates in 2021 and I want you to understand that I did seriously consider reducing you to corporal. I hope this sentencing hearing has offered an opportunity to reflect on what you have done wrong and convinced you to do better in the future. I have decided to give you a chance to continue your efforts to rehabilitate yourself, based on what I have heard from those who have testified on your behalf.”
He added, “You may not see me again, but you will see them. I hope you will not let them down by reoffending.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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