Seventy-five years after Royal Canadian Air Force Flight Sgt. Nathan Dlusy of Montreal lost his life at age 23 while serving his country, Canada has officially recognized his sacrifice.
The German-born Jewish refugee died without what he would have treasured most: Canadian citizenship. For many years, his now 92-year-old brother Jon Dlusy has tried to obtain posthumous citizenship for him.
For years, government officials told him this was not possible. But Jon Dlusy and his longtime friend, Gerald Rudick, who has helped him in this quest, are grateful that the current government has finally acknowledged Dlusy’s bravery and allegiance to his adopted country.
On June 18, Anthony Housefather – the MP for Mount Royal, Jon Dlusy’s riding – rose in the House of Commons to offer some measure of justice.
“Mr. Speaker, this month marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day and we share a sacred responsibility to keep veterans’ stories alive. It is with that in mind that I wish to highlight the contribution of Jewish-Canadian war veterans who have served in all of Canada’s wars,” he said.
“In World War II, for example, Canadian Jews served in Canada’s armed forces at a rate 10 per cent higher than the national average. One such individual was Nathan Dlusy.
“Nathan fled Germany in 1938 to come to Montreal. In 1942, despite not yet having his citizenship, Nathan enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force to fight against tyranny and oppression overseas. In 1944, he gave his life for our country. He was only 23 years old. Today, his brother Jon Dlusy has kept his story alive.
“I wish to thank Jon for sharing his brother’s courageous story and I want to thank all our veterans who have served and sacrificed so that we may live in freedom.”
Dlusy died on Aug. 15, 1944, when the patrol aircraft he was aboard crashed off the coast of Scotland. The record shows that he died a Polish citizen – the nationality of his parents – not a Canadian. The Dlusy brothers were born in Berlin, where their parents had migrated in the early 1920s. Neither boy ever set foot in Poland. As Jews, the family were no longer considered German nationals after the Nazis came to power.
Due to his status, Dlusy was not immediately accepted into the forces, his brother recalled, but he persisted and had to “go through hoops” to eventually get in. Meanwhile, he was completing his citizenship application.
After training in the use of radar technology, Dlusy was sent overseas, where he joined a squadron patrolling the coast of Britain in search of U-boats.
Dlusy, a wireless gunner, was among 10 crew members who perished while returning from a surveillance mission aboard one of the famed Sunderland flying boats. In a heavy storm, the huge aircraft crashed into a cliff.
The young RCAF officer lies in a Jewish cemetery near Glasgow.
As Jon Dlusy was not feeling up for the trip to Ottawa, Rudick and Wendy Corn, the CEO of the Mount Sinai Foundation, who was also instrumental in obtaining the recognition of Dlusy, represented him, witnessing the tribute from the visitors’ gallery of the House.
Corn knows Jon Dlusy as a donor to the foundation. She reached out to Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who took a personal interest in Dlusy’s story, because he is a retired military officer and, of course, Canada’s first astronaut. Garneau hosted Rudick and Corn while they were at Parliament.
Rudick, who has been friends with Jon Dlusy for more than 50 years, had earlier persuaded the Quebec government to recognize Nathan.
In February, MNA David Birnbaum rose in the national assembly to declare that Dlusy, the son of Jews who escaped Nazi Germany, died fighting for Canada, the country he considered his own.
In recognition of a major gift from Jon Dlusy, in June, Mount Sinai Hospital dedicated the Nathan Dlusy Respiratory Unit, which bears the inscription: “Named in loving memory of a beloved brother and son who sacrificed his life in service to his country in WWII.”
Corn said that, “In our meetings, I learned about Jon’s plight to get his brother recognized posthumously as a Canadian and it touched me. I have a connection with Marc Garneau, as I used to be part of his executive for the Westmount riding. I called him to see what could be done.
“I learned that in order to receive Canadian citizenship, the individual must apply for it himself and be there to take the oath. But Marc, who also served, felt that Nathan’s sacrifice could not go unnoticed and he offered to have a statement read in the House of Commons recognizing Nathan’s contribution to Canada.” Jon watched the tribute live on CPAC.
“He is over the moon for having this recognition for his late brother. I was thrilled to make this happen. It’s not often we can give back to a donor in such a significant way,” she said.