POLITICS

Canadian Pte. Albert Laubenstein Gets Military Burial In Netherlands 70 Years After Death

05/06/2015 10:53 EDT | Updated 05/06/2016 05:59 EDT
BERGEN-OP-ZOOM, Netherlands - Canadian Pte. Albert Laubenstein found his final resting place on Wednesday, 70 years after he was killed during the Allied advance through the Netherlands in the closing months of Second World War.

His remains — identified through a combination of dental records, historical context and artifacts — were found only last year and his burial was one of the highlights of a week of remembrances and celebrations to mark Canada's part in the liberation of the Netherlands.

Laubenstein was buried with military honours on Wednesday at the Canadian War Cemetery, about 70 kilometres from where he fought and died.

"Private Albert Laubenstein, at the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we shall remember you," said military chaplain Murray Bateman during a ceremony attended by hundreds of onlookers in both brilliant sunshine and high winds and driving rain.

Laubenstein appeared all but lost for decades. He was killed in action during the Battle of Kapelsche Veer in the winter of 1945 and was given a battlefield grave that was soon forgotten in the chaos of war.

It took a hobbyist with a metal detector scanning the southern banks of the Maas River last June to pick up a suspicious signal of old cartridges and a silver ring among human remains. A check of dental records, historical documents and artifacts led to the identification of Laubenstein.

That discovery brought memories of the soldier back to life for his family.

"Because of all this, we have learned so much. So many things about his personality and his life and his service," said grandniece Sarah Penton, a 39-year-old from Winnipeg. "He went from being this close to being forgotten, a whole 30 years' worth of a life a distant memory for my dad and hardly known for my brother and I."

The current commander of the Canadian Army paid tribute.

"Today Pte Laubenstein is laid to rest with his comrades, with the dignity and respect he so greatly deserves," Lt.-Gen. Marquis Hainse said in a statement. "In remembering his courage, we recall and honour the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who have served their country."

Laubenstein, who was born in Saskatoon, died at age 30. He was serving in the Lincoln and Welland Regiment and was one of 50 fatalities suffered by the regiment during the battle of Kapelsche Veer.

The offensive by the Canadians took place along a barren stretch of low, flat ground where the Maas River branched into two channels, creating an island.

Some of the attacking troops paddled canoes along the dikes and in a stream, but had to haul them over ice to reach the island near their objective.

The Germans spotted them and one assault force of 60 men was quickly reduced to 15.

Laubenstein joined the Canadian Army in 1940 and had also served with the 102nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Artillery, the 4th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment and the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps.

His burial was one of the highlights of a week of remembrance and celebrations to mark Canada's part in the liberation of the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended a number of the events and recalled those who liberated the Netherlands as heroes who understood that some things are worth fighting for.

Some 7,600 Canadians died in Holland while helping to free the country from Nazi oppression.

From the autumn of 1944 right through the next spring, the First Canadian Army played a major role in the fighting in the Netherlands. The last German soldiers in the country surrendered on May 5, 1945.

During the war, some members of the Dutch royal family fled to safety in Canada and many bonds between the two countries remain strong to this day.

--With files from The Canadian Press

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