Holocaust survivor Dr. Peter Gary — who has spent the past 23 years sharing his story with tens of thousands of students — has given his last talk at the school where it all began.
On Monday, the 92-year-old Vancouver Island resident spoke one last time to the students at Stelly's Secondary School in Saanich.
Isabel Lizama, a teacher at Stelly's who has known Gary for all of those years, said it was his stepson that informed teachers about what Gary had gone through and had him come in to talk about his experiences to the students.
"There are teachers here who actually were former students. You can ask them if there was a speakers who came to Stelly's School … who had an impact on you, they'll always say that it was Peter Gary," she told All Points West host Robyn Burns.
Now more than two decades later, Gary says he considers the students at Stelly's "his kids" and the school is a "second home."
"Unfortunately, what I have to say is still very, very important, because hate still has its ugly fires burning all over the world" he said moments before beginning his last talk.
"These are the only persons in the world who can put it out, the kids. This is what I tell them."
The timing of his last talk was significant, but not just because it was two days before Remembrance Day.
It was also the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht — the night when coordinated anti-Semitic attacks in Germany and Austria destroyed Jewish-owned shops, homes and synagogues in a prelude to further Nazi atrocities.
Before stepping forward to address the students one last time, Gary said he hopes they will take away an openness to different people and a willingness to stand up to racism in their daily lives.
"I will bring it through, hopefully, to these kids who are sitting there, bright-eyed, never had any confrontation, never heard gunfire, and tell them yes, it can happen. and to be alert, so it doesn't happen on their watch," he said.
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