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)

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kerri and Kevin Black are highlighted for their volunteer work with the Carr's Landing Community and Recreation Association. (Contributed)
Lake Country couple’s passion to make a difference

Spotlight on Carr’s Landing Community and Recreation Association volunteers

Pink Shirt Day’s anti-bullying messaging on Feb. 24 should be understood every day of the year. (Contributed)
COLUMN: Millennial’s guide to online trolls, bullies

Messages of Pink Shirt Day should be front of mind all year long, especially online

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears shoes designed in her honour, as she views her image at the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on July 3, 2020. (Darryl Dyck - The Canadian Press)
Celebrating Vernon women in leadership this International Women’s Day

Pandemic highlights women excelling in critical response roles

Mya Kondor, owner and trainer of Canines and Co. in Kelowna. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
VIDEO: Kelowna dog school offers puppy socialization classes amid COVID-19

Canines and Co. has adapted to the pandemic to provide training essential to puppies’ development

Providing seniors with tablets in order to stay connected is just one of the services offered by the Lake Country Health Planning Society. (Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society photo)
Support helps Lake Country society reduce COVID impacts on mental health

District grants funding to Health Planning Society

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Chase RCMP held two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight in their detachment’s cells on Feb. 6. (File Photo)
Chase RCMP hold two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight

The two seperate incidents took place less than an hour apart.

Kamloops Fire Rescue battled a landfill fire which belched toxic smoke into the air on Feb. 27. (City of Kamloops Photo)
Fire at Kamloops landfill sends thick black smoke into the air

Firefighters made slow progress on the fire throughout the morning.

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

(HelloKelowna - Twitter)
West Kelowna billboard bearing anti-vaccine messaging deemed misleading

Ad Standards investigated the billboard, noting a lack of evidence to support the messaging

Baldy Mountain Resort is temporarily closed following the death of a resort family member. Pictured above is a sunrise at the resort, Feb. 19, 2021. (Baldy Mountain Resort/Facebook)
Baldy Mountain ski hill closed following death of resort family member

Authorities currently investigating, resort set to reopen Sunday, Feb. 27

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Chase RCMP arrest intoxicated man running into highway traffic

The man was wanted on several warrents in Alberta; was held overnight but released

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Most Read