It’s an extraordinary story about an extraordinary man who became one of the most legendary entrepreneurs in Canadian history. But at its core it is also a love story. It’s a tale about Peter Munk’s life-long romance with Canada — the country that welcomed him after he and 14 members of his family fled Hungary and the Nazi’s death camps in the final year of the Second World War.
Since then the iconic entrepreneur and founder of gold mining giant Barrick Gold has donated $300 million to institutions in Canada, primarily to healthcare and education in recent years, before his death on March 28, 2018, at age 90.
Last November, Munk and his wife Melanie gave $100 million to the Toronto General Hospital’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre — the largest gift to a single Canadian hospital in history.
“We’re not talking about charity, we’re not talking about a gift, we’re talking about repaying a debt,” Munk said at the time. “I’m here to thank you … you guys who were born here, who take it for granted, will never appreciate the immense debt I have.”
Munk was 16 years old when the Nazis marched into Budapest in the spring of 1944. “The Munks were an upper middle class, well-to-do Jewish family,” Munk told CBC’s Susan Ormiston in an interview in 2007. “Budapest was full of Jews, very assimilated — the Austral-Hungarian Empire liked them.”
Under the command of SS lieutenant colonel Adolf Eichmann, the Germans began to round up Jews, forcing them into ghettos and then into cattle cars that would take them to Auschwitz, an extermination camp in Poland.