Photo of Hyman Chudnovsky taken shortly after enlisting in 1942.Hyman Chudnovsky
Hyman (pictured on the far right) and his brother (Ben Chudnovsky) pose with fellow soldiers and English civilians, in London, England, before going into action, 1942.Hyman Chudnovsky
Hyman and his brother Ben shortly after enlisting in 1942.Hyman Chudnovsky
Hyman Chudnovsky during his advanced training in Saskatchewan.Hyman Chudnovsky
"It changed me in a way - I have always been anti-war, but it made me even more anti-war."
My name is Hy Chud, CHUD. Served under the name of Hyman Chudnovsky, with the 17th Duke of York Royal Canadian Hussars, which was a reconnaissance regiment, armoured corps reconnaissance. It’s a Montreal outfit. We were added as reinforcement troops to this regiment [7th Reconnaissance Regiment]. It was overseas. When we went over, that’s the method I suppose, the army didn’t send full regiments over, I don’t know. But before action, we were sent in as reinforcement troops.
Well, what motivated me, I was Jewish. You know, we learned to fight for quality against anti-Semitism, fighting Hitler. There were lots of reasons for a Jewish young man to join the army or to fight against Nazism and fascism. Our regiment was a Montreal regiment, there were a lot of French guys in [it], and very nice ones. There was the odd Jewish one, but not too many Jewish, not in our regiment. I know that the percentage of Jews volunteers, compared to the population was very high, but not in our regiment.
How was I treated? The same way as the rest of the population, as we were treated before the army. Jews, there were anti-Semites, there were people that were nice to us. I remember before joining the army, we went on picket lines. When I was a kid, they didn’t allow Jews into the roller rinks in Toronto. And so you had that in the army too. Who joined the army? It’s general population. So there were anti-Semites; there were nice people; there were tolerant people, and so on.
Two days after D-Day, we first went in to relieve some infantry in the trenches. We didn’t do our job, which was reconnaissance, for the first few days because there was no beachhead, you know, we couldn’t go far. Funny thing happened to us as we were relieving the infantry on the way out. We did it at night and you never heard as loud a noise as hearing mess tins drop on the ground when all is quiet. They’re made of tin and scared the life out of us. One of our guys dropped his mess tins, I’ll never forget that. We thought that the whole German artillery and army would come in on us, but it didn’t.
My brother was a wireless operator as well. Same outfit, but not in the same troop. We were in the same company. Every morning, we had a whistle that we were on the same frequency on our radios. And we had a whistle, whistled into the set, sort of a signal that we were both still there. The officers didn’t like that, but we did it.
We went through France and Belgium, Holland, ended up in Germany. And I might say that we were among the forward troops reconnaissance. So am I proud of that? Yeah, I guess so. I also found that the people, I guess, they wanted to be liberated because they were so happy when we came in. Our job was to draw fire so that our, whoever it was, could pinpoint and get the artillery, to find out where the enemy was. Instead of looking around corners for them, we were, we advanced and if we drew fire, it was successful, I suppose.
Well, sometimes we got out of our cars and did foot patrols. You know, that too. That was a dangerous job, but every job was dangerous in the army. I think that the heroes in the army were the infantry under reconnaissance. [They had] no protection. I was at least behind some armour in a car.
We moved so fast at times, that we in vehicles had to wait for, they called it petrol, not gas, had to wait for the petrol to come up. So rest, yeah, we had, there was no rest really, but because we moved very quickly or we thought we moved very quickly; and pictures of the war were house-to-house fighting, previous wars were house-to-house fighting, but we didn’t have that. I do remember taking so many prisoners that we just didn’t have the forces to send back with them. We should have said, head in that direction and sent them back. I suppose that some of them were happy to be taken prisoner too, so they didn’t, a lot of times, didn’t cause any problems.
I had a lot of time to think about it. Its 65 years ago. Like the general population, we had good soldiers, bad soldiers, good officers, bad officers. You said that you’re neutral. We had bad officers, some of them. There’s no doubt in my mind that some guys, like in life, some guys got promoted that should never have been. It’s a little more dangerous because they had the lives of people in their hands. But all in all, I guess, not guess, I know we were successful, you know. Is success winning, killing people?
But I think this is a good thing being done because if nothing else in these interviews, if young people hear them, read them, they’ll know what war is. I never saw, before the war, I never saw some of the things I saw during the war. You know, you see people suffering, you see people on the street begging, but never the kind of things, I’m trying to compare some of the worst things, never saw some of the horrible things that I saw during the war. Which are what, what horrible things? Some guys wearing a Canadian uniform dead on the street, bloated and so on. It changed me in a way - I have always been anti-war, but it made me even more anti-war. It’s a horrible, horrible thing. It made me feel, it made me realize, you had to treat people better than you do. I don’t know if I’m being clear.
There are not, even though I think that we fought a just war, but there are not too many situations where you must fight a war. I believe that there are ways; there have to be ways of solving these problems in other ways, and we’re not doing it.