“The Minute I Stopped Hating, I Started Living”: Elly Gotz – Holocaust survivor – Speaks at MDHS

By: Purvi Shenoy

On April 4th, 2023, our Grade 10 history students got the opportunity to listen to 95 year old Holocaust survivor, Elly Gotz, over a Google Meet. During the presentation he reflected on his life, and he promoted his message which is to not hate.

Elly Gotz is a Lithuanian holocaust survivor who has had an extremely challenging life, yet continues to maintain an optimistic mindset. 

He has a long relationship with MDHS, greatly helped by Ms. Andersen. Each year he makes 2 presentations to grade 10 students where he shares his life story – changing ever so slightly as his experiences change. 

Elly makes sure to share some of the most interesting stories he has grown from. Some of the key aspects of his presentation include: 

  • Sharing his coping strategies. The books available during the war were extremely limited. Elly and his father had to search for books, and then hide them behind the family shed. Elly found reading to be a good form of escape during these stressful times. 
  • Sharing his family’s desperate measures to break free. His mother – who was a pharmacist – had to measure poison for each family member in case of emergency. 
  • How he came to Canada. Elly had to join the Russians during the war to help fight against the German Army. He then moved to Johannesburg, then Toronto.

On November 7th, 2018, Elly launched his memoir – Flights of Spirit. The story revolves around his journey from the very beginning. From when he hid underground with his family, how he fled from Europe after the war, and how he achieved his dreams of being a pilot. Feel free to check in with the Social Sciences office if they have any extra copies of Elly’s book. 

Overall, students were inspired by his perseverance. They found his story extremely engaging and thoroughly enjoyed listening to his presentation. Ruth Lal – a student who watched the presentation – liked “how despite the darkness, he chose to focus on the good things from his life”. 

We look forward to having Elly back again next year and carry on his legacy.