Philip Riteman was born in Shershev in the Brest-Litvosk region of Poland. Forced from their town by the Germans in 1941, Philip and his family, along with thousands of other Jews, were deported into the Pruzhany ghetto. They were transported to Auschwitz in the winter of 1942. Philip’s parents, brothers, and sisters were put to death in the gas chambers. Philip and two remaining brother were selected for slave labour. From Auschwitz-Birkenau, Philip was sent to Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, Dachau, and finally Landsberg. Liberated by the American Seventh Army in 1945, after crossing the Tyrolean Alps on a death march, Philip was the only member of his family to survive. Philip sought to leave Europe and start a new life in North America.
Only Newfoundland, an independent country at that time, was quick to respond in Philip’s favour. In 1946, Philip began his new life as a door-to-door peddler in his new country. Visiting Montreal, Philip met and subsequently married Dorothy Smilestein, who joined him in St. John’s. Their two sons are both graduates of Memorial University. In Newfoundland, Philip owned a wholesale dry goods business. By the time he left for Halifax in 1979, he had established a successful import trading company.
For many years, Philip did not speak about the Holocaust. In 1989, he gave testimony as a survivor for the first time at a school in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. He spoke to silence Holocaust deniers who claimed that the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews by the Germans had either never occurred or was greatly exaggerated. He spoke for those who could not speak. For more than twenty years, Philip had continued to bear witness as a survivor. At schools, churches, universities, legion halls, and business enterprises throughout Canada and the United States, he had shared painful memories and a commitment to a more just society. For his contribution, Philip had been awarded honorary doctorates by Memorial and St. Thomas Universities, as well as the Order of Nova Scotia.
Philip Reitman passed away on August 8, 2018 in Halifax, NS.