Mitelman, Les

Les Mitelman is a Crestwood grandfather; his grandson Liam Stern was in Grade 8 at the time this interview was completed.  Les was born in Tarnopol, Poland on July 21, 1938, so he was only a baby when the war began, so growing up he had to learn the unspeakable and horrible lessons the Shoah forced on him and his family.  Les’s father was murdered, and Les credits the resourcefulness and courage of his mother and uncle for his survival.  At first Leah tried to shelter her son in Tarnopol, but they fled to the country, moving several times while they attempted to find a safe place.  They were turned in though, and deported to Auschwitz, where Les’s mother was able to bargain for their survival by promising a German officer dental help.  She did that, and he lived up to his promise, taking them out of the camp after about a month.  Mother and son went back into hiding in an agricultural setting.  As the Red Army, they moved west, among the many refugees on the road; they found their way into the American zone, where they reunited with Les’s uncle and settled into the DP camp at Eschwege.  Les had the chance to be a child again, playing and going to school, and absorbing the education and activities that were available.  After a few years the family emigrated to Canada, and set off across the Atlantic, arriving in Halifax before taking the train to Montreal.  Unable to resume her career in dentistry, Leah became a seamstress, while Les attended the Fairmount Street School in the Plateau neighbourhood.  Academic and professional success would follow, as Les made his way from Montreal to Toronto, building a career and a family and finding his own way in the rhythms of postwar Canadian life.