Philip Riteman is seen in this undated handout photo. Holocaust survivor Philip Riteman, who spent the last 30 years speaking to young people about his experience in concentration camps, has died. Riteman’s obituary says he passed away peacefully on Wednesday morning in Halifax at the age of 96. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Holocaust survivor Philip Riteman dies at 96: ‘Better to love than hate’

Riteman was born in Poland and as a teenager, his family was captured by the Nazis

Holocaust survivor Philip Riteman, who spent 30 years speaking to young people about his experience in concentration camps and ardently urging love over hate, has died.

Riteman’s obituary said he passed away peacefully on Wednesday morning in Halifax at the age of 96.

Riteman was born in Poland and as a teenager, his family was captured by the Nazis.

He was held in numerous camps including Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Dachau until being liberated in May 1945.

Riteman then made his way to surviving relatives in Newfoundland in 1946, where he built an import trading company and eventually expanded his operations to Halifax in 1979, and later moved there.

But it wasn’t until 1988 that he started speaking about his experience in the concentration camps, to counter claims that what the Nazis had done was exaggerated.

He spent the last three decades speaking to students, churches and other organizations around the world, spreading the message: “It is better to love than to hate.”

“Don’t you ever hate anybody. By love, you conquer the world. By hate, you’ll only destroy the world and you destroy yourself,” Riteman said during a tearful TED Talk in St. John’s, N.L., several years ago, after showing the audience his prison number tattoo on his arm: 98706.

“I want you to remember, you should make sure it doesn’t happen to you guys or your children or grandchildren. Stand up against evil, and don’t you ever give away your values, your laws and order.”

Riteman was a recipient of the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, and held several honorary university doctorates.

He also wrote “Millions of Souls,” which tells his story from the Second World War to his life in Canada’s easternmost province, where he says he found “humanity.”

Riteman was remembered Thursday as a passionate and courageous individual.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil described Riteman as “extraordinary.”

“Here’s a man who saw horrors that none of us could even imagine, spent 40 years never talking about but having that horror internally, and then he begins to spread the message to audiences in this province and across the world,” said McNeil on Thursday.

“A great tribute to him would be that we continue to spread his message.”

Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, tweeted that Riteman’s presence and his work changed many lives for the better.

“Philip Riteman was a courageous survivor whose goal in life was to ensure that never again would other communities and individuals be forced to suffer because of who they were, what they believed or the colour of their skin,” wrote Farber.

“His victory over the Hitlerites is that he survived. He raised a family and he signalled the warning, one we must continue to heed today.”

Riteman was a teenager when the Germans arrived in Shershev, Poland, in 1941, according to a profile of Riteman prepared by Memorial University of Newfoundland when he received an honorary doctorate of laws degree in 2006.

Riteman said the Nazis drove his family and others out of their town and into the ghettos before taking them to Auschwitz. He lost his parents and five brothers and two sisters, along with aunts, uncles and cousins.

He was liberated in May 1945 at 17, weighing just 75 pounds. He thought he had no family, and nowhere to go. In his 2006 address to Memorial, he recounted how his American liberators tracked down relatives in Canada and what was then the separate dominion of Newfoundland.

The Mackenzie King government in Ottawa refused him entry, but Newfoundland, where he had an aunt, welcomed him with open arms.

“I found humanity in Newfoundland. People were so kind to me. People helped me, people kept me in boarding houses, wouldn’t charge me a penny. They fed me. And I’m very happy I came to Newfoundland,” Riteman told Newfoundland’s VOCM radio in 2016.

Most of his wide network of friends, colleagues and customers knew he was Jewish, and came from Poland. But almost no one knew he’d survived the Holocaust.

Four decades passed before he felt he could speak about it, even as he suffered regular nightmares hauling him back to the concentration camps.

“I’m the only survivor. Many times I wish I didn’t survive — why me?” he told VOCM.

Riteman is survived by his wife of 69 years, Dorothy Fay Riteman, and his sons, Larry and Robert Riteman.

His funeral was scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Halifax.

Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Help clean Castlegar during Pitch-in week

Volunteers across the country will be tidying up April 22-29.

PLACE NAMES: Columbia Heights

What was originally Columbia Heights became West Trail but then reverted back to Columbia Heights

Merry Creek Trail to see improvements

Columbia Basin Trust supplies $484,000 for 29 trail projects around the Basin.

Rural dividend grants awarded in Kootenay West

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy made the grant announcements in Trail on Thursday

Castlegar Realtor honoured for achievements

Re/Max recognized Castlegar and Grand Forks realtor Lorene MacGregor

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Bodies of 3 mountain climbers recovered after last week’s Banff avalanche

The men disappeared while attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in the Icefields Parkway

Happy birthday: Queen Elizabeth II turns 93 on Easter Sunday

Sunday is the first of two birthday celebrations each year for the queen

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Most Read