Claim to Fame: Holocaust Survivor
Fate can sometimes turn tragedy into triumph. For George Brady, fate gave him the opportunity to immortalize the story of his little sister.
Born in Czechoslovakia, George was the eldest child of affluent Jewish storeowners. He had a little sister named Hana. After the Nazis annexed their country in 1938, Czech Jews found their lives more perilous. In 1941 George Brady's parents were arrested. And a year later, George and Hana Brady were put on a train to Theresienstadt, sixty kilometers north of Prague.
Theresienstadt had a special purpose in the Nazi war against the Jews. It was billed as a model Jewish settlement, a place for famous artists, musicians as well as the wealthy and intellectual elite to wait out the war. The Nazis, after careful preparation, even allowed the International Red Cross to visit the camp as proof that there was no truth to the rumours of extermination camps. The camp was in reality no different than the rest. Of the over 140,000 Jews who were sent to Theresienstadt and then to death camps in the east, only 3,500 survived (Read more about the camp).
George and Hana Brady spent two years at Theresiendstadt separated from each other. George lived with 41 other boys in one room. To make the time go faster, the boys started a magazine called "Vedem". Many of the magazines survived the war and are published in a book titled We are Children Just the Same: Vedem, the Secret Magazine by the Boys of Terezin. They were also forced to work and George was an apprentice plumber. But fear was never far away. George saw people boarding trains and never returning. On Sept. 29, 1944, it was his turn.
Arriving at Auschwitz, George Brady heeded the advice of a Jewish inmate and told the Nazis he was healthy and strong. That saved his life. Hana Brady arrived at Auschwitz a month later. She wasn't so lucky. At the end of the war George Brady emerged the lone survivor of his immediate family. He was just 17.
The next chapter in George Brady's life began in Canada. He founded a successful plumbing business, which grew to more than 200 employees. But a Holocaust survivor is marked for life. Guilt, anger, and the black hole of unanswered questions always remain. In 2000, and half a world away, fate was about to change George's life forever.
A small holocaust museum in Tokyo had opened its doors. Among its possessions was an empty suitcase, sent to them from Auschwitz. Little was known about it except for a name of the owner — Hana Brady. The museum's coordinator, Fumiko Ishioka was curious, and that led to a remarkable chain of events. Discovering that Hana had a brother living in Canada, Ishioka contacted George Brady. They visited each other, exchanging information and photographs. From the ashes of the Holocaust the story of a little girl was revived.
Today the story of "Hana's Suitcase" is internationally famous. It has been turned into an award winning CBC radio documentary, a book, a play, and recently, a television documentary. For George Brady it has given him a renewed sense of purpose. He travels the world preaching tolerance and cooperation. George Brady couldn't grow old with his little sister. But he is making sure her story and its legacy live on.