Mil­lions of Souls

The Compass - - TRINITY SOUTH -

I’m writ­ing this on Re­mem­brance Day, a be­fit­ting time con­sid­er­ing Holo­caust sur­vivor Philip Rite­man’s hope for the pub­li­ca­tion of his story. He hopes peo­ple, young peo­ple es­pe­cially, will rec­og­nize that “... we owe our lives and our free­dom to the Al­lies, to those brave sol­diers who fought Hitler’s mad­ness. Sol­diers need to be hon­oured with our pres­ence at the memo­ri­als on Re­mem­brance Day.”

I sus­pect fewer and fewer of us re­mem­ber, or at least re­flect on, the un­prece­dented horror per­pe­trated by Adolf Hil­ter and the Third Re­ich. I fur­ther sus­pect that the ma­jor­ity of young peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly those still in school, are not aware of Hitler’s ma­ni­a­cal at­tempt to cre­ate a mas­ter race partly by the com­plete an­ni­hi­la­tion of any­one who did not fit his mas­ter race pro­file, most specif­i­cally, Jews.

For two decades Philip Rite­man has been ed­u­cat­ing au­di­ences as vastly dif­fer­ent as sol­diers and school chil­dren about the his­tory of Hil­ter’s per­se­cu­tion of Jews. Rite­man’s medium was mostly speak­ing en­gage­ments be­fore the pub­li­ca­tion of this book. His mem­oir is the most re­cent means by which Rite­man has cho­sen to “... speak for the mil­lions and mil­lions who can­not speak.”

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War Rite­man spent years im­pris­oned in Ger­man con­cen­tra­tion camps — Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Birke­nau, Buna — en­dur­ing mis­eries that most of us born and raised in Canada since the Sec­ond World War can­not imag­ine,even if we strain our brains.

We can­not fathom star­va­tion, slave labour, fa­tal beat­ings. We can­not con­ceive of mil­lions —Mil­lions! —of in­no­cent peo­ple be­ing sys­tem­at­i­cally mur­dered in gas cham­bers and their corpses then be­ing burned in cre­ma­to­ri­ums built for that sole pur­pose.

“ There would not be enough pens and ink in the world to write about all the sense­less mur­ders of the Nazi regime,” says Philip Rite­man.

While Rite­man has inked some de­tails of this sense­less­ness, it is still al­most im­pos­si­ble to pic­ture, to ab­sorb the di­a­bol­i­cal na­ture of One of the foods used to aid the hu­man be­ings who could have di­ges­tion of the un­der­nour­ished in­flicted such hor­ri­fy­ing in­hu­man­isur­vivors of Nazi atroc­i­ties and to ty on their fel­low man. “put flesh back on their bones” was

Speak­ing of the slaugh­ter of the — and here’s the smile, I hope — in­no­cent, here’s the most gutCar­na­tion milk. wrench­ing im­age from Rite­man’s Yes b’ys, Car­na­tion milk! pages. I hes­i­tate to write it but feel I Even­tu­ally, Philip Rite­man should. Con­sider this sen­tence a ar­rived in New­found­land, at the cau­tion­ary ad­vi­sory. time a coun­try that was — I s’pose

Imag­ine, if you have the stom— it­self learn­ing the nu­tri­tional ach, a pile of dead ba­bies, beaten to ben­e­fits of Car­na­tion milk. death by Nazi sol­diers. Imag­ine For­give me. what fol­lows and know you are picIn New­found­land, Rite­man tur­ing a hellish scene of fiendish be­came an in­dus­tri­ous ped­dler and de­prav­ity:“A few Ger­mans came later an even more suc­cess­ful busi­with pitch­forks, hooked the ba­bies ness­man. Al­though to this day he is by their di­a­pers and threw them haunted by past hor­rors, Rite­man aboard the truck which left with its says, “ The peo­ple of New­found­land heart-wrench­ing load.” were the ones who helped me to

Philip Rite­man, along with many look at life in a dif­fer­ent way.” other pris­on­ers, was saved by the I come to think of this: I was a Amer­i­can army dur­ing a forced pup dur­ing the first decade fol­low­march in the Ty­rolean Moun­tains. ing the end of the Sec­ond World Fac­ing im­mi­nent de­feat, their GerWar. Along with the rest of the vil­man guards aban­doned their equiplage pack, I raced about some­times ment and fled. play­ing war, yellingThe Ger­mans’ll

Time to lighten up, to ease this get youand — sorta — fear­ing the pain in my stom­ach. im­prob­a­bil­ity of a Ger­man subma

A smile might help. rine sur­fac­ing off the head of the govern­ment wharf.

It’s not im­pos­si­ble that at the same time we boys obliv­i­ously played war and shot imag­i­nary Nazis —Nazz­ies,we didn’t even know how to pro­nounce the word — Philip Rite­man was ped­dling his goods up in Clarenville.

And we didn’t know. And we didn’t know.

You’re prob’ly read­ing these scrib­bles some­where around Christ­mas, long past Re­mem­brance Day. How­ever, lest ye for­get,Mil­lions of Soul­sex­ists to re­mind you of debts we owe.

Hey, p’raps there’s a copy un­der your tree.

Thank you for read­ing. Let’s con­stantly re­mem­ber and stand on guard against evil.

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