A pic­ture is worth six mil­lion words

The Compass - - OPINION -

A well-known adage states, “A pic­ture is worth a thou­sand words.” Per­haps it should read, “A pic­ture is worth six mil­lion words.” Please in­dulge me for a moment.

This con­vic­tion came about fol­low­ing the read­ing of a re­cent book, Mil­lions of Souls: The Philip Rite­man Story.

The cap­tions to the first nine pho­tos in the pic­to­rial sec­tion con­tain a vari­ant of “all per­ished in Auschwitz.”

Philip is the only brother of six who sur­vived Auschwitz. His sis­ters and par­ents also per­ished there. As did his grand­par­ents and a cousin; his fa­ther’s brother and wife; the chil­dren of one of his fa­ther’s sis­ters, along with their par­ents; a first cousin of his, on his mother’s side; the chil­dren of an­other of his fa­ther’s sis­ters, along with their par­ents; his mother’s brother and his wife...

The list is end­less of lives snuffed out in the hor­rific, man-made con­fla­gra­tion known as Ger­many’s con­cen­tra­tion camps dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. A pic­ture is worth six mil­lion words, rep­re­sent­ing the geno­cide of ap­prox­i­mately six mil­lion Euro­pean Jews.

The author, as a Holo­caust sur­vivor, is on a mis­sion to­day: to ed­u­cate youth on the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted against mil­lions of Jews and Gen­tiles by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. From the Pruzhany Ghetto, Poland, Philip and his fam­ily were de­ported to Auschwitz-Birke­nau. There, his en­tire fam­ily was ex­ter­mi­nated.

Philip was used as a forced labourer in five con­cen­tra­tion camps. He wit­nessed the cru­ellest treat­ment that can be in­flicted on hu­man be­ings: degra­da­tion, de­hu­man­iza­tion, star­va­tion, hard labour, daily beat­ings, tor­ture and de­lib­er­ate, cold-blooded murder. Philip tells his story in three parts. First, he re­counts life in his home­town and as an eye­wit­ness to the strug­gle for sur­vival in the con­cen­tra­tion camps. Auschwitz was, he re­calls, “a jour­ney into hell.” He adds: “ The bru­tal­ity of some of (the Nazi sol­diers) was unimag­in­able, and with them our sur­vival was con­tin­u­ously at risk.”

Sec­ond, he re­counts his ex­o­dus to New­found­land af­ter the war. Here, he re­dis­cov­ered what he refers to as “the good­ness in hu­man na­ture. Life was good in this beau­ti­ful is­land.” With­out fail, peo­ple wel­comed him, “mak­ing me one of their own and rec­og­niz­ing me as a hu­man be­ing.”

Third, he re­counts his story to­day, and his com­mit­ment to spread­ing his mes­sage, sum­ma­rized in seven de­cep­tively sim­ple words: “it is bet­ter to love than hate.”

He speaks “ for mil­lions and mil­lions who can­not speak: Jews and non-Jews who died as a re­sult of the Nazis’ in­fa­mous, sys­tem­atic and mur­der­ous prac­tices dur­ing the Third Re­ich. I want the younger gen­er­a­tion to know what hap­pened. This part of his­tory is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber be­cause, if for­got­ten, there is a risk of it hap­pen­ing again and again.

“ When will we ever learn? This ques­tion re­minds us all that, given par­tic­u­lar con­di­tions, hu­man be­ings can com­mit acts of ter­ri­ble evil against peo­ple and coun­tries. I never thought it would hap­pen to me. But it did, and it could hap­pen again if we are not vig­i­lant.

“ When I go speak­ing in schools I feel like I am cry­ing in the wilder­ness, I am cry­ing to God, I am cry­ing to young peo­ple so that they can be aware of the dangers of evil think­ing and ma­li­cious in­ten­tions. I ap­peal to teach­ers to be open-minded and ed­u­cate their stu­dents about the Holo­caust.

“ With this knowl­edge, the world may have a chance that it will not hap­pen again. The hope for the world is in the young peo­ple who can ac­quire the skills to rec­og­nize brain­wash­ing, dem­a­goguery, pro­pa­ganda and false­hoods through the devel­op­ment of crit­i­cal think­ing, the help of thought­ful teach­ers and se­ri­ous read­ing. They can be­come shin­ing lights in a dark world, stand­ing up for what they be­lieve, and fear­ing no one.

“If the rea­son I sur­vived was to tell the story in or­der to ed­u­cate the younger gen­er­a­tion … then the story needs to con­tinue to be told af­ter we have gone. Maybe mil­lions and mil­lions of souls are watch­ing. The mes­sage I want to make known is one of love rather than hate. Hate de­stroys peo­ple, com­mu­ni­ties and coun­tries. Love binds us all to­gether and makes a bet­ter world.”

One need add noth­ing fur­ther.

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