Another doctor who came to Canada from Nazi Germany is Dr. Martin Fischer, whose stellar career left a "harmful legacy" that some of his students are apparently still sorting out.
I learned about Dr. Fischer last year in a roundabout kind of way, when a judge, living in a small city in south-eastern Germany, suddenly contacted me. The judge, whom I will call Henry, had heard I was writing about secret Cold war experiments on children in Canada.
Henry appears to have been born in a Toronto mental hospital in 1959 or 1960, one of a series of illegitimate children fathered by Dr. Martin Fischer in bizarre experiments at Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital in Toronto.
When Henry was nearly 50, his adoptive parents told him the truth they had somehow managed to hide for decades: that he had been adopted, after his birth mother, a patient at Lakeshore, died in childbirth or shortly after. "Your real father was a Jewish doctor," said his adoptive mother, attempting to set the record straight on her deathbed. "They were experimenting on pregnant women at that hospital." After these cryptic remarks, his mother refused to speak any further on the question of Henry's birth, and remained silent til her death last year, in Germany, of cancer. His father had already died some years earlier.
Not long after the funeral, Henry flew to Toronto, and began contacting people there -- including the Jewish Genealogical Society, who told him the most likely candidate, and the only Jewish doctor at Lakeshore in the 1950s, was the celebrated Dr. Martin Fischer.
Anyone looking at Henry ought to have noticed he bore no resemblance whatsoever to the couple who had masqueraded as his parents all his life. But he happens to look quite a lot like Dr. Fischer, who became an influential figure through his work with the Children's Aid Society and later as the founder of the Canadian Art Therapy Institute with branches in Toronto and British Columbia. Dr. Fischer died in 1994, and his children, including a daughter who is a plastic surgeon in Toronto, refused to meet with Henry -- but sent their lawyer to question him.
During his brief conversation with the Fischer family attorney, Henry gathered that he was only one of a series of illegitimate Fischer children who have turned up over the years, looking for their father. He learned that Dr. Fischer came to Canada as a refugee from Nazi Germany in 1940, and spent time in a POW camp in Quebec before studying medicine in Toronto where he was "famous" for a time, after appearing in the 1967 NFB film, WARRENDALE.
Henry also learned a few strange facts about Toronto's Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, and its associated cemetery which contains the unidentified bodies of 1500 "patients" who died there during the Cold War.
Not knowing what else to do with these disturbing bits of information, Henry returned to Germany, where I met him last June.
He showed me documents which reveal his adoptive parents both worked at Lakeshore Psychiatric, and were in Canada during the exact same period -- 1953-64 -- when the MKULTRA program was in operation. His birth certificate, dated January 1960, appears to be a fake -- he believes he was actually born in 1959, and showed me a bizarre home movie from 1960 in which he appears as a large, talkative baby in a high chair at their home in New Toronto. His arrival was filmed by a friend of the family, and there is a voice-over narrative in German and broken English: "Der ist der Vater; this is the father; Die ist die Mutti -- she is the mother." Seriously, who films their own baby with a voice-over stating "I am this baby's mother" --
There was other footage of Henry as a boy on the ship back to Germany in June 1964 -- looking more like a 6-year-old than the 4-year-old he was supposed to be, not to mention that he was big for his age and very blond, unlike either parent.
Back in Germany, the family spent a year in Gottingen, and then moved to a town near Mannheim where they bought a new car and a large house. Not your typical struggling hospital workers. His father, a jack-of-all-trades who sidelined as a smuggler, went back to work for I.G. Farben -- yes, his dad had been an employee of the famous chemical firm in the early 1950s. Henry's mother went back to nursing, and with money that mysteriously arrived every month in a special bank account in Bremen, Henry was sent to the best schools in Germany. After a stint in the Air Force -- he failed to pass his officers' exams and was judged 'too emotional' for a military career -- he studied political science and co-founded the German Liberal Party with its current leader. From there, he began a career in media, which foundered when his partner suddenly died. In his late twenties, he went back to university to study law and is now a judge in Child Protection court.
Ironic, perhaps, that he now sometimes takes children away from their parents and places them in foster care.
Henry suggested I write about his story. But he strongly recommended I not mention anything about Nazi medicine. "Everyone is tired of hearing about that," he said. "And you need to make money."
Instead, he recommended I tell the story of his adoptive parents, and how his mother came to Canada aboard a refugee ship with several hundred patients who, Henry believes, were Jewish concentration camp survivors who spoke German. This would explain the fact that many of the nurses and staff at Lakeshore Psychiatric were German speaking. Henry believes these Jewish patients, for whom all records were destroyed in 1962 by the then-director, are the same people who are buried, three-deep, in unmarked graves in the hospital cemetery, which a group in Toronto are now attempting to "memorialize."
His theory: they were too badly damaged by their concentration camp experience, too sick and insane, to function anywhere other than a mental hospital run by German staff. Sending them on a ship to Canada was the easiest way to get rid of these victims, who otherwise would have posed a burden on Germany's struggling post-war economy -- or Israel's.
Henry's mother has a letter from a Jewish Refugee organization showing she had worked at one of their hospitals in Munich. The letter is signed by a doctor whose first name was Moses.
"Make it a story of hope," Henry exorted me. "Jewish refugees, insane and disoriented, travelling on a ship to Canada, to be taken care of for the rest of their lives at a mental hospital on a lake. Listening to the doctors and nurses, and looking out the window at the lawn and the trees, they probably think they are still in Germany."
"And the experiments on pregnant woomen?" I asked.
"Yes, mention those. And the fact that all 1500 of them ended up in a mass grave, with their names missing."
"And the fact that this hospital was run by doctors who worked for the Canadian military?"
"Yes, but leave out the Nazi stuff. Nobody's interested. And for the conclusion, you can add my other theory," continued Henry, who has a computer-like mind which he claims actually whirrs like a hard disk when it's working at top capacity. "That they destroyed the records in order to steal these Jewish patients' identities, and gave them to war criminals who were trying to enter Canada."
"War criminals, such as Nazi doctors."
"Yes, probably," said Henry. "But I want you to sell this book -- so leave that part out of it."