The Unbelievable Story Of Captain Maxwell

A 92-year old World War 2 Veteran

On October 24th, the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada – Simcoe County hosted Captian Martin Maxwell and his incredible stories of loss, courage, and triumph.

After losing his father to cancer and his mother to pneumonia, a fifteen-year-old Maxwell witness the “Kristallnacht” first hand and was expelled from his Jewish orphanage when it was forced to close. His sisters were evacuated to Paris but two were apprehended and killed in the Holocaust. The third sister was sheltered throughout the war and eventually made her way to Canada. Maxwell himself was adopted by a British family thanks to the “Kindertransport” plan and when he was old enough, he joined the British Army volunteering as a glider pilot.

When he was only twenty-one, he piloted a glider under the cover of darkness to capture a key bridge before the D-Day landings. He led his assault team, capturing and holding the bridge, suffering the first two Allied casualties of D-Day.

Three months later he once again piloted a glider into combat but this time it was for Operation Market Garden; the ultimately doomed plan to push into Germany through Holland and end the war by Christmas 1944. The operation was a colossal failure and after holding out for seven days and suffering massive losses, Maxwell was severely wounded in a tank bombardment and captured.

For 3 days he went untreated, desperately trying to stay awake because another injured soldier told him that if he fell asleep, he would most likely not wake up. When he was eventually rescued by the Allied advance, Maxwell was once again a witness to the horrors of the Holocaust when he happened upon a children’s hospital while driving around in a jeep. After seeing hundreds of children near death, including a young girl who hugged his leg and called him “papa”, he and his squadmate gathered every piece of food they could to bring back to the children. On their way back, he also purchased a doll (with the only currency worth anything at the time: cigarettes) for the little girl who called him papa. When he arrived back at the children’s hospital, he distributed the food and when he asked about the little girl that he bought the doll for, he was told that she had passed away while he was gone.

Maxwell would go on to conduct investigations related to the Nuremberg Trials, was appointed a Knight in the French Legion, has been cited in parliament, and he is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal for his service to Canada.

He has been talking about his experiences for over 30 years now and is one of the few remaining combat veterans from World War 2. Though relating this experience puts a strain on him, he continues to do so because of its extraordinary importance. Martin Maxwell is passing on the torch of freedom to a younger generation with the message that you must hold it high and defend it at all costs.

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