Teaching a new generation against hate
SPRINGHILL - One of the last surviving, first-hand witnesses to the most horrific episode
in human history came to speak to high school and college students at the Dr. Carson & Marion Murray centre yesterday.
It was standing room only as students lined the walls, filled the aisles and sat on the floor to listen to Philip Riteman of Halifax tell of his experience as a Holocaust survivor.
Though the incidents occurred more than 60 years ago, to Riteman, the events are still very real today.
"It took me 40 years to talk about it," Riteman said. "Maybe I survived to talk to you. I speak for millions and millions who cannot speak today. Maybe their souls are watching us here today."
As a young boy growing up in Poland, close to the Russian border, Riteman said he never saw the coming storm.
"I was a boy just like you guys. I was going to school. I grew up in a little village and I had fun," Riteman said. "Never in my life did I think something like this was going to happen
In 1939, when he was 14 years old, the German Army marched through his town
on their way to Russia and killed half the population.
In 1940 the town's survivors, including Riteman and his family, were marched
for sixty kilometres to a ghetto.
During the march he saw innocent friends and acquaintances shot at point
Riteman was eventually transported to Auschwitz - Birkenau. At Auschwitz he
was immediately divided from his family. They were quickly brought to the gas chambers and exterminated.
Riteman say's he can't explain why he survived while all his relatives died but says he is obligated to not let people forget about the evil man is capable of.
Riteman said if he has any hope it's that people will think for themselves and learn to love one another.
"We are free people in a free country. People must always think for themselves," Riteman said. "And we must always stand up against evil."