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Oral history interview with Miriam Gutman

Oral History | Accession Number: 1996.A.0586.67 | RG Number: RG-50.407.0067

Miriam Gutman, born in 1923 in Kaunas, Lithuania, discusses her father, Shmuel, who was a self-employed painter; her father’s death in 1937; her mother, Frieda, who opened a restaurant; her brother and sister; being close to her grandparents, who owned a general goods shop; living in a close-knit community; attending a state school until sixth grade; speaking primarily Yiddish and a little Russian; being raised in a traditional Jewish home; being aware of antisemitism but not experiencing it firsthand because there was very little contact with the Lithuanian community; the Soviet occupation of Lithuania in 1939 and her mother being forced to close the restaurant; getting married to a wealthy man in 1940; the German invasion in 1941; the deadly pogroms in Kaunas; being sent into the ghetto in Slobodke (an area of Kaunas now called Vilijampole); being pregnant and being hungry; people believing the worst would be over soon; her husband being killed at work when their child was three months old; meeting a factory owner who hired her, which enabled her to move back in together with her mother; smuggling food, which helped for a few months; the morale in the ghetto; the murder of approximately 10,000 people; being sent with her mother to a work camp on 27 March 1943; returning after work to discover that her twenty-month-old child had been taken away and murdered; a sadistic German guard; being sent to hard labor building an airport; being sent without food or water for six days to the concentration camp in Stutthof (Sztutowo), Poland, and being subjected to selection; being chosen with her mother to survive; seeing tall piles of shoes and glasses, and being unable to comprehend what was happening; five girls sleeping closely together for warmth; finding the strength to survive; the disappearance of her mother; going through another selection; walking for miles without food or water to another camp near the front, where they were assigned to dig foxholes for German soldiers; being determined not to be broken by the Germans; escaping and being taken in by Poles; being liberated by the Russians; saving the life of the Polish man who took her in; traveling to Bialystok, Poland; being told there was no one to return to in Lithuania; going to Łódź, Poland; meeting a representative from a kibbutz and moving to Palestine; meeting and marrying a man on 7 November 1945 and moving to Germany; losing a daughter at five months and giving birth to a son (and later another daughter); gradually falling in love with her husband of fifty years; moving to Australia in 1952 because her sister lived there; and her message to her children and future generations to avoid hatred and jealousy and try to see the best in people.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Gutman, Miriam
Kras, Geri
interview:  1996 July 23
1 videocassette (VHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
Record last modified: 2022-06-23 09:48:08
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