The street sign honouring Third Reich Naval Captain Hans Langsdorff (Photo by Adam Wiseman)
At yesterday’s Town Council meeting in the municipality of Ajax, Ontario, Councillor Lisa Bower and Regional Councillor Sterling Lee formally moved to initiate the renaming process.
B’nai Brith has long strongly pushed for a change to the name of this street. We first publicized the issue in August and wrote to the mayor and all councillors, urging the name change.
Last week, in honour of Remembrance Day, we raised the issue again and publicly endorsed Bower and Lee's planned motion for a change in the name. We called on community members to contact the town's representatives and voice their opinions on the matter, and the community came through.
The motion to rename the street successfully passed by a margin of 4-3.
"To have a street named after you is an honour. To have that honour bestowed upon a Nazi Captain is unacceptable. Now, more than ever, it's important Ajax does the right thing," Bower said.
"In a time where white supremacy, racism and intolerance [are] on the rise, it's incredibly disappointing we have a street that symbolizes one of the greatest evils in history. I'm proud of Councillor Bower for putting this forward and I'm honoured to second this important change," Lee said.
Langsdorff Drive is named after Hans Langsdorff, who commanded Nazi German forces at the 1939 Battle of the River Plate. The Town of Ajax is named after the HMS Ajax, a British ship that took part in the same engagement.
An online petition by local resident Adam Wiseman also played a significant role in getting Monday's result.
"Today is a proud day for Ajax, for Ontario's Jewish community, and for Canada as a whole," said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B'nai Brith Canada. "Taking action against the glorification of Canada's enemies and a man who fought for the most evil regime in history sends the right signal to those concerned about the rise of hate in our time."
B’nai Brith has been extremely active in fighting Nazi glorification in Canada in recent years, working with the town of Lachute, Que. to prevent a local ceremony honouring a Nazi pilot, lending a hand to local residents opposed to “Swastika Trail” in Puslinch, Ont., and partnering with the Canadian Polish Congress to call for the removal of monuments honouring Nazi collaborators in Edmonton and Oakville, Ont.