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Swiss historical drama ‘Labyrinth of Peace’ shatters the myth of Switzerland’s neutrality in WWII

It’s Switzerland in 1945 and the war has just ended. A group of deeply traumatized, ragged-looking Jewish teenagers recently liberated from Buchenwald have been sent to live in a former Swiss school building.

A young Swiss woman named Klara cares for them, while her new husband, Johann, runs her family’s textile business, whose success is dependent on the work of unrepentant Nazis living in comfort in Swiss exile. Johann’s brother, Egon, home from the war after five years working as a Swiss border guard, is wracked by guilt for having to turn away Jewish mothers and children at the frontier. His new postwar job in the attorney general’s office: hunting down ex-Nazis.

This is the premise of “Labyrinth of Peace,” an engrossing Swiss drama set in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust that is now available exclusively on ChaiFlicks, the Jewish streaming service in North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Shot in Switzerland and released in the country to great acclaim in 2020, the six-episode series is fraught with drama, romance and moral struggles.

“Labyrinth of Peace” is the brainchild of award-winning Swiss-Italian screenwriter and director Petra Volpe, who wanted to tell the compelling story of a little-known chapter of postwar history while also spotlighting the morally questionable role Switzerland took during and after the war.

“Switzerland wanted to show that they were on the right side of history, since they knew they had failed the Jews by locking down the country” during the Holocaust, and therefore took in Jewish refugees after the war, Volpe said in an interview from her home in Brooklyn. “When actual refugees arrived and they weren’t cute children younger than 12, and someone asked where the little boys were, the rabbi said of the youngest ones, ‘They were all gassed.’ Switzerland wasn’t happy when teenagers showed up. They didn’t treat them as nicely as they should have.”

The Buchenwald Boys, as they were called, had lost their childhoods and most of their families during the war years. More than 60,000 Jews died in Buchenwald — including my great-grandfather, after he, my grandfather and uncle were arrested on Kristallnacht and sent to the concentration camp. But some 900 youths survived and were among those liberated by U.S. forces.

Jewish refugee agencies came to their rescue, and they were sent to various sites in France, England and Switzerland for rehabilitation. “Labyrinth of Peace” turns the story of a group sent to Switzerland into an absorbing historical drama that belies the myth of Swiss neutrality and demonstrates how guilt and moral conflicts ran through families even after combat ended.

“Labyrinth of Peace” illuminates a little-known chapter of postwar history while spotlighting the morally questionable role Switzerland took during and after World War II. (ChaiFlicks)

In the series, the recently liberated Buchenwald Boys find themselves at the heart of many more interests than anyone first realizes.

One of the teens, Herschel, falls in love with the Swiss Klara, whose father’s textile factory profited handsomely during the war. The family home is rich in sumptuous detail, from silk damask wall coverings to lush oriental carpets covering the floors to the gold-rimmed Limoges tea pot from which servants pour drinks. Nearby, the Buchenwald Boys live in empty classrooms without sufficient food or clothing, after arriving in the country wearing little but rags.

In real life, the 370 or so Buchenwald Boys who were sent to Switzerland became political pawns, Volpe says. They were promised several months of rest and rehabilitation, but their stay in Switzerland was cut short when authorities in pre-state Israel told them they were going to Palestine. Most didn’t want to go; some asked to settle in Australia and others wanted to stay in Switzerland.

“Everyone just wanted to bring them to Israel and get them out of sight,” said Volpe, who is not Jewish but is married to a Jewish man. “There’s collective guilt.”

In the series, the character of Egon is based on a real Swiss border guard whose story is known from frequent letters he wrote home to his wife. Egon is introduced to viewers as he arrives home just in time for his brother’s wedding to Klara. He is wracked with guilt and anger.

“Every day he had to drag mothers and young kids back across the border and it’s killing him,” Volpe said.

Desperate for expiation, Egon gets drawn into the U.S. authorities’ search for Nazis who moved to Switzerland and are living under cover with adopted names and identities.

Meanwhile, his brother Johann — Klara’s husband — is trying to transform his father-in-law’s textile business into a success by producing a low-cost synthetic alternative to nylon. Johann touts the achievement as a pure Swiss creation, but it turns out that it’s the work of a Nazi chemist working under an assumed name in the family lab — putting Johann in a morally dubious position and creating conflict with his wife.

Many Nazis who fled Germany after the war found new lives in Switzerland, where their pasts largely were overlooked. The same happened in America, too; the U.S. government put ex-Nazi scientists to work developing military hardware and even rockets for the country’s fledgling space program.

The setting for “Labyrinth of Peace” is a verdant Swiss school where Jewish teens recently liberated from the Buchenwald concentration camp are sent to be rehabilitated. (ChaiFlicks)

“Switzerland imported the knowledge of German war criminals,” said Volpe, who grew up near Zurich, lived in Berlin for 20 years as an adult and has resided in New York for the past decade. “They tried to hire scientists from the chemical industry. Swiss economic success is based on knowledge we took from the Nazis.”

Volpe’s series shatters the notion of Switzerland’s ostensible neutrality and demonstrates how many Swiss shared in the war’s sins.

“War criminals were treated like royalty in Switzerland because they had money, and refugees were treated like criminals,” observed Volpe.

“Labyrinth of Peace” was a hit when it aired on Swiss national television, and last year won awards at several Jewish film festivals in the United States. The series is now available nationwide on ChaiFlicks, the subscription streaming service that focuses on Jewish and Israeli content.

For Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 18, the JCC of Manhattan will screen two episodes from the series followed by a Q&A with Volpe.

At the end of the series (no spoilers!), Klara and a friend are shown driving while she opens a thin book that Herschel, the eldest of the Buchenwald Boys who fell in love with her, wrote and gave her. In his introduction Herschel writes, “I have done my best to prevent what was meant to be prevented. The eradication of us and our history.”

“The main message in his diary is: ‘They didn’t erase our voice and I can still tell my story,’ Volpe said. “That’s a form of victory also, and a very important message.”

Watch “Labyrinth of Peace” here.


The post Swiss historical drama ‘Labyrinth of Peace’ shatters the myth of Switzerland’s neutrality in WWII appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Canada’s economic growth projected to be about 1% in the first half of 2024

Canada is a country with a thriving Jewish community and has traditionally offered the security of a strong economy for residents. The national economic outlook is naturally something that everyone in Canada’s Jewish community keeps track of – especially those involved in business in the various provinces.

With this in mind, the July 2023 Monetary Policy Report from the Bank of Canada made for interesting reading, projecting a moderate economic growth figure of around 1% for the first half of 2024. This is in line with growth figures that had been forecast for the second half of 2023, and sees the country’s economy remain on a stable footing.

Steady projected growth for first half of 2024

Although projected economic growth of around 1% in early 2024 is not as impressive as figures of around 3.4% in 2022 and 1.8% in 2023, it is certainly no cause for alarm. But what might be behind it?

Higher interest rates are one major factor to consider and have had a negative impact on household spending nationally. This has effectively seen people with less spending power and businesses in Canada generating less revenue as a result.

Interest rate rises have also hit business investments nationally, and less money is being channelled into this area to fuel Canada’s economic growth. When you also factor in how the weak foreign demand for Canadian goods and services has hit export growth lately, the projected GDP growth figure for early 2024 is understandable.

Growth in second half of 2024 expected

Although the above may make for interesting reading for early 2024, the Bank of Canada’s report does show that economic growth is expected to pick up in the second half of the year. This is projected to be due to the decreasing effect of high interest rates on the Canadian economy and a stronger foreign demand for the country’s exports.

Moving forward from this period, it is predicted that inflation will remain at around 3% as we head into 2025, and hit the Bank of Canada’s inflation target of 2% come the middle of 2025. All of this should help the country’s financial status remain stable and prove encouraging for business leaders in the Jewish community.

Canada’s economic growth mirrors iGaming’s rise

When you take a look at the previous growth figures Canada has seen and also consider the growth predicted for 2024 (especially in the second half of the year), it is clear that the country has a vibrant, thriving economy.

This economic growth is something that can be compared with iGaming’s recent rise as an industry around the country. In the same way as Canada has steadily built a strong economy over time, iGaming has transformed itself into a powerful, flourishing sector.

This becomes even clearer when you consider that Canadian iGaming has been a major contributor to the sustained growth seen in the country’s arts, entertainment and recreation industry, which rose by around 1.9% in Q2 of 2023. The healthy state of online casino play in Canada is also evidenced by how many customers the most popular casino platforms attract and how the user experience these operators offer has enabled iGaming in the country to take off.

This, of course, is also something that translates to the world stage, where global iGaming revenues in 2023 hit an estimated $95 billion. iGaming’s global market volume is also pegged to rise to around $130 billion by 2027. These kinds of figures represent a sharp jump for iGaming worldwide and show how the sector is on the ascent.

Future economic outlook for Canada in line with global expectations

When considering the Canadian economic outlook for 2024, it is often useful to look at how this compares with global financial predictions. In addition to the rude health of iGaming in Canada being reflected in global online casino gaming, the positive economic outlook for the country is also broadly in line with expectations for many global economies.

Global growth is also predicted to rise steadily in the second half of 2024 before becoming stronger in 2025. This should be driven by the weakening effects of high interest rates on worldwide economic prosperity. With rate cuts in Canada already expected after Feb 2024’s inflation report, this could happen in the near future.

The performance of the US economy is always of interest in Canada, as this is the country’s biggest trading partner. Positive US Q2 performances in 2023, powered by a strong labor market, good consumer spending levels and robust business investments, were therefore a cause for optimism. As a US economy that continues to grow is something that Canadian businesses welcome, this can only be a healthy sign.

Canada set for further growth in 2024

Local news around Canada can cover many topics but the economy is arguably one of the most popular. A projected GDP growth figure of around 1% for Canada’s economy shows that the financial state of the country is heading in the right direction. An improved financial outlook heading into the latter half of 2024/2025 would make for even better reading, and the national economy should become even stronger.

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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in Canada

Online gambling has grown in popularity around the globe in recent years. While many jurisdictions have legalized land-based gambling, it hasn’t applied to online platforms. Nonetheless, Canada is one nation that has legalized online gambling with their provinces’ licensing and regulating sites.

Nonetheless, Canadians of legal age can enjoy playing their favourite online games where available. So many games like slots, blackjack, and roulette still maintain their popularity even in the digital sense.  Want to learn about what’s legal in Canada for online gambling? Let’s take a look.

What is legal for online gambling in Canada?

What is the best online casino in Canada? The list we provide you here should be a good start. It’s also important to note that most Canadian provinces do not have laws that prohibit offshore online casinos.

Many provinces provide licensing to online casinos. They even regulate them as well. For example, Alberta and British Columbia have sites regulated by their respective governing bodies. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) allows legal online gambling and oversees the services it offers to Maritime provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, there are some caveats to address. In Newfoundland and Labrador, online gambling that is not offered by the ALC is considered illegal. Therefore, it is the only Canadian province as of 2024 that prohibits offshore options.

In terms of the legal age, there are three provinces where the legal age is 18: Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. The remaining provinces establish 19 as the legal age for gambling including online.

Who are the regulatory bodies for gambling in Canada?

At the Federal level, the Canadian Gaming Association is the regulatory body for gambling in Canada. Thus, they cover both land-based and online gambling in the country. There are also provincial and regional regulatory bodies such as the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC) – which covers the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.  

The Western Canada Lottery Corporation covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon Territory. A handful of provinces also have their regulatory bodies covering lottery and gaming.

Canada requires online casinos that wish to accept players from the country to adhere to regulations and licensing. These licenses are provided by provincial regulatory bodies. When licensed, online casinos must follow the regulations and security standards.

However, there is the belief that many of the laws about gambling in Canada may be outdated. This could be because these laws were created long before the advent of the Internet. Therefore, such laws may need to be modernized. Nonetheless, online gambling for the most part is legal, just dependent on the province.

Are there any legal grey areas to discuss?

The grey area that is considered a concern pertains to the use of offshore sites. As mentioned earlier, Newfoundland and Labrador is believed to be the only province that prohibits it. Even online casinos with no licensing by Canadian or provincial authorities accept residents of the country.

On the players’ end, many Canadians are allowed to play at online casinos. However, they may be restricted from certain platforms. This is to ensure that the players themselves are protected from unknowingly playing on platforms that may be illegal. 

What are the other laws and regulations about online gambling in Canada?

Online casinos have implemented measures for responsible gambling. This includes providing support and resources to problem gamblers on their site. They are also restricted regarding the marketing and advertising aspects of promoting their platform. 

One restriction of note is that marketing that is targeted at minors is prohibited. Another prohibits professional athletes from appearing in online casino ads in Ontario.

Even offshore casinos must adhere to these laws and regulations. Especially if they have obtained a license from the provincial bodies that allow them to operate.

Canada’s online gambling is legal – but will things change

As it stands right now, the legality of online gambling in Canada seems to fall under the purview of provincial laws and regulations. Canadian citizens must perform their due diligence further to see which online casinos are allowed by their respective provinces. Just because it may be legal in one province, it may not be the same in others.

Nonetheless, the question is: will any laws relax certain restrictions? Will Newfoundland and Labrador change their tune regarding offshore casinos? It’s unclear what the future holds – but watch this space for any changes about online gambling in Canada.  

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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