Dunc Malcolm/News staff

Holocaust survivor George Wertman is left to contemplate the horrific memories along with 60 fellow survivors who gathered to honour Holocaust victims.
By Dunc Malcolm
News staff
Apr 20 2007

For Holocaust survivor George Wertman, Monday’s ceremony at the B.C. legislature did little to ease the pain of memories formed over 60 years ago.

Wertman was among 60 Holocaust survivors who gathered to mark Yom Ha’Shoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day.

The day honours those who survived the Nazi atrocities perpetrated against the Jewish people during the Second World War, and to remember the more than six million Jews who died.

Representatives of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, the Victoria Holocaust Remembrance and Educational Society and the Canadian Jewish Congress joined Premier Gordon Campbell in the ceremony.

“Today is a day to reflect on the devastating and diverse impact of hate, but also the power of unfailing hope,” Campbell said.

Hope was the key to Wertman’s survival.

When war broke out, he was 18.

Two years later, he was placed in a mobile labour camp and forced to build highways throughout Germany for the Nazis.

He was ultimately freed when the Russians took control of what was to become East Germany.

Wertman said the day he arrived in Canada in 1949 was the day he feels he attained true freedom.

Political freedom, certainly, but the chains of horror that bound him during the war never did fall away.

“When I arrived here, people assumed that I would have forgotten my experiences – after all, it was four years before. I would say to them, ‘You want me to forget what happened four years ago and yet you keep reminding me of what happened 2,000 years ago with the Jewish race.’”

dmalcolm@vicnews.com