The warning shouldn’t be taken lightly: it’s often been said if you don’t know your history, you risk being forced to repeat it. The Holocaust horrors perpetrated by the Nazis during the Second World War might seem long ago and far away, but the evil they represent can at any time reappear.
We’re fortunate to have a man like Dr. Philip Riteman in this region, who, like others brave enough to discuss it, has taken it upon himself to share his personal, painful story of surviving that ordeal as a young person. In a nutshell, that is his message, to always stand up against evil.
Riteman, whose family was among Jewish people rounded up and placed in a ghetto by Nazi troops, remained silent about the story for many years. Ultimately, he and his family members were among the many sent to concentration camps. A teen when the war ended, he was the only one of his immediate family to survive. Six million Jews and an estimated 16 million to 20 million others also were killed by the Nazis.
Riteman began sharing his story some years ago in the hope that people will know what happened, take heed and not let such a crime befall a society again.
He has spoken to many audiences around Nova Scotia, the most recent being Sunday at First United Baptist Church in New Glasgow to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.
We are fortunate to have the freedoms we enjoy, and such evil might seem a remote possibility today. But all it takes is a thorough observation of some of the current events and political standoffs in Europe to see that such hate is not necessarily behind us.
Neo-nazi and other far right groups have sprung up in a number of countries, many of them spreading their xenophobic message. In the turmoil in Ukraine, both sides are making slurs, variously targeting Jews, minorities or accusing opponents of being anti-Semitic or fascists.
The dark side of history can repeat itself, and we can thank people like Riteman for urging people not to be blissfully unaware.