Jewish-Canadian veteran, 93, shares his story so youth can 'do better than we did'

Jewish-Canadian veteran, 93, shares his story so youth can 'do better than we did'

Capt. Martin Maxwell saw action in some of the most pivotal moments in the Second World War, and now he wants the next generation to know about it so they won't repeat the mistakes of the past.

Now 93, his first combat mission came during the Allied invasion of Normandy.  

Maxwell says he shares tales of his storied life at memorial events, such as the Remembrance Day service for Jewish-Canadian veterans in Toronto on Friday.    

"I feel so sad because there are so few of us left," said Maxwell, who was born in Vienna and escaped Austria for England after Kristallnacht, the night in 1938 when Nazi thugs smashed the windows of Jewish businesses, ransacked synagogues and attacked and killed hundreds of Jews.

He enlisted in the British 6th Airborne Division as a glider pilot at 17.

Maxwell was among six gliders that landed in Normandy beneath the cover of moonlight on the eve of D-Day. The squadron was charged with capturing six bridges to cut off Nazi Germany's reinforcements, he explained.

After witnessing the greatest seaborne invasion in history along the Normandy coast, Maxwell was sent back to England. He was then part of the liberation of Holland on Sept. 17, 1944. 

He was among the troops sent to take the bridge over the Rhine River at Arnhem in the Netherlands. 

"It was a total disaster," he said referring to the mass casualties the Allied forces suffered there.    

Maxwell was wounded and captured by Nazis, an experience made all the more perilous by the fact he was an Austrian Jew.

He was taken to a German prisoner of war camp until he was liberated at the end of the Second World War.

He came to Toronto in 1952 to join his youngest sister, Berta Lunenfeld, who survived the Holocaust. For the last 26 years Maxwell has spoken all over the world about what he witnessed. 

"I love doing this and I tell the young people that when I went to Holland, inscribed on one of the gravestones were these words, 'For your tomorrows, we gave our todays,'" said Maxwell. 

He hopes his stories will give the next generation the tomorrows to "do better than we did."