Veteran Stories:
Gerald A. Mendel

Army

  • As Gerald Mendel inspected abandoned German military camps in Normandy, he found this leather bag that would have belonged to a German officer. The bag contained maps, pencils, a ruler and a pistol cleaner

  • With his knowledge of German and Dutch, Gerald Mendel (2nd row, 4th from left) was sent to an interrogator training course at Cambridge University in England. He was the only Canadian to participate in the course. 1943

  • As an interrogator, Gerald Mendel received this handbook that included information about the German military and their weapons and vehicles as well as all procedural guidelines for interrogating prisoners.

  • This book, "The German Army in Pictures," was a part of Mr. Mendel's interrogator's manual.

  • A letter from the British military recognizing Mr. Mendel's work interrogating a German Naval Commando. His interrogation led to very important naval information. January 1, 1945

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"My father read Mein Kampf in 1929, and decided it was something that one should not ignore"

Transcript

My name is Gerald Mendel. I was born in Berlin, Germany, and my parents were of Jewish extraction, but were not religious. My father read Mein Kampf in 1929, and decided it was something that one should not ignore. So we lived in Holland from 1933 until 1936. Then my parents thought that things were getting pretty dangerous with the Nazis looking as if they were expanding, and we came to Canada. My father then got a job with Sir Frederick Banting in the Banting Institute in Toronto, and that's how I became Canadian. Coming to Canada was a great relief to me. I got my Senior Matric and went to university in the COTC [Canadian Officers Training Corps] at Queen's University. I was accepted by the Army, and went overseas in December of 1942. I was posted to the 4th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in March 1943. I went on leave in August '43, and met an intelligence officer and mentioned to him that I knew Dutch and German, and he said, "Oh, you're the kind of people we're looking for. You'll be hearing from me." Then I was transferred to the Canadian Intelligence [Corps]. Then I was posted to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division to the No. 3 Canadian Interrogation Team. The unit had just been established, but another officer and I were sent to various units in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division to tell the people there how to deal with prisoners. And, you know, talking about the Geneva Convention. A few days after D-Day (June 6, 1944), Canadian soldiers found out that the Germans had been shooting their prisoners, so they weren't taking any prisoners either, and the Brigadier General didn't get any information about what the Germans were doing or where they were, or who they were, so the only way they could get information was through documents. So I was sent out to look at the paybooks of dead Germans who were lying in front of Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse. There was a whole bunch of them who'd been mowed down. I guess it was by the heavy machine guns of the Cameron Highlanders [of Ottawa]. There were thirty or forty of them. I had to go there and unbutton their tunics and check their paybooks and write down what units they were from, and I made a report on that. It wasn't a very pleasant job, I can tell you. It was very smelly. It was hot and the bodies had started to get bloated, so it was pretty awful.
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