Holocaust survivor hopes to bring peace - KXXV Central Texas News Now

Holocaust survivor hopes to bring peace

(Source: KXXV) (Source: KXXV)

A Holocaust survivor spoke on Fort Hood Thursday during the Days of Remembrance Observance.

The 77-year-old's story is one of darkness to light. It's a light she would like to share with a world still so dark with hate, bigotry and apathy.

"I don't have a memory of the first seven years of my life."

Even though Sylvia Gutmann said cannot remember those first seven years, she knows their story.

"It's 1942. I am three years old," Gutmann said.

She and her family, a mother, father and two sisters, were hiding in small village in the south of France after fleeing Berlin, Germany, in 1938 and Antwerp, Belgium, in 1940.

"There is a knock on the door. It is the Vichy Police. They have come to arrest us," Gutmann said.

She said the Vichy Police took her, her mother and two sisters, to an internment camp in France and left her ill father in Belgium.

"They turn around and they say we will come back for you later. My father flees and goes into hiding," Gutmann said.

Once at the internment camp, Gutmann said as the guards separated the sisters from their mother, she tried to go with her.

"Mama, mama, I run out of line, chubby little hands holding out. Take me with you. Take me with you,' The Vichy guards take each arm and push her away. She turns around and says again to my sister, Rita. 'Promise me you will take care of the baby'," Gutmann said.

Gutmann said she never saw her parents again. They both died at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland.

She and her sisters, however, lived thanks to strangers who smuggled them into Switzerland, and then got them to the United States.

"It's always emotional for me and I found it interesting that I wept because there's so much gratitude that just crept up on me," Gutmann said.

That's why she spoke on Fort Hood to show her gratitude to soldiers like those who liberated her, and fulfill a promise she made to encourage others to not look away.

"If I could change one mind from thinking that their Black neighbor, or their Muslim neighbor...is not the other, but the same, then I've done my job," Gutmann said.

With powerful words from Gutmann's story and Holocaust artifacts from the Gregg and Michelle Philipson Collection and Archive, the hope is to reach into past tragedies like the Holocaust to bring forth future peace in place like Syria.

"I candidly find it appalling and I'm really glad we took some action recently," said Gregg Philipson, the founder of the Gregg and Michelle Philipson Collection and Archive who brought his artifacts to Fort Hood. "Inaction is definitely a serious, serious issue and it only benefits the bad guys."

Ironically for Gutmann, it was the worst of the bad guys, Adolf Hitler, who inspired the best of her good ideas.

"Get them when they're young. That's the way I save a life," Gutmann said.

Gutmann said she has a page on a website, and has been working on a book for awhile and hopes to have it published soon.

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