Memorial to Recently Fallen Marchers: Bill Glied

A beloved Holocaust survivor, the Canadian businessman who traveled on several Marches of the Living passed away in February

A PORTRAIT of Bill Glied (photo credit: HASNAIN DATTU)
A PORTRAIT of Bill Glied
(photo credit: HASNAIN DATTU)
‘He was so determined, as we all are, to bring the lessons of the Holocaust to generations of people,” said fellow survivor and March of the Living educator Max Eisen.
“We both knew that our time is short and we tried to educate people relentlessly. We accepted speaking engagements... no matter how many times they asked him or myself.”
“It is so hard to lose a friend. We are so few and we thought, you know, we would never die. We have gone through all these horrible things; we thought that we would just keep on going. You know, the good years that we had here, they just went by so fast. He was, as we say in Hebrew, ‘Stronger than a lion and swifter than an eagle.’ This is the memory I will hold onto. We’ll have to pick up where he left off.”
On May 8, 2018, the Toronto Jewish community will honor the more than 100 Canadian survivors who have participated in the March of the Living since its inception in a gala event also marking the March’s 30th anniversary. The last speech of the evening was to be given to Bill, when he would read from his stirring poem – I Am a Jew – that he shared with students on the 2016 March of the Living. The words, which some March of the Living students now read at their Passover Seder, read in part:
“I’m a Jew because I believe that all human beings are created in the likeness of God and therefore all racism is foreign to me... because I have an obligation to help and be hospitable to strangers, to visit the sick... and most of all, to make peace between people.”
I was at Bill and his wife Marika’s home, just a few days prior to his passing – he and his daughter Michelle presented to me a fascinating Holocaust education initiative for students they had created together, for a time when survivors would no longer be able to share their stories in person. They wanted to find a way to enable others to tell survivors’ stories – a way to preserve the survivor personal testimony model that has such a strong impact on students today.
Then we – Marika, Michelle and myself – discussed Bill writing his memoir, something that he had thought about, but was reluctant to do. By the end of the conversation I think we may have convinced him to do so. (We were going to tape his full story then transcribe it.) Sadly, that will not happen, reminding me of the words from a Bialik poem:
There was a man and he exists no more.
His life song was broken off halfway.
He had one more poem
And that poem is lost,
Eynat Katz, who participated in the very first March of the Living in 1988 with the Toronto delegation, wrote the following after Bill’s funeral on February 19:
“It was a very strange and difficult day for me, a day that is difficult to encapsulate in mere words. It was exactly 19 years ago, to the day, that we buried a special man – my Saba [grandfather], Moshe Gutman, a Holocaust survivor and the most special man I have ever had the privilege and honor of knowing – and being loved and raised by. Today, I attended the funeral of another such special man, William ‘Bill’ Glied, also a special Saba – or as his family referred to him, ‘Papa’ – also a Holocaust survivor.
Both of these special men were Auschwitz survivors. They both endured horrible atrocities and lost their families, their friends and loved ones. Yet they both managed to survive and re-create a life for themselves and to proudly raise a strong Jewish family.
“AS I sat today in the funeral home listening to Bill’s three daughters and eight grandchildren eulogize, I could not believe the strikingly parallel lives that both of these incredible men had lived. I will never forget standing next to Bill in the Birkenau concentration camp and sharing part of my Saba’s story with him when all of a sudden I noticed that Bill’s face went white. Bill made the connection of exactly who my Saba was, even remembering the time they desperately searched for food together during one of their forced labor assignments. It sent chills down my spine, and I was saddened that when I returned to Toronto, I could not share that experience with my Saba (as he was no longer with us).
“Both of these incredibly courageous men survived Auschwitz and became self-made businessmen. They married strong women, the loves of their lives, and each brought three daughters and eight grandchildren into this world. Though my Saba was fortunate to live long enough to meet his first great-grandchild, he passed away shortly after that.
“Both of these extraordinary men lived by strong values and morals, embodying the concept that we – and only we – are responsible for every single one of our actions. In fact, both spoke of and taught those around them what they believed to be the core values and principles that we should all be guided by. These values and way of life included our obligation to give charity, to be hospitable, to visit the sick and elderly, to comfort mourners and most of all to love thy neighbor.
“They taught their families to appreciate the little things in life and to always believe in themselves. These men were wise and taught us so many life lessons, yet they both had very little formal schooling and were never given the opportunity to return there and study again. Yet both were avid readers and acquired knowledge through books and lessons from day-to-day life.
“Neither one of them defined their lives as being Holocaust survivors. That was not their legacy – as both survived because of the type of men that they were – their strength, inner wisdom, eternal optimism and hope. Wide shoulders, friendly ears and good advice were always available, as was an alternate perspective to each problem we faced.
“They both knew the precious value in the everyday, in every single experience, and were grateful for every little thing around them. Being with family and surrounded by friends and loved ones was what they always wanted. They cherished every moment and showered love on all those around them.
“They taught us by example. Both believed that each day was another opportunity to go out into the world and do good deeds.
taught me to never walk by a homeless person without acknowledging them, looking them straight in the eyes, sharing a kind word and sparing some change. I vividly remember walking down the streets of Ramat Gan holding my Saba’s hand and watching his quiet and kind demeanor. He would always carry loose change in his pocket and invariably asked me to drop a few coins into each cup or out- stretched hand we passed by. Whether it was to buy a drink and/or a falafel for someone in need or to help an elderly person cross the street, my Saba always took the time to teach me by example.
“I remember being so proud to be known as ‘Gutman’s granddaughter.’ It warmed my heart when I would go to buy a falafel all by myself and the owner of the falafel stand would tell me that I did not have to pay for my portion as I was ‘Gutman’s granddaughter.’ My Saba’s last name, Gut- man, was most befitting – as he was indeed a ‘good man.’
“My Saba taught me the importance of our Jewish homeland – to love and respect the Land of Israel. To stand up for Israel and to always take action as needed to protect it.
No one will ever know all that both my Saba and Bill went through during the Holocaust; we cannot even begin to imagine what they witnessed and endured during those horrible years. The experiences that both these men shared with us were but a mere drop in the ocean. But we do know that none of us would be here today if they were not the strong, hopeful, optimistic, believing and committed Jews that they were until their dying day. My Saba went to the synagogue daily and continued to pray and believe in God until his last breath. These morals and life lessons that both these men taught us will always inspire me, guide me and will forever be my source of optimism, activism and strong belief in a better tomorrow.
“To Bill’s family: I remember someone sharing with me the following:
Those we love don’t go away,
They walk beside us every day,
Unseen, unheard, but always near,
So loved, so missed, so very dear.”