Munk was one of Canada’s most high-flying, international deal makers, as well as one its most generous benefactors
On May 6, 2016, just three days after a wildfire engulfed Fort McMurray, Alta., and forced the evacuation of more than 80,000 people, business icon and philanthropist Peter Munk donated $1 million to the Red Cross to help displaced Alberta families.
Measured against all of Munk’s charitable donations — which have totalled more than $200 million — it was a small amount. But this gift was particularly poignant for Munk, because the spectre of families fleeing down the highway from Fort McMurray reminded him of his own flight from Nazi-controlled Europe.
“Watching the events unfold in northern Alberta reminded me of my own past as a refugee,” Munk said of his donation. “I know what it is like to lose everything.”
Munk died March 28, 2018, at the age of 90. An entrepreneur with a Midas touch, he was one of Canada’s most high-flying, international deal makers, with friends ranging from Brian Mulroney and Prince Charles to the arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and French billionaire Bernard Arnault, as well as one its most generous benefactors.
He maintained homes in Paris and Switzerland, as well as three homes in Ontario and a 40-metre yacht.
The remarkable story of Munk’s escape from eastern Europe, while millions of his fellow Jews were killed, and his subsequent welcome by Canada shaped the corporate leader that he would become.
He was born in 1927 to a wealthy Jewish family in Budapest. In 1944, when he was 16, the German army occupied Hungary. In June, Munk crammed on to a train with his family and more than 1,500 Jews — their Nazi SS guards in a separate coach — and headed for Germany.