Double Threat with Ellin Bessner

| August 29, 2018

Juno Beach and Beyond
Double Threat with Ellin Bessner

Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany posed a double threat to Canadian Jews. The German dictatorship threatened the freedom and democracy of all Canadians. For Jews, it also threatened their very existence. Despite antisemitism in Canada, thousands of Jewish Canadians joined the armed forces. They served in a proportion comparable to that of the general Canadian population. Burdened by antisemitism in the ranks, a number rose to leadership positions and many committed acts of bravery in service to their fellow soldiers. Our guest, Ellin Bessner, joins us to share their stories. They served as liberators and witnesses to the aftermath of the Holocaust. As you will discover in the podcast, Ellin’s research tells us just as much about Jewish culture, customs, and mourning practices as it does about Jewish men and women in uniform and the military in which they fought.  

Honourary Captain Samuel Cass, a rabbi, conducting the first worship service celebrated on German territory by Jewish personnel of the 1st Canadian Army near Cleves, Germany, 18 March 1945 (Source: Lieut. Barney J. Gloster / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-174315).

Time Stamps

2:30 How a Visit to Juno Sparked a Book

6:24 What Canada’s Jews Were Fighting For

16:05 Barriers to Enlisting

18:52 Antisemitism in Canada’s Armed Forces

23:06 Jews in the Royal Canadian Air Force

26:25 Accounting for Canadian Jewish Service in the Second World War

30:34 Jewish Women in Uniform

35:45 Off-Duty Activities

39:17 Accommodating Jewish Beliefs and Practices?

41:35 Veteran Testimony: Kosher Food with Harry Kaushansky

44:30 Veteran Testimony: Liberated Jews with Lorne Winer

52:00 Jewish Personnel Return to Canada

55:05 Grief and Memory

57:45 Keeping the Memory Alive

Guest Biography

Ellin Bessner is a veteran journalist and professor at Centennial College Journalism School in Toronto. She has been researching and writing about Canadian Jewish servicemen and women for over seven years. Ellin’s efforts have culminated in her book, Double Threat: Canadian Jews, the Military, and World War II. She lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario.


Visit Ellin Bessner’s website, here.

The following links offer more information on the topics discussed in this episode:

Arms & Weapons

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

Royal Canadian Air Force

The Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division

Royal Canadian Navy

Canadian Army

The Canadian Women’s Army Corps

Supplying Canada’s Army Overseas



The Dieppe Raid

The Italian Campaign

The Normandy Campaign

Return to Peace


Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King

Adolf Hitler


Juno Beach and Beyond is hosted and edited by Alex Fitzgerald-Black, the centre’s Digital Projects Coordinator.

Canadian Army Newsreel No. 67 of Hebrew church parade with Rabbi Samuel Cass from Library and Archives Canada

Interviews with Harry Kaushansky and Lorne Winer courtesy of Ellin Bessner

Mackenzie King’s speech to British Parliament from the British Pathé YouTube channel:

Artillery firing sounds from the CBC News: The National YouTube Channel:

Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech from Jonathan Thomas’s YouTube channel:

Spitfire sound effect from Jason Kirby’s YouTube channel:

Dramatic Interlude by Alexander Nakarada |

Music promoted by

Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at

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