TORONTO (JTA) — An 85-year-old Holocaust survivor accepted the high school diploma he was denied 71 years ago.
Martin Maxwell at age 14 was forced to flee his native Vienna after Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, three months shy of earning his high school certificate.
But in a moving event last Friday, Maxwell was awarded an honorary diploma from Toronto’s York School, a private high school where he addressed students during last autumn’s annual Holocaust Education Week.
"When he came to speak, he captivated an audience of teenagers for one hour," school official Sean Mitchell told the Toronto Star. "You could hear a pin drop. It was truly inspiring."
Mitchell said Maxwell’s speech triggered an "outpouring" from students and faculty who wanted to honor him with a diploma.
In 1938, Maxwell and his brother were among 10,000 Jewish children taken to England through the Kindertransport program. He joined the British armed forces, became a glider pilot and was one of six glider flyers who took part in the 1944 D-Day invasion at Normandy.
Three months later he was captured in the Battle of Arnhem, in Holland. Liberated in 1945, he came to Canada in 1952.
The school awarded Maxwell the diploma because "he has inspired us all to strive for tolerance and world peace," Mitchell told the Star.
Maxwell, who regularly speaks about his experiences through the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre of Toronto, said he wants young people to know that "warfare isn’t waving flags and beating drums. It’s terrible."