Escape From The Holocaust – Cornwall Interfaith Partnership Event – April 7, 2013 St. Paul’s United Church CLICK FOR DETAILS

image006CFN – For this year’s Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) in Cornwall, Ontario, the focus will be on how an extended Jewish family – the Kaplans – escaped from the Holocaust in Lithuania to come to Williamstown, Ontario some 74 years ago. It is also the story of two heroic men who were instrumental in their escape, and of the warm welcome they received from the local people in Williamstown and Cornwall at a time when Canada was generally not accepting Jewish immigrants or refugees.


The children’s book, One More Border, describes the story of one of these families.  It shows the role of the Japanese Vice-Consul in Lithuania, Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara, who helped literally thousands of Jews to escape by issuing them transit visas to Japan, against his government’s wishes. Sugihara was subsequently honoured by the Government of Israel as “Righteous Among the Nations” – one of so far more than 24,000 non-Jews recognized as having helped Jews escape from the Holocaust at great personal risk to themselves.

However, not so well known is the role played by Marinus (Mark) Sorensen, the Canadian Pacific Railway’s immigration agent in Denmark. He facilitated the emigration of several thousand farm settlers, including Jews, from Europe to Canada upto 1940 and narrowly escaped capture himself in Denmark after the Germans invaded. Among the Jews Sorensen helped were Sussman and Hinde Kaplan and their four unmarried children. These members of the Kaplan family were able to leave Lithuania just before the outbreak of World War II, and eventually ended up buying an abandoned farm in Williamstown, near Cornwall, Ontario.

As a result, the other two Kaplan children with their families, had a place to come to in Canada.

Even today, there are a few Williamstown residents who have fond memories of the extended Kaplan family, particularly the children – Nomi, Igor and Atid.

Two Kaplan family members, Ellayne Kaplan and Ilona Weinstein, from Montreal, will be sharing   their family’s story. In addition, Mark Sorenson’s son, Ben (who was with his father in Denmark right up to just before the outbreak of the war), and two of the Kaplan’s children’s former schoolmates from Williamstown are coming as well.

The event will be the first time that some of the Kaplans will be meeting a son of one of the two people who were so instrumental in saving their family from the Holocaust.

The Cornwall Interfaith Partnership, which is organizing this year’s event in Cornwall, feels that the Holocaust was a monumental human tragedy that should be revisited periodically in order to make people more aware of the reality of such genocide and its causes.

This year’s Yom HaShoah commemoration in Cornwall is being hosted by Knox – St. Paul’s United Church, 800 Twelfth Street East, at 6:45 p.m. on April 7, when everyone is welcome.

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  1. Damn clique ran the Jews out of town years ago. Last competent mayor was Horovitz. Bunch of anti-Semites are out to get you Jamie.

  2. Thanks very much for posting this, Jamie, and for adding the image of the cover of William Kaplan’s book, One Common Border. This story reflects very well on Williamstown and Cornwall. We only became aware of the story this month (March 2013), but the response from people in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Williamstown and Cornwall to help design the event has been unstintingly cooperative. At the same time, the scope of the story extends around the world from Lithuania to Russia to Japan to Canada and to Israel, and also from Denmark to Canada and back again!

  3. Wow yes Mayor Horvitz I was a baby and young child when he was mayor of Cornwall. Those were much better years.

    I noticed that the Synagogue on Amelia St. is no longer a Synagogue and the clique in Cornwall has to go and I mean that folks.

    This world is in a great deal of trouble and if people do not smarten up things will only worsen.

    Jamie I mean it I admire and respect you and that is the truth. My children have friends of all races and you would be surprised that there is not one racist bone in their bodies. Living here in Ottawa they have made friends of all nationalities and religions and are close to them.

    Shalome Jamie.

  4. Many of Cornwall’s Jewish families suffered in the Hollowaust and some of the survivors came over with numbers on their arms and I know of some. These were very hard working people and they opened their own businesses and they thrived and Cornwall was better for having them around.

    Mayor Horvitz used to make picnics for the people of Cornwall. Cornwall was a small mill town then but it thrived – not many unemployed like what you see today. Cornwall’s streets were crowded with people but today it is much worse than the Great Depression of the 30’s era.

    I often ask myself what transition is Cornwall going into.

  5. Great article Jamie!!

    Another great book for adults “The New Shoah” but unfortunetely, I can’t recall the author’s name.

    Perhaps this may sound strange, but I never tire reading books on the Holocaust. Such a horror but a very important part of history that should never be forgotten.

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