Joe Schlesinger, one of Canada's foremost journalists, has died at 90

Joe Schlesinger, who narrowly escaped the Nazis as a young boy growing up in the former Czechoslovakia and ended up becoming one of Canada's most beloved and respected journalists, has died after a lengthy illness.He was 90 years old.As a foreign correspondent for the CBC, Schlesinger covered some of the most significant news events of the latter part of the 20th century and early 2000s.He bore witness to historical events from Vietnam to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first Gulf War, and he did so in his inimitable way, with his accented English, his gimlet eye for detail and the elan of a born storyteller."You could see the way he talked to the camera, embraced the camera," former CBC News chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge said today from his home in Stratford, Ont."In translating the story to all of us, whatever that story was, wherever he happened to be. Whether he was in Zimbabwe, being gassed by Zimbabwean soldiers, whether he was in Vietnam, whether he was in the streets of Paris during riots. He knew how to tell a story in a way that could really embrace the viewer. That's an art form."Mansbridge later tweeted, "You've earned your rest Joe."> Joe Schlesinger. Look at a map and it seems you could point to anywhere and remember a story Joe did from there. Storytelling that few will ever match and in ways that made us all better informed about the planet we live on. You’ve earned your rest Joe.> > —@petermansbridgeSchlesinger was in St. Peter's Square in Rome in 1978 when John Paul II became Pope and in Tehran a year later when the Shah fell.Joe Schlesinger, right, in Amman, Jordan, in 1991. Schlesinger reflected on his long tenure as a globe-trotting journalist in a 2009 interview with the Canadian Press, saying, "I have a career of wandering around the world, watching the universe unfold and actually getting paid for it. It's like a little boy's dream."Escaping warBorn in Vienna in 1928, Schlesinger and his family later moved to the former Czechoslovakia, where he spent his early childhood. He would later reflect that the experiences of his childhood were what led him into journalism, reporting on "the triumphs on the world," such as those momentous days in Berlin in the early 1990s, but more often on "the travails of war" and other disasters. While living in Bratislava in the late 1930s, his family witnessed the rise of Hitler, and, as Jews, his parents were particularly fearful of what might happen to them.They decided to send Schlesinger, then 11, and his nine-year-old brother, Ernie, to Britain under a study program for Jewish children.Schlesinger and his brother were among the more than 200 kids who travelled under guard by train through Nazi Germany in June 1939 on the so-called Kindertransport.A sculpture outside Liverpool Street Station in London entitled Children of the Kindertransport to thank the people of Britain for saving the lives of 10,000 children who fled from Nazi persecution in 1938 and 1939. Schlesinger was one of those children. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press)The trip was one of a series of secretive operations that spirited thousands of Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied Europe. Schlesinger's parents were later killed in the Holocaust.It was only revealed decades later that this daring escape had been organized by the eccentric British businessman Nicholas Winton."If it hadn't been for Nicky Winton, I certainly wouldn't be alive today," Schlesinger told Sook-Yin Lee on CBC's Definitely Not the Opera in 2011."This is the man who gave me the rest of my life."Schlesinger eventually became close to Winton and wrote about him and the Kindertransport on several occasions.A second escapeSchlesinger and his brother returned to Czechoslovakia after the war, and one of Schlesinger's earliest journalism jobs was with The Associated Press in Prague in 1948.But as the post-war Communist government began to arrest journalists, Schlesinger was forced to leave his homeland a second time. In 1950, he ended up as a refugee in Vancouver.Schlesinger reporting from Amman, Jordan, in 1991. (CBC Still Photo Collection)Schlesinger worked as a waiter, construction worker and seaman before enrolling at the University of British Columbia, where he spent much of his time at the campus newspaper.This led to a job at a Vancouver paper and then a position at the Toronto Star.Schlesinger would move overseas to join UPI in London and, later, the Herald Tribune in Paris before returning to Canada, where he started at the CBC in 1966.Not all assignments took Schlesinger to far-flung locales. Here he is seen reporting from the G7 summit in Toronto in 1988. (CBC)Schlesinger quickly worked his way up into CBC news management but then made ...Read more

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