Benjamin Dunkelman (1913-1997) was a successful businessman and President of Tip Top Tailors. He had a distinguished military career in both the Canadian army during the Second World War and in the Haganah during the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli War.
Dunkelman was born in Toronto to David Dunkelman (1883-1978) and Rose (nee Miller) (1889-1949). He had three sisters and two brothers: Joseph, a movie executive; Ernest, a manufacturer; Zelda; Veronica; and Theodora. His father, David, was a successful entrepreneur who established Tip Top Tailors in 1910. Both David and his wife Rose were fervent Zionist community activists.
Benjamin Dunkelman attended Upper Canada College and, at the age of 18, visited Palestine (now Israel). While in Palestine, he worked for a year on a kibbutz, mostly as a guard protecting it from nearby Palestinians. During the Second World War, Dunkelman served as a Major in the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and in that role gained respect for his knowledge of mortars. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1945 for his role in the final Allied assault on Germany. Two years later, Benjamin Dunkelman returned to Palestine to join the Haganah in the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli War. As a commander, Dunkelman captured Nazareth, and brought northern Galilee under Jewish control. Near the end of the war, Dunkelman met and married Yael Lifshitz, a corporal in the Israeli Army. Dunkelman was elected National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of Canada in 1977.
In addition to his work as a soldier, Dunkelman was a successful businessman. He served as president of Tip Top Tailors after his father stepped down, and was also director of Colonial Finance Corporation, president of Cloverdale Shopping Centre and president of Renforth Developments. Besides operating the Dunkelman Gallery for modern art, Dunkelman and his wife Yael ran the Constellation Hotel and Dunkelman’s Restaurant.
Dunkelman later wrote of his experiences in both wars in his autobiography Dual allegiance (MacMillan, 1976). As well as the DSO, Dunkelman was awarded the Fighter’s Decoration of the State of Israel (1970), and an Israel Bonds Award Dinner in Tribute to Ben Dunkelman (1977). He was a guest of honour both at a reception hosted by the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute of Science and the veterans of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (1976) and at a 7th Brigade Reunion in Israel (1991).
Scope and Content
Fonds consists of records documenting Benjamin Dunkelman's personal, business, and military activities. Included is personal and business correspondence and other records, maps, photographs, news clippings, and scrapbooks assembled by Dunkelman. The bulk of the records relate both to Dunkelman’s autobiography Dual allegiance and to his military career in the Second World War and in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-1949. Other records relate to his business work with Tip Top Tailors, the Constellation Hotel, Dunkelman’s Restaurant and the Dunkelman Gallery, as well as to his Zionist actvities, his writing and public speeches, and his personal life.
The fonds is organized into the following series: Personal records and correspondence, Zionist materials, Businesses, Second World War, Arab-Israeli War, Dual allegiance, and Speeches.
Physical description note: Includes 218 photographs, 60 maps, 7 postcards, 5 architectural drawings, and 3 albums.
Associated material note: see the Ben Dunkelman fonds at Library and Archives Canada.
During the Second World War, Dunkelman served as a Major in the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. After enlisting in 1940, he became a platoon commander. Dunkelman took part in the second wave of D-Day landings in 1944 and later assisted in the final Allied assault on Germany, earning the Distinguished Service Order. He left the army in 1945 after the war had ended. The Queen's Own Rifles Association and the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute of Science organized a reception in 1976 to honour the publication of Dunkelman's autobiography Dual Allegiance.
Scope and Content
Series consists of records documenting Ben Dunkelman's involvement in the Second World War. Included are newspaper clippings, maps, photographs, and correspondence. Some files deal with Dunkelman's experiences during the war; others relate to Dunkelman's relationship with veterans after the war and, in one case, with his memories of the war. The files cover such subjects as The Queen's Own Rifles, Veterans, the liberation of The Netherlands, Aubrey Cosens (a soldier under Dunkelman’s command who was killed in battle but later honoured with the Victoria Cross), and the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
Physical description: Includes 85 photographs, 1 album, and 10 maps.
Cosens, Aubrey, 1921-1945 (subject)
World War, 1939-1945
See fonds 2, series 6 for more information on Dunkelman's involvement in the Second World War.