Gâteau à l'orange: The story of a recipe that survived the Holocaust
By Pamela Post
In a world where the daily headlines are increasingly filled with acts of violence and targeted hate, Alex Buckman is fighting back... with an heirloom recipe.
The 78-year-old is president of the Vancouver Child Survivors of the Holocaust. Most members are now in their late 70s and 80s.
Buckman and several in his group are participating in a program called Writing Lives, a year-long course offered to English students at Vancouver's Langara College.
Earlier this year, a number of those students gathered to bake recipes from his aunt's cookbook, penned surreptitiously in a Nazi camp, to serve at the closing ceremony of the first Writing Lives program.
Buckman spoke to that first class, and was later teamed with students to create a memoir of his life, which started with tragedy.
As a Jewish toddler in Belgium, Alex's parents were forced to hide him from the Nazis with a revolving door of non-Jewish families, finally ending in an orphanage from the age of four until he was six and a half, when the war ended.
Both his parents died at Auschwitz.
"If caught with all these stolen goods, no questions asked, they would have hanged her in front of all the prisoners for stealing." - Alex Buckman
After Liberation, Becky adopted young Alex and raised him with her husband and other children, who emigrated to Montreal in 1951.
When asked what she hoped her students will take away from the experience, Mines said, "I hope they become better mensches!"
During the Jewish holiday of Purim in March, students at Langara and the elderly survivors they were working with were rocked by threats of violence that interrupted their interviews. Twice in one week, the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, where the interviews were taking place, had to be evacuated due to anti-Semitic bomb threats. "People are disturbed about it because because we all felt that, after it happened to us when we were kids, it would have been over, that we wouldn't experience anything like this again in our lifetime," Buckman recalls, "But we are experiencing it again."
We all felt that after it happened to us when we were kids, it would have been over... but we are experiencing it again.- Alex Buckman
Buckman has spoken to thousands of students about his family's story and always hands out the recipe for Gâteau à l'orange from his aunt's cookbook. His aunt made the cake for him every Sunday, as a symbol of the power of love over hate.
"She wrote this [recipe] in defiance, against all odds, in a concentration camp," says Buckman. "And on top of that - the cake's good!"
Thanks to Global News British Columbia for the news clip used in the documentary.
Pamela Post is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster based in Vancouver. She's had a long career with CBC News, as a network reporter in Toronto and Vancouver, in both radio and television. Radio docs are her passion. Whether it's investigating organ transplant or sexual harassment scandals, covering the Dalai Lama, inviting listeners along to 10 weeks in ukulele school or a divorce ritual, Pamela loves to spin audio yarns into gold. She has won national and international journalism awards and fellowships. She teaches journalism part-time at Langara College where she is also the Read-Mercer Journalism Fellowship Mentor. She is German-Canadian on her mother's side and Tsimshian First Nation on her father's side. She has covered First Nations issues extensively and hosts a podcast on Indigenous people and places. Twitter: @PamelaJPost