When Police Academy’s Commandant Lassard went to war.

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Who hasn’t seen Police Academy or any of the sequels? I reckon mots people have. But one of the actors in the movie had such an interesting life that his story would warrant a movie and would probably become a box office success.

George Gaynes who played the clueless Commandant Lassard was born George Jongejans  May 3, 1917, in Helsinki, Finland  which  was then still, part of the Russian Empire , the son of Iya Grigorievna de Gay , a Russian artist, and Gerrit Jongejans, a Dutch businessman.

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia had abdicated the throne on March 15, two months prior to Gaynes’ birth, and the Empire was about go through some turbulent times, and was already at war.

Tsar

The Jongejans familyy left the country, and George was primarily raised in France, England, and Switzerland.

George attended college in the vicinity of Lausanne, Switzerland and graduated in 1937. He then attended a music school in Milan, Italy for about a year.

In 1940, George Gaynes was living in France,when France was occupied by Nazi Germany. George attempted to flee France, by crossing the Pyrenees mountains into neutral Spain. He was arrested by the Spanish authorities for illegally crossing the border, but was soon released.

In 1943, George joined the Royal Netherlands Navy. With the Netherlands under German occupation, the headquarters of the Navy had moved to London, in the UK. George had no previous military experience, but he was noticed for multilingual skills. He was  fluent in   Dutch, English, French, Italian and Russian. He was soon detached to the (British) Royal Navy to serve as a translator.

During his naval service in World War II, George took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily, the Battle of Anzio in the Italian Campaign, and the Adriatic Campaign. The War ended in 1945 and George was honorably discharged in July, 1946. His highest military rank was that of a sergeant.

In 1946, George returned to France but an American theater director offered him a role in a Broadway musical and he moved to New York City later that year and became an American citizen in 1948.

In the early 1960s, George started appearing as a character actor in various television series. He was also offered a number of film roles. His career unexpectedly took off in the 1980s, with a major part in the television series Punky Brewster.

But his most famous role was that of Commandant Lassard in the Police Academy franchise.

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He died at his home in North Bend, Washington, on February 15, 2016, at the age of 98.

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Sources

IMDB

 

Jews in World War 2

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As the title suggests, this blog is about Jews in WWII. However it is not about Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. This is about the Jews who fought on both sides, for the allied troops but also for the Axis powers.

This may sound crazy but some Jews even got awarded an Iron Cross.

Major Leo Skurnik was a Jewish soldier/medical officer in the Finnish army.

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In September 1941 he organized an evacuation of a German field hospital when it came under Soviet attack. In excess of  600 patients, including SS soldiers, were evacuated.For this action he was awarded the Iron Cross.

Skurnik was one of  three Finnish Jews who were bestowed the Iron Cross class 2 . All refused to accept the award.

More then 300 Finnish Jewish soldiers found themselves ‘allied’ to  the Nazis when Finland, who had a mutual enemy in the Soviet Union, joined the war in June 1941.

Despite Germany demanding that Finland introduce anti-Semitic laws like in the rest of Nazi-controlled Europe, the Finns refused, treating their Jewish soldiers with respect. They even allowed the Jewish soldiers to practice their religion.

There was even a field synagogue for these soldiers,  some German soldiers  sometimes even visited the synagogue and showed respect for the Jews who prayed there, despite the propaganda they had subjected to for years.

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It was not so much the case that these Finnish Jewish soldiers subscribed to the Nazi philosophy ,but more of a case of fighting an enemy which was feared more in Finland, the Soviet Union.

On the other hand there were Jews fighting for the allies. About 500,000 American Jews served in the various branches of the United States armed services. approximately 52,000 of these received U.S. military awards/ They fought in Europe and the Pacific.

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One of the American Jewish soldiers was private Leo Lichten. He was killed in action just outside the village of Prummern,in Germany near the Dutch border.

On November 20,1944.Leo’s company, Company A, received the  order, 1944, to attack pillboxes (small bunkers).The weather conditions were severe , and the ground was muddy, making the battle even more difficult than it might otherwise have been. Leo stormed one of the pillboxes, and was killed by machine gun fire. His body was laid to rest in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten. Last year I visited his grave and paid my respects.

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The Jewish Infantry Brigade Group,also  known as the Jewish Brigade Group or Jewish Brigade, was a military division of the British Army during  World War II. It was formed in late 1944 and consisted of  recruits  of  Jews from the then Mandatory Palestine and was  commanded by Anglo-Jewish officers. It served in the latter stages of the Italian Campaign.

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In October 1944, led by Brigadier Ernest F. Benjamin, the brigade group was sent to Italy where it  joined British 8th Army in November 1944, which was engaged in the Italian Campaign under 15th Army Group.

The brigade group did partake in the Spring Offensive of 1945.  On March 19–20, 1945, it initiated two attacks. It moved to the Senio River sector, where it fought against the German 4th Parachute Division commanded by General lieutenant Heinrich Trettner. On April 9, the brigade crossed the river and established a bridgehead, widening it the following day. At the duration  of the  operations in Italy the Jewish Brigade suffered 30 casualties and 70 wounded.

troops

 

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Sources

The Telegraph

Haaretz

Wikipedia

 

Finnish escort Aura II-The ship that sank itself

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Aura II (formerly known as SS Halland, Bore II, SS Seagull and SS Aura) was a Finnish escort vessel, and a former presidential yacht, operated by the Finnish Navy between 1939 and 1940. The ship participated in the Winter War.

The ship was originally constructed as the passenger vessel SS Halland. She was renamed into Bore II during a sejour with another shipping company. She was bought in 1930 by the Finnish businessman Hans von Rettig, who rebuilt the ship into a luxurious yacht, and renamed her SS Seagull.

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He donated the ship to the Finnish state in 1936, to be used as a presidential yacht. She was then given the name SS Aura. She was taken over by the Finnish Navy when the Winter War erupted in 1939, and since the name Aura already was taken by another vessel, she was given a new name, SS Aura II.

On 13 January 1940, Aura II was escorting a convoy across the Sea of Åland.

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The small convoy consisted of the cargo vessels SS Anneberg, SS Hebe and the passenger vessel SS Bore I.

When they passed Märket Island, the escort vessel Tursas noticed torpedo tracks in the water. Soon thereafter a submarine surfaced 300 m on the port side. Tursas sounded the alarm and tried to ram the Soviet submarine. Aura II followed and dropped three depth charges, and soon an oil slick was seen on the water surface. It was the Soviet submarine ShCh-324, which had been trying to sink the largest of the transport vessels Anneberg.

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However, the torpedo went between Anneberg and Hebe. Seeing the oil slick, Aura II decided to finish off the submarine. Two more depth charges were fired, but a third depth charge exploded in its thrower. The 135 kg trotyl charge completely tearing the wooden ship apart. 26 men died and 15 were saved. The ship’s commander, Lieutenant Esra Terä, was mortally wounded, but managed to utter some last words: “Let us sing, boys”. The Soviet submarine managed to return to its home base.

Algoth Niska- Finnish smuggler, footballer and adventurer.

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Finland’s role during WWII is slightly complicated.The military history of Finland during World War II encompasses three major conflicts. The first two––the defensive Winter War in 1939–1940, and the Continuation War alongside the Axis Powers in 1941–1944––were waged against the Soviet Union. The third one, the Lapland War in 1944–1945, followed the signing of an armistice agreement with the Allied Powers, which stipulated expulsion of German forces from Finnish territory.

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What is even more remarkable the Finnish army had 300 Jewish soldiers fighting in league with the Nazis when Finland, who had a mutual enemy in the Soviet Union, joined the war in June 1941.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/02/17/forgotten-history-unlikely-allies/

Whilst looking at the involvement of Finland in WWII I stumbled upon the story of Algoth Niska.

Algoth Niska (5 December 1888 – 28 May 1954) was a  smuggler, footballer and adventurer.

He was born in Viipuri in 1888 and was the youngest child. When his father died in 1903, the family moved to Helsinki, where he got interested in football. He was a member of the Finland football team which played at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, losing 4-0 to England in the semi final.

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Niska joined his first ship in 1908. When the First World War broke out, he went to navigation school and graduated the following year – though he never got his papers. He was married twice and divorced both women. He had two children. The well-known Finnish musician Ilkka Lipsanen is his grandson.

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In 1919, when Finnish prohibition came into force, he acquired a large supply of then-illegal liquor. High society in Helsinki soon found out whom they could ask for refreshments. When the supply begun to run out, he bought a boat and begun to smuggle liquor from Estonian and German ships who waited outside Finnish territorial waters. Later he also smuggled liquor from Sweden, where it was legal but tightly controlled.

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Over the years he used various tricks to dodge police boats – and sometimes the bullets of their machine guns – during his trips between Turku, Helsinki, Tallinn and Stockholm and in the Åland archipelago. He never shot back. In one case he unloaded his cargo right in the heart of Helsinki while people were distracted during the visit of Gustav V of Sweden.

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Niska was eventually wanted both in Sweden and Finland. He was sentenced for short periods in both countries. In prison he became a model prisoner and was often released early for good behavior.

In 1932 Niska was exiled from Sweden and he spent time in Riga, Tallinn and Danzig. He spoke  Finnish, Swedish, German and English.

Niska had been a smuggler during the Finnish prohibition, but had run into financial troubles after its end in 1932, so when Albert Amtmann, an Austrian-Jewish acquaintance, expressed his concerns over his people’s position in Europe, Niska quickly saw a business opportunity in smuggling Jews out of Germany.

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The modus operandi was quickly established. Niska would forge Finnish passports and Amtmann would acquire the customers, who with their new passports would able to cross the border out of Germany. All in all Niska falsified passports for 48 Jews during 1938 and earned 2,5 million Finnish marks ($890,000 or £600,000 in today’s money) selling them. Only three of the Jews are known to have survived the Holocaust while twenty were certainly caught. The fates of the other twenty-five are not known. Involved in the operation with Niska and Amtmann were Major Rafael Johannes Kajander, Axel Belewicz and Belewicz’s girlfriend Kerttu Ollikainen whose job was to steal the forms on which the passports were forged

Niska fought in Laatokka during the Winter War. However there are no records of what his involvement was during the Continuation War.

In the mid-1940s Niska tried to finance the building of a new boat by giving interviews about his life – he needed the money and knew he could afford to ask.  In 1953 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and lost his speech and power of movement. He died on 28 May 1954.