Holocaust Survivor to speak in Hopkinton

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Wednesday, June 26, at 7:00 p.m. at HCAM-TV studios, 77 Main St, Author Sylvia Ruth Gutmann will be speaking about her life and memoir, “A Life Rebuilt: The Remarkable Transformation of a War Orphan." Following her talk, Gutmann will offer time for Q & A, and signing books. Books will also be available for purchase. The event is open to the public, admission is free, and is part of the Real Housewives of Hopkinton (Facebook Group) Book Club series.

Gutmann, born in Belgium in 1939 to German Jews who had fled their homeland, was only 3 years old when she, her sisters and mother were sent by the Vichy police to a French internment camp. Both her mother and father were subsequently deported to Auschwitz and murdered. Miraculously, Gutmann and her sisters were released from the interment camp, and began a 4-year journey to America. Raised by relatives in New York City, she was instructed to never speak of her past.

Her tumultuous beginnings made for a life of hurt, loneliness, and confusion, until through the guidance of wise therapists and the support of the United Jewish Appeal Federation (UJA), she truly rebuilds her life, and finds purpose and happiness.

“Sylvia speaks from her heart, telling of her breathtaking, heartbreaking and triumphant journey. There were no dry eyes in the audience when I heard her speak at Hopkinton Public Library last year. We are grateful she is speaking to the public about her experiences, especially in this time of rising sentiments of hate and violence,” notes Kathy Hinds, who has arranged for Gutmann to speak at HCAM, “As Sylvia cites in her book, ‘over six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust – a million and a half were children – as well as other victims, gypsies, gay men and women, mentally and physically handicapped people, Jehovah’s Witnesses and political opponents of the Nazis.’ ”

Through research, she finds the address where her family lived in Berlin before fleeing the day after Krystallnacht, and is able to commemorate their life in conjunction with the Stoplerstein (“stumbling stones”) project; two stolpersteins are installed on the sidewalk in front of their apartment. “Artist Gunter Demnig cites the Talmud saying that "a person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten". The Stolperstein in front of the buildings bring back to memory the people who once lived here. Each “stone” begins with HERE LIVED… One “stone”. One name. One person. There are now over 70,000 Stolperstein in 24 countries of Europe,” states The Stolpersteine Project.

Excerpt from “A Life Rebuilt,” when Gutmann was speaking to high school history students in Berlin, Germany:

“There is power in naming hate for what it is, in shining a bright light on it, brighter than a torch or a flashlight. When we name it, we root it out of the darkness, out of all that hushed conversation where it breeds like vermin. We must acknowledge and confront it. When we do that, we rob it of its power and its dark pull.

The guilt and shame that has silenced you, but that really belonged to your ancestors, was the beast that hovered in the room. And only when we look at it, as you and I have done today, can we begin the healing. Yours and mine!

Because I am wounded myself, I have a very good sense of the wounds in you. I know what a frail business life is. And since there are so few survivors in Germany to bear witness, here is where I feel the most needed.

Never let anyone rob you of your voice. All you can do against injustice and hate is to open your mouths and speak. Don’t look away. Make a difference. Tell someone you love him or her every day!”

“[My] story puts a human face on the immense, unimaginable loss. One murder is not a statistic, but a loved one.”