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Guest speaker shares about life in Poland during WWII

Mr. Gideon Kanner is pictured with his grandson and WHS junior, Kyle Plante.

Mrs. Stewart’s 2nd period Honors American History II class welcomed Mr. Gideon Kanner to class to speak about his experiences in Poland in World War II.  Mr. Kanner is the grandfather of a student in Mrs. Stewart’s class.

Mr. Kanner was 9 when Germany invaded Poland and World War II started.  He told the class how his family, being Jewish, went into hiding living with one of his father’s former co-workers.  For most of the war, they lived in a few small rooms and couldn’t go outside.  Fortunately, his family avoided being sent to the concentration camps.  Mr. Kanner told us that out of his school class, only 2 or 3 survived the war. 

Mr. Kanner’s older brother and some friends escaped into the Soviet Union, where they were turned away.  They then travelled through several countries in Eastern Europe, before making it to Turkey.  Turkish officials didn’t want to allow the teens to stay, so they took them to the Syrian border and dropped them off.  There, the teens found French officials (Syria was a French colony at the time), and were put on a ship and sent to England where they enlisted with the British military.  Amazingly, the family reunited after the war. 

After arriving in the U.S. in 1946 at the age of 16, Mr. Kanner completed high school, and went to college.  He went to college and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.  For several years he worked as a rocket engineer, before going to law school at the University of Southern California.  Kanner received his law degree in 1961 and became a highly successful lawyer specializing in eminent domain.    He even argued in front of the Supreme Court!  For the last 20 years or so, Mr. Kanner has taught at the Loyola Law School. 

One of Mr. Kanner’s messages to the class was that they should recognize and be proud of living in the United States.  He said that only in this country could he have achieved everything he has. 

This presentation had a big impact of the students.  Jack Sagraves said, “I learned how scary and tough times were in Europe for the Jewish people.  Mr. Kanner is an inspiration demonstrating that the American dream is possible through opportunity, determination, and hard work.”  Emily Clinton said, “From Mr. Kanner’s visit, I learned about the harsh reality of the war and unlucky fate of many.” 

Written by: Mrs. Shana Stewart, Social Studies Teacher
Posted: May 13, 2015 by Anna Waldrup

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