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Holocaust survivor Philip Riteman dies

['Holocaust survivor Philip Riteman shows students at Thorburn Consolidated School his tattoo, ‘98706,’ on his arm. It was the number he was given as he entered Auschwitz Concentration Camp in 1941. He spoke with students about the holocaust, the Second World War and the need to stand up to evil and never compromise our freedoms. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS']
Holocaust survivor Philip Riteman shows students the tattoo, ‘98706,’ on his arm. It was the number he was given as he entered Auschwitz Concentration Camp in 1941. He spoke with students about the holocaust, the Second World War and the need to stand up to evil and never compromise our freedoms. File photo

Philip Riteman, a Holocaust survivor who spent the last decades of his life educating thousands about the horrors wreaked by hate, died early Wednesday at the age of 96.

Riteman was born in Poland, where he spent his youth, before his family was captured by the Nazis. He spent the war in concentration camps — including Auschwitz, Birkenau and Dachau — until being liberated in May 1945. At the time, he weighed just 75 pounds.

Riteman also carried on his arm the prisoner number 98706, which he bore the rest of his life and displayed during his presentations about the Holocaust.

Most of his family — five of his brothers, two of his sisters, his parents, nine uncles and nine aunts and many cousins —all from the same town on the Russian-Polish border, were all victims of the Nazi death camps during the Second World War.

After the war, he made his way to Newfoundland and became a very successful businessman, building up an import trading company that expanded to Halifax in 1979. He and his wife, Dorothy, later made the move here.

“In 1988, recognizing the need to counter some who claimed that what the German Nazis hand done was exaggerated or didn’t happen at all, he started to speak in schools to bring to a younger generation the knowledge of how humans can be betrayed and turned depraved by the power of hate,” says his obituary.

Riteman started his mission of education in 1988 and over the years spoke to thousands in schools, universities and other organizations. He also shared his experiences in his biography, Millions of Souls: The Philip Riteman Story.

For his educational work, he was honorary doctorates from three universities, the Order of Nova Scotia, the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Queen’s Service Medal.

Riteman is survived by his wife, Dorothy, and sons Larry and Robert. His funeral service will be held today at 2 p.m. in Halifax’s Cruikshank Funeral Home.

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