BY JASMINE KAPOOR
Elly Gotz, a survivor of the Holocaust and Dachau Camp visited Milton District twice during the 2017-18 school year. His first visit was on December 7, 2017, and his second was on April 18th, 2018. The assembly was specifically for grade 10 history classes, although anyone was welcome to attend. Mr. Gotz told his story during period 5 in the theatre, with about 200 people – staff and students – listening to him.
Elly Gotz was born in 1928 in Kovno, Lithuania to a loving mother and father. As a child, Elly loved math and physics, and was particularly passionate about planes and anything that could fly. Due to his passions, Elly dreamed of one day being an engineer. At the age of 13, Elly was excited to begin high school, but the year was 1941 and the war broke out before he had the chance. The Germans quickly took over Lithuania, and in the same year, Elly and his family were forced to live in a ghetto.
Later on, when the ghetto was liquidated, Elly was then taken to Dachau concentration camp where he worked in a factory. Dachau camp was the first concentration camp established in Germany by the Nazis, and while an estimated 28 000 prisoners died there during World War II, it is not likely that the exact number of those who died in the camp will ever be known. This is because the prisoners not only faced conditions that were next to impossible to live in, but the prisoners were also tasked to build an immense underground factory. The hours the prisoners had to work were long, and they had very little food and almost no rest. Not only that, but the conditions of the factory itself were extremely unsafe and many died as a result if they were not worked to death. Many people, including one of Elly’s friends, died by being buried in cement as it was poured and their bodies were never retrieved. You can learn more about the horrors of this camp here.
Thankfully, Elly survived the camp and was liberated at the end of the war in 1945. He was 17 years old and weighed only 70 pounds.
After the war, Elly was determined to make the most of his life and pursued an education so he could finally become an engineer. He first lived in Germany, then Norway, but moved to South Africa for a better education. During his time in South Africa, he met a woman named Esme, and the two are still married to this day and have three children. Elly also found that Apartheid was deeply rooted in society and he hated the oppressive regime with a passion. In the 1960s, he and his family left to live in a democratic society and chose Toronto, Canada.
Elly still lives in Canada, and it is his and his family’s mission to educate as many people as possible on the horrors of the Holocaust so that nothing as heinous will ever happen again.
While the subject matter of which Elly spoke was indeed heartbreaking, he was still able to smile and crack jokes, displaying his friendly personality. Elly closed off his presentation with a quote from Buddha to remind everyone to always keep a positive outlook on life, even when times are rough: “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”.
Not only is Elly inspirational, he is also adventurous. Because of his love for all things that fly, on July 2, 2017, 89-year-old Elly Gotz went skydiving to celebrate Canada’s 150 year anniversary, as well as his 90th birthday. He loved the experience, and is grateful to live in Canada and be able to fulfill that dream of his.
Having Elly Gotz visit MD to tell his story was a privilege and an experience that no Mustang will ever forget. Hopefully, he will return one day and retell his story to future history students and anyone who wishes to listen.