In Vancouver, Rudolf Vrba’s hometown for four decades, not a single, widely-seen, public memorial is dedicated to remembering the six million Jews who were murdered during World War II.

Heritage Vancouver, meanwhile, has listed all the initiatives that accentuate the World War sacrifices of Asian Canadians, Indigenous Canadians, Chinese Canadian, Black Canadians, Chinese Canadians and others.

There is no mention of Jews.

Evidently, the Holocaust was somehow a separate genocide, divorced from the carnage of battle, as if it must have had nothing to with World War II. In Auschwitz, a green triangle meant you were a former criminal; a red triangle meant you were a political prisoner; a lilac-coloured triangle was worn by Jehovah’s Witnesses; vagabonds and prostitutes wore black triangles; homosexual wore pink triangles. Jews wore yellow. And yet somehow the Nazi concentration camps have been categorized as been solely representative of The Final Solution; as a separate aberration from World War II, as a bizarre genocide that involved only Nazis and Jews.

In a city such as Vancouver that prides itself in its inter-racial composition, how does one possibly explain the lack of recognition for the deaths of six million Jews? Rudolf Vrba persistently made it clear that the massive and systematic theft of all Jewish properties, Jewish possessions and Jewish wealth was vital for financing the Third Reich’s forces. Jewish prisoners were forced to work half-starved at more than a thousand slave labour “work camps” around Europe. Nonetheless, Vancouver’s civic governments, from 1945 to the present, have yet to determine that Jewish deaths and Jewish privations merit any remembrance as part of the carnage and suffering wrought by World War II.

Rudolf Vrba, although born Jewish, became an avowed atheist as a reaction to his war-time experiences. He resided in Vancouver since the early 1970s until his death in 2006. He is co-credited [with his Auschwitz co-escapee Alfred Wetzler] with saving the lives of 200,000 people—more than anyone else during World War II. Yet Vancouver’s civic planners have yet to instigate or approve any memorial installation for him as an individual, let alone a plaque or a street name, to enable current and future generations to know he existed.

Until the cloak of civic ignorance is lifted, and his heroism is finally recognized, this website serves as his virtual monument.

  • Alan Twigg

 

Here the “Local Places of Remembrance” as they were listed by Heritage Vancouver in 2024

Winged Victory Vancouver

Winged Victory, Vancouver

Winged Victory

Installed in 1921, this bronze sculpture by Montreal artist Coeur de Lion MacCarthy is one of three identical sculptures installed in Canada. Commissioned by the Canadian Pacific Railway to mark the more than 1,100 CPR employees who perished during World War I, the statues were placed near CPR landmarks. Vancouver’s sits outside of Waterfront Station. The others are in Winnipeg (installed 1922) and Montreal (installed 1923). The dates of World War II were later added to each statue’s base. “Winged Victory”, also referred to as “Angel of Victory”, was considered one of the most evocative memorial sculptures, depicting an angel carrying a deceased soldier to heaven at the moment of his death.

Mountain View Cemetery Fields of Honour

Vancouver’s cemetery has four Fields of Honour commemorating Canada’s veterans and those from other Commonwealth countries and allied forces. There are over 12,000 veterans buried here, including over 570 graves that are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The upright monuments near the flag pole commemorate those veterans whose graves were not marked by 2006. Many still remain without a marker but one can be placed through the cemetery’s donation program. There is also a granite memorial which was dedicated in 1983 to all Canadian military members who have passed away.

Japanese Canadian War Memorial

Japanese Canadian War Memorial

Japanese Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park

In April 1920, a monument commemorating Japanese Canadians who fought for Canada was erected in Stanley Park. Built with private donations, the monument comprises a base listing battles where Japanese Canadians fought and a stone column topped with a Japanese-style lamp that was intended to stay permanently lit. The light was extinguished in 1942 when attacks on Pearl Harbour and war with Japan led to the internment of Japanese Canadians. It was re-lit in 1985 with decorated First World War veteran Sgt. Masumi Mitsui in attendance. Restoration of the monument was completed in recent years led by a volunteer committee with support from a VHF grant as well as other grant funding and donations.

Victory Square Cenotaph

Victory Square Cenotaph

Victory Square and Cenotaph

The largest Remembrance Day ceremony is held at the cenotaph in Victory Square each year on November 11. This location was significant for the young city of Vancouver – it was the site of Vancouver’s first courthouse, the intersection of the Granville townsite (now Gastown) and CPR townsite, and a recruiting ground during the war. The cenotaph was designed by G.L.T. Sharp and unveiled in 1924 to approximately 25,000 people. It has since been the location of an annual Remembrance Day ceremony, making it the longest continuously running ceremony in Vancouver. In 2002, lamp standards shaped like World War I helmets were installed to encircle the cenotaph as well as throughout the square.

On November 8, a National Indigenous Veterans Day Ceremony is held at Victory Square to honour their long distinguished legacy of serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Chinatown Memorial Plaza

Chinatown Memorial Plaza

Chinatown Memorial Plaza

Keefer and Columbia Streets

The Chinese Railroad Workers and Chinese Veterans Memorial at the Chinatown Memorial Plaza recognizes those who fought in World War II (1939-1945) and those who built the Rocky Mountain and Fraser Canyon portions of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1881-1885). On Remembrance Day, a ceremony for Chinese Canadian veterans takes place at the site. The Chinatown Memorial Monument is by sculptor Arthur Shu-ren Cheng and was unveiled November 2003. The bronze statues of the railway worker and the World War II veteran represent the sacrifices made by Chinese Canadians in building a united and prosperous Canada. The main column is a stylized form of the Chinese character “centre” which symbolizes Chinese culture.

Burrard Bridge Braziers

Flanking the entrances to the Burrard Bridge are four memorial brazier lights. With the construction of the bridge, the braziers were installed in 1932 as a memorial to those who served in WWI, designed by bridge engineer Major J.R. Grant and architect G.L.T. Sharp, both veterans. The braziers remind of those used for warmth by soldiers in the war. In January 2018, a special ceremony was held to relight the four brazier lights, which have been refitted with new LED lighting, and highlight their memorial role. The braziers now have a bronze plaque that recognizes the service by all Canadians in wars and peacekeeping missions.

War Memorial Gym at UBC

War Memorial Gym at UBC

War Memorial Gym at UBC

Conceived in November 1945 and designed by architect Ned Pratt, the War Memorial Gym was opened on February 23, 1951 as a “useful and living memorial”. War Memorial pays tribute to British Columbians, particularly those who attended UBC, who died during the two World Wars. A plaque inscribed with names can be found on the east wall of the foyer. The University’s Remembrance Day service is held here each year.

Air Force Garden of Remembrance in Stanley Park

Air Force Garden of Remembrance

Air Force Garden of Remembrance in Stanley Park

Just past the Stanley Park Pavilion is the Air Force Garden of Remembrance, a garden of rockeries dedicated by the Women’s Auxiliary to the Air Services on May 9, 1948 as a living memorial. Several plaques are installed here including those with the insignia of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force. Proceeds from the coins thrown into the wishing well are collected and dispersed by the Auxiliary to local military hospitals.

Canadian Memorial United Church

West 15th Avenue and Burrard Street

The Chapel and Hall (1923-28) were built as a memorial to those who served and died in the First World War. The Rev. (Lt.-Col) G.O. Fallis arrived in Vancouver in May 1920 having made a commitment while he was serving as a chaplain in France to return and build a peace memorial. The church houses the only copies outside Ottawa of the Books of Remembrance, which contain the names of all Canadians who served and died in World War I, World War II and the Korean War. These books are available to the public. In addition, the organ is a Casavant pipe organ donated by Americans in memory of the more than 1,500 Americans killed serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Memorial South Park

Memorial South Park

Memorial South Park and Cenotaph

East 41st Avenue near Knight Street

South Vancouver Municipal Engineer E. Dundas Todd designed this park as a memorial to soldiers who perished in World War I. It was officially opened on May 22, 1926.  With the amalgamation of three municipalities to become the City of Vancouver in 1929, the park was renamed as Memorial South Park. The cenotaph was erected on May 22, 1926 at South Vancouver Municipal Hall. It was relocated to the park and rededicated on November 11, 1939 “to the memory of the men and women who served in defense of their Country”.

Memorial West Park

Dunbar Street

A community space with playing fields, lawn bowling and community centre, this park was originally Dunbar Park. It was renamed sometime after 1921 and dedicated to those who died in World War I.  Following the amalgamation of the Point Grey municipality with Vancouver, the park was renamed as Memorial West Park.

29th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force Memorial

29th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force Memorial

29th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force Memorial

Hastings Park

Located inside Hastings Park, a stone memorial was dedicated in August 1938 to the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 29th Battalion “from the surviving members in tribute to the memory of their comrades”. Hastings Park was a key training ground for soldiers from November 1914 to May 1915 prior to being sent off to war. The battalion, known as “Tobin’s Tigers” after their Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Henry Tobin, lived at the park during their training before marching to New Brighton and boarding the trains.

Grandview Park Cenotaph

Grandview Park Cenotaph

Grandview Park Cenotaph

Originally the site of the Irish Fusiliers Drill Hall, this park was purchased by the Department of Militia and Defense between 1911 and 1913. Following World War I the military’s needs changed and the site was abandoned. The area was leased to the City in 1929 and named for the Grandview neighbourhood. A memorial cairn was located on Grandview Park until its replacement by a new war memorial on November 11, 1959.

Learn More

BC Black History Society –

Canadian War Museum – Asian Canadians and Canada’s Military

Canadian War Museum – Canada and the First World War Virtual Exhibit

Canadian War Museum – First Nations Soldiers

Canadian War Museum – Remembrance Day Resources

Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society – Veteran Stories

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Discovering the Fallen for South Asian Heritage Month

Indus Media Foundation – Duty, Honour & Izzat: The Call to Flanders Fields 

Je Me Souviens – Indigenous Soldiers of the Great War (1914-1918)

Knowledge Network – British Columbia: An Untold History – Force 136

The Memory Project – The Contribution of Chinese Canadians in the Second World War

Valour Canada: Military History Library – Iwakichi Kojima

Valour Canada: Military History Library –  The Louie Brothers

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