Author Tags: Jewish, Politics, War

Originally Frank Oberle’s first name was Franz. At age nine he relocated with his parents to Poland where, having been placed within a Nazi youth indoctrination program, he fled the Russian advance and survived on grass and stolen eggs—in an ordeal reminiscent of Jerzy Kosinki’s The Painted Bird, but for real. Franz Oberle walked 800 kilometres to his ancestral village on the edge of the Black Forest, only to be rejected by his remaining family. He immigrated to Canada at age 19, then sent for his teenage sweetheart. As Frank Oberle he became a logger, a gold miner and a rancher, then a municipal mayor, then an MP for Prince George-Peace River. His teenage years in Europe are recalled in his memoir, Finding Home: A War Child’s Journey to Peace (Heritage, 2004 $22.95). 1-894384-76-8. Oberle published a second volume of autobiography, A Chosen Path: From Moccasin Flats to Parliament Hill (Heritage, 2005), focussing on his six-term political career that culminated in a Cabinet appointment in 1985 as the first federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, followed by a stint as Minister of Forestry. From his home base in the new community of Chetwynd, Oberle was later elevated by Brian Mulroney to become the first German-born federal cabinet minister

[BCBW 2004] "War" "Politics" "German"

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
A Choosen Path: From Moccasin Flats to Parliament Hill
Finding Home: A War Child's Journey to Peace

Finding Home
Press Release

Frank Oberle was born in Forchheim, Germany, and survived the turmoil of Hitler's Germany and post-war chaos before immigrating to Canada in 1951. His career has ranged from logger, gold miner, rancher and town mayor before he served six consecutive terms as Member of Parliament. In 1985, Frank became Canada's first. German-born federal cabinet member when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney made him Minister of State for Science and Technology when the famed Canadarm was sent into space. He was also the last man ever appointed to a federal forestry portfolio, where he proved to be a man of vision, willing to confront the clear-cutters and to demand sustainable forest management. He received the Canadian Forestry Achievement Award in 1992 and was a founding member of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. His second book, describing his rise from self-educated immigrant to politician, will be published in 2005, offering the candid comments and well-crafted insights of a non-conformist who refused to do it Ottawa’s way.

Franz (Frank) Oberle was nine years old when his family was relocated from Germany to Poland. There, he was taken from his parents to an isolated school where adolescents were being indoctrinated into the Hitler Youth. As the tide of war changed, he became a refugee fleeing the Russian advance, arriving in Dresden as the city became the target of the most horrific Allied bombing of the war. Surviving on grass and stolen eggs, Franz and a friend walked 800 kilometres to his ancestral village on the edge of the Black Forest—only to find that his parents had not returned and to be rejected by his remaining family.

The indomitable Franz survived amid the disillusioned populace of the Fatherland, and with Joan (Hanna), his youthful sweetheart, at his side, also dreamed of a new life in a new land. With her blessings, he set off for Canada, promising to send for her when he was able to provide for her. Their subsequent life together in B.C. has encompassed tragedy and pure joy, hard work and hard times, failure and triumph, as Frank Oberle rose from self-educated immigrant to acclaimed federal politician.

Finding Home, the first volume of Oberle’s memoirs, is set against the backdrops of the Second World War and the raw British Columbia frontier. It covers Oberle’s fascinating life story up until the time he, as a successful businessman, returned to Germany after little more than a decade in the promised land. During that visit, Frank and Joan knew that in Canada they had found their true home.

-- Heritage House, 2004