Seeing and surviving the unthinkable
The headline was surprising — “Holocaust is fading from memory, survey finds.”
That was in the New York Times. There were similar headlines in USA Today, NBC News, and other major U.S. media outlets.
The stories indicated many American adults lacked basic knowledge of what happened – the deaths of six million Jewish people at the hands of Nazi Germany and its collaborators. Even though U.S. people didn’t have a depth of knowledge about the Holocaust, they still believed education about it was important.
There have also been surveys in Canada indicating a lack of Holocaust knowledge, and an interest in continuing education about it. A recent Canadian poll, commissioned by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and conducted by Nanos Research, found similar attitudes towards Holocaust education in this country – 78 per cent of 1,000 people surveyed thought perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust was important.
To further inform readers and ensure the Holocaust doesn’t fade from memory, writers from across Atlantic Canada began started working on this series. The goal was to interview the region’s remaining Holocaust survivors – there are few still living – about their experiences or to speak with the children of survivors about what their parents told them.
As those stories were being compiled, Philip Riteman passed away. A Polish Auschwitz survivor, Riteman spent the last three decades of his life educating Atlantic Canadians about the Holocaust. It was an obvious and immediate choice to dedicate this project to him.
Hopefully, our stories, both in print and on the web, over the next five editions will enhance knowledge of the Holocaust among current and future readers and people will gain lasting insight from the incredible experiences of these characters of strength.