In recent weeks, Toronto French School students have been exposed to many opportunities to reflect on our nation’s implication in historic world conflicts, and, specifically how this involvement has given us our valuable freedoms today. On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, at the Remembrance Day Assembly, led by headmaster Dr. Josep Gonzalez, the TFS community paid homage to Canadians who fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge on its centennial anniversary. Students were also invited to reflect on how to ensure a peaceful world for future generations. On November 1, 2017, during the Holocaust Memorial Week, students in Grade 7 through Level V had the chance to hear a Holocaust survivor’s account of his experience in World War II, an opportunity that is now becoming rare as remaining survivors grow older.
Bill Glied, approaching his 90s, spoke about his childhood in Subotica in former Yugoslavia, where his family had been integral to his town’s community. Bill told us that he had thrived in school, emphasizing that it gave him the chance to play soccer with his classmates. We learned that as the war had escalated and reached his country in 1941, Mr. Glied had experienced discrimination because of his religion by his closest friends, teachers, and even his soccer team. After many liberties had been already stripped from his family, Bill Glied, along with his mother, father, and sister, was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944, then to Dachau Concentration camp in Germany, then to its sub-camp, Kaufering #3, and eventually to Krankenlager, a sick camp, as his father had fallen ill. Throughout these journeys, Glied was separated from his sister and mother, never to see them again, and put through unimaginable conditions, deprived of basic human needs. Travelling to Auschwitz in transport cattle cars, Glied explained that for two days and two nights, passengers had to manage the lack of bathrooms and food and water, a deliberate act by the Nazis to further humiliate the women, men, and children on the trains. He detailed that was he was also forced to work as a slave labourer in dangerous conditions building engines for fighter airplanes for companies including BMW, adding that he now, ironically, drives a MINI, owned by BMW. While he did have his father to preserve his hope through the anguish of his experience for the majority of his time in concentration camps, nine days before his liberation in 1945, his father passed away.
A more recent aspect of Mr. Glied’s life that TFS students did not learn about is that, in 2016, Bill Glied was a plaintiff at the trials of two SS officers, Oscar Gröning and Reinold Hanning, held in German cities Luneberg and Detmold respectively. Both officers were found guilty of being accessories to murders of a combined 470,000 people at Auschwitz. According to The Toronto Sun, Mr. Glied’s coming forward was not motivated by their receiving a jail sentence, but rather the desire to ensure that denial of the occurrence of the Holocaust would not be possible. In addition, with testimonies from both SS agents of the occurrences at Auschwitz, Mr. Glied views the concrete evidence as a support to future Holocaust education as opportunities for live recall diminish. He recalled, “I came because while I don’t hate, I cannot forget [...] It is my hope that the conviction of this SS officer will further still the disbelievers of the Holocaust.”
After finishing his moving recount of his experience in the Holocaust at TFS, Mr. Glied evoked reflection on the importance of gratitude and kindness as he reminded students to “kiss the ground [they] walk on” and to “kiss [their] moms.” Bill Glied now resides in Toronto with his wife, Marika. He spends his time with his grandchildren and speaking publically about his experience with one goal: the suffering of innocent people will never be forgotten.