Monday, September 19, 2016

Peter Gary - May his memory continue to inspire

Dr. Peter Gary,  2006.
Screenshot from "Glimpses of Heaven",
a documentary by Michael Dayan.

Dear Friends,

As the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Saanich South, I would like to acknowledge with sadness the death of Dr. Peter Gary. There are many people mourning today and I wish them comfort at this most difficult time. Special condolences to his widow, Ms Judy Esrin, his son and the many others who loved him deeply.

Dr. Gary lived a remarkable life in his 93 years. As an adult he worked as a musician and composer. His extraordinary talent led him to be accepted for studies at the same academy attended by Bartok and Kodaly. He had a Ph.D in Musicology from the Sorbonne and conducted orchestras in France and Germany. He also worked in the film industry in Hollywood, and as what we would today call a Music Therapist. He taught at the University of California and at UVIC. 

Many of us know of Dr. Gary because of what he experienced before this illustrious career. He was born in Poland 1924 and was raised in Hungary. Showing great promise in music, Dr. Gary began studying piano at the age of 5. 

By the mid 1930s, however, his life and that of so many others, was ripped apart as anti-Semitism worsened horribly in Europe with the rise of Nazism in Germany. 

On Christmas Eve, 1941, when he was 17, he and his mother and many other Jews were taken at gun-point to a ravine where they were stripped, lined up and machine-gunned. Dr. Gary's mother was immediately hit and soon died. She saved his life by falling on top of him. In the end he was one of only four people who escaped the ravine alive. He made it to the Warsaw Ghetto but was eventually captured and spent years of horror and terror in three different Nazi death camps. When he was finally liberated by the British he was 21 years old and weighed less than 76 pounds.

We know these personal and shocking details of his life because Dr. Gary shared them with us. He was dedicated to remembering the Holocaust. In fact, Dr. Gary helped found the Victoria Holocaust Remembrance and Education Society. Over the years he spoke to more than 60,000 people -- mostly young people -- about his experiences and what he learned from them. He taught people to learn from the mistakes of the past and to embrace -- not fear or hate -- people who are different. We owe Dr. Gary a great moral debt for his willingness to share his experiences with our young people. I also want to recognise that he inspired many by showing that it is possible to regain feelings of joy and hope even after the most painful and cruel experiences imaginable.

Dr. Gary was very well known in this Constituency and around the world because of his enthusiasm, passion and warmth. He will be greatly missed but the impact of his good work will last for generations to come. May his memory continue to inspire us all.

MLA Lana Popham