That love of democracy and the commitment to defend it seems to have been passed down to their grandchildren, the children of the baby boomers - right here in Ontario.
My grandfather is a special man. He has survived ordeals the likes of which most of us will never fathom, yet maintains an almost mischievous joy for life and people. At 91 years of age, he still drives; he even has a LinkedIn page, though no clue what to do with it.
Ed Carter-Edwards is committed to living; just as important, he is committed to living with others. He knows all too well what kind of place the world can be when we favour "each man for himself" over "forward together."
The greatest gift of my life has been the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of my grandfather and other Buchenwald survivors. Through them, I know what true community looks like; thanks to them, I know how crucial it is that we work to build and maintain it.
Community is what makes us human. It is what brings us together with common purpose; it's what enables us to rise above.
When we lose sight of this and turn our gaze towards golden calves like money and power, community gets lost in a competitive bid for dominance. We dehumanize others so as to exploit or oppress them, losing our own humanity in the process.
My grandfather stood up against the process of dehumanization that was Nazism. He endured the worst of man's inhumanity through Buchenwald. He suffered under the government indifference and lack of empathy that awaited him and countless like him back home.
Knowing what they sacrificed - knowing why it was a sacrifice that needed to be made - how can we demand any less of ourselves?
Tikkun olam - it takes all of us, working together. But when we do, the whole we create becomes more than the sum of its parts.
They didn't fight as they did for themselves or to pay past debts; they did it so that we, their children, may live in a stronger, safer, more connected world than they did.
That was their mission. It must be ours, too. If we can't learn to live together, we doom our children to die alone.
If we're to care about anything, that's a good place to start.