A picture is worth six million words
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.