Elly Gotz - Learning From the Past to Counter Hate

Elly Gotz - Learning From the Past to Counter Hate
Posted on 04/30/2021
Each of us has two wolves inside, the wolf of love and friendship and the wolf of hatred and bitterness. These two wolves are constantly fighting with each other. Which wolf will win? The one you feed. So, I say to you my friends, don’t feed the wolf of hate.” - Elly Gotz

For 1,800 LDSB secondary students and their teachers, it was an unforgettable privilege to bear witness to the haunting recount of Elly Gotz’s life during the Holocaust. As the only child of a Lithuanian Jewish family, Holocaust survivor and author, Elly Gotz, 93, opened both his heart and mind, allowing us a glimpse into the unimaginable. As a young man, he suffered horrendous hardships in the Kaunas ghetto and notorious German concentration camp, Dachau. Told in detail, his story of fear, hunger, torture, loss, hate, and finally liberation, kept this audience on the edge.

But it was Mr. Gotz own hard-won process of letting go of a desire for retribution and the overwhelming power of hate, that brought it home for those taking the virtual journey with him. “Anyone who listens to a witness becomes a witness,”  Elly says, “We are all witness to the awful power of racism and prejudice, today. We need to feed the wolf of love and friendship and realize the troubling and unparalleled rise in prejudice, racism, and antisemitism happening now demands that we step up, be vigilant and fight the ‘wolf of hate’.”

Limestone Learning Foundation was pleased to offer the Limestone District School Board community the opportunity to spend time with Elly, who is also a retired electronics engineer, pilot, businessman, family man, multi-linguist, and inventor. Ninety-five classrooms from 10 secondary schools in our Kingston region participated in a virtual event on April 21, 2021. This session was moderated by teacher Katherine Graham-Burra and Kingston Secondary School Grade 12 student Juliana Springer. The presentation was coordinated with Leslie Myles, LLF Managing Director, Suchetan James, LDSB Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Consultant, and parent/lawyer Melissa Greenberg.

Response to the presentation has been overwhelmingly positive and students and staff who attended indicate the overarching message of countering hate, racial prejudice and antisemitism were profound. Supported by funding from the Foundation, this session is another way in which Limestone is working to bring antiracism teaching and learning to every student.

“The life story of Elly Gotz exemplifies the true meaning of grace on earth. How I marvel at the number of rarified individuals who can endure the very worst that humankind has to offer and can still find joy, compassion, meaning, and a deep-seated belief that no matter the sheer level of pain which spills out from the hand of evil, there is still light on the other side.” - Mrs. Barbara Hammond, LDSB educator, retired.

"Elly’s resilience and strength and the power of his love and gratitude is almost too much. To think that he came so close to such an early death (at his mother's own hands!). To think of what the world might have lost in him - and did, with six million others --it shatters the mind and soul.” – Mr. David Hannah, LDSB educator

“It was amazing to get to hear first-hand from someone who has been through so much and how he is helping others and sending out such a strong message…I learned so much and what he said about not holding onto hate forever was so beautiful…it’s so crazy to me that someone who went through so much pain and trauma is so caring and thoughtful.” – Neila, Grade 9, LCVI

Copies of Elly Gotz’s recent book, Flights of Spirit, are available online.