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Toby Cymber Gutterman

Toby Cymber Gutterman
Nationality: Polish
Location: Bamberg • Czestochowa • Germany • Poland • Skarzysko-Kamienna • Skarzysko-Kamienna Concentration Camp • United States of America • Zwolen
Experience During Holocaust: Family Died During the Holocaust • Family Died in Gas Chambers • Hometown was Bombed • Liberated • Lived in Multiple Concentration Camps • Married a Holocaust Survivor • Sent to Concentration Camp • Sent to Ghetto • Suffered from Disease • Was a Child During the Holocaust • Worked in Factory

Mapping Toby's Life

Click on the location markers to learn more about Toby. Use the timeline below the map or the left and right keys on your keyboard to explore chronologically. In some cases the dates below were estimated based on the oral histories.

“When the noise of explosions started, we ran out to see what was happening. And her mother was holding her baby brother, and part of a bomb hit her mother, but not her little brother. Her mother dropped dead to the ground and her little brother was just crawling.” - Toby Cymber Gutterman

Read Toby's Oral History Transcripts

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Tape 1 - Side 1

PRINCE: My name is “Sister” Prince. Today is May 11, 1987, and I’m interviewing Toby Cymber Gutterman for the Oral History Project of the St. Louis Center for Holocaust Studies. Toby, could you tell me what year you were born?
GUTTERMAN: I was born March 25, 1926.
PRINCE: And where were you born?
GUTTERMAN: I was born in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, but I was brought up in a small city called Zwolen. The reason I was born in Warsaw was because my mother had difficulties during pregnancies and her firstborn died shortly after birth. She had one other child that died at birth, and she wanted to make sure that her delivery was safe and that’s why she went to Warsaw to have me.
PRINCE: And you were born safely and then went back to Zwolen?
PRINCE: Tell me about Zwolen. Was it a town or a city?
GUTTERMAN: It was a small city in Poland and the nearest bigger city was Radom. We had a big family.
PRINCE: Tell me about your family, Toby. Who did you live with?
GUTTERMAN: I had a large family, like I said before. Originally my parents had five children altogether, but three of them survived because two died. My oldest was a brother, and I wasn’t born yet, and my youngest was a little boy also and he was born after I was already born, and he died too. Also, my mother had five sisters and two brothers. My father, I believe, had four brothers and two sisters. And, of course, there were a lot of cousins and a lot of aunts and uncles, and I also even had a great-grandmother.
PRINCE: Was it your mother’s or father’s grandmother?
GUTTERMAN: She was my mother’s grandmother, and we loved her dearly. We used to go over to her house all the time, me and my older sister, and we used to stay overnight sometimes. I remember she lived near a river or a lake. We had to walk over a bridge to get to her house. She was really a doll to us. We loved her dearly. I don’t remember my grandfather because he was dead when I was a little girl. But my grandmother, my mother’s mother, always visited us. She also had a daughter in Warsaw and she sometimes stayed with her and sometimes she came to us to visit. And she was just like our second mother when she stayed with us because my parents were in the grain business and my father died shortly before the war.
PRINCE: What was your grandmother’s name?
GUTTERMAN: Her name was Sarah Cooperman.
PRINCE: What did you call her?
GUTTERMAN: Grandma Sarah.
PRINCE: Did you speak Yiddish or Polish or…?
GUTTERMAN: We spoke Yiddish with my grandmother most of the time. We didn’t speak Polish in our house. I spoke Polish in school and with my friends.
PRINCE: So, you had an older sister and her name was?
GUTTERMAN: My older sister’s name was Hannah Hinda. You know those are Jewish names. Like, my name is really Toby, but in Polish they wrote down T A U B A, Tauba. When they spoke my name, it was Tauba Broner. Toby was really a Hebrew-Jewish name. My younger sister was Ruth, but in Polish they put down R U C H L A, like Ruchla.
PRINCE: So Toby is your Hebrew name?
GUTTERMAN: Yes. And I remember when I was a little girl, we had really good times because every Saturday a lot of family who lived in our town came over to our house and my mother always had goodies baked on Friday and they stayed with us and we really enjoyed ourselves. My family was religious. Most people in Poland were religious – Jewish people I mean. Maybe about 10 or 15 percent were not religious, but the rest observed all the holidays, the Sabbath.
We had six days of school in our city but we didn’t go on Saturday because it was our Sabbath. So what we used to do was wait for the girls to get out of school and ask them what kind of homework we were having, in order to have it made up when we returned to school on Monday. I understand that – over there – when I came I found out that the school there when I was in fourth grade, my children were having this and that in sixth grade or fifth grade. We were advanced, we were learning much more and everything was serious business. You could not choose the subjects you wanted to take, especially in regular school and even in high school. You had to take what they wanted you to take and they were very serious. The grades were very strict. Here they have “A” or “B” or “C” or whatever. We had numbers, like “5” was the best, “4” was good, “3” was fair and “2” was fail.
PRINCE: I have two questions about school, and you say “they.” What kind of school did you attend?
GUTTERMAN: I went to a public school, to an all girls’ school, by the way.
PRINCE: What was a public school in Poland?
GUTTERMAN: Well, it was oriented toward the Polish people. Every morning when you came, you had to stand up and the Christian students had to cross themselves and say a prayer. We just had to stay quiet, and it felt very uncomfortable and didn’t feel good.
PRINCE: In what way?
GUTTERMAN: Because we couldn’t say any prayers, our own. And, by the way, we were even sitting in different sections. There was a row of Christian girls and one row of desks for Jewish girls. When they called attendance, there was a different list for us and a different list for the Christian girls.
PRINCE: You were segregated?
GUTTERMAN: Well, sort of. It was in the same room but in a way, we were segregated.
PRINCE: Did they assign you seats that way?
GUTTERMAN: Well, yes, we had to sit in this row.
PRINCE: You couldn’t walk in and choose your seat?
GUTTERMAN: No, I couldn’t.
PRINCE: And they were all Jewish in that row?
PRINCE: Were there ever a few extra Jewish girls who would flow over into another row? What would they do if they had more than one row?
GUTTERMAN: I don’t know. They had enough seats where I was for the Jewish girls. And also the other thing that was very prejudiced was that they had religious instructions by priests and we had to leave the room when the religious instructions were given. Now, there were a lot of Jewish citizens, including my father when he was alive, who tried to do something about this, but the last couple of years before the war, we started having a Jewish teacher to give us instructions. But until then, we had to leave when the priest came in and the Christian children always made fun of us and didn’t like us because we didn’t believe in the same religion. You know, in Poland, the majority are Catholics and we were different to them because we didn’t believe in their religion. And a lot of times they would say to us, “You, Jew, go to Palestine.” At that time there was no Israel. During recess they said that and a lot of times we just walked on the street. It was true that maybe in a way the Jewish population kept to themselves too. They didn’t associate a lot with Christians – not in their homes, but as friends. They were friends outside of their homes because most people observed the kashrut and so they didn’t go into Christian homes to eat meals with them. And a lot of them were very religious and wore those old-fashioned religious garments.
PRINCE: What were they called?
GUTTERMAN: I think they were called “Kapots” or something, like “Kapota.” That was in Polish, K A P O T A. It was a black garment and black hats, and they seemed different than the Christians.
PRINCE: Did your father dress like that?
GUTTERMAN: My father didn’t dress like that but he had a beard and he always wore something on his head. But he was friendly to a lot of Polish people because my parents were in the grain business and they had to deal with a lot of farmers and he had dealt with them. But there were a lot of Jews who were just sitting and learning the Torah and they didn’t have any dealings with the Christian population and that’s why maybe a lot of anti-Semitism was felt. But that’s what went on in Poland.
PRINCE: Toby, you mentioned that your parents were in the grain business. Did your mother also work in the business with your father?
GUTTERMAN: My father died before the war. We bought our grain from the farmers and also my father made the grains into flour in a special big mill and then would deliver it to bakeries. Well, one day he fell off a grain elevator and was injured inside. I was very little then. It was a long time ago.
PRINCE: Was it before you were five?
GUTTERMAN: Probably. And my mother used to tell us that the doctor told her when that happened that he probably wouldn’t live too long, but he did live much longer. However, he always had problems after that, so my mother helped him. She didn’t carry sacks of grain. We had helpers, men who were planning to go to Israel in a kibbutz. It was called Chalutzim. I believe they belonged to an organization called Hashomer Hatzair. And those were men who were planning to go to Palestine and work in kibbutzim.
PRINCE: Would you call them Zionists?
GUTTERMAN: Well, they were Zionists, yes. And they helped us after my father had that accident. It was like a market, one day a week when the farmers delivered the grain, and the men who helped my father carried the sacks of grain to a grain room where they poured it out.
PRINCE: It was like a whole organization of men?
GUTTERMAN: Well just about two, I think, on that day. And my mother was helping too, like when it came time to pay the farmers something, she did that and different other things which had to be done. And when my parents were busy and my grandmother visited us, we always went to my grandmother for anything we wanted, and she was just like a second mother to us. She also helped cook the meals and everything. She wasn’t with us all the time because she visited her other children part of the time.
Every summer we had a lot of family in Warsaw. Every summer my cousins used to come and visit us because it wasn’t as hot. They lived in an apartment and we lived in a small town which to them was like a country side, you know. We had lakes and rivers and we went swimming. We didn’t have any swimming pools then. But we had a lot of fun and I remember they used to bring yarn goods – material. And my mother was an excellent seamstress. She knew how to sew very good and so could my older sister. In those days, in Poland, in small cities, you couldn’t just go into a store and get your clothes off a rack. Most people sewed their own clothes. So, when my cousins brought the material, my mother made clothes for us and for them. We always had nice clothes to wear. And if it hadn’t been for the war, I would have learned how to sew too. We even made our underwear ourselves, like bras. There were special people who specialized in making bras to your own size. They took your size and they made them for you. And I was supposed to learn but the war broke out and I couldn’t.
I don’t know how it was before the war in the United States, but the standard of living in Poland was below it because there was a big shortage of housing in Poland.
PRINCE: We’re talking about the ’30s when there was a depression all over the world.
GUTTERMAN: Yes, maybe. But there was a big shortage of housing in Poland. When you lived like in two or three rooms, you were all right, you were very good. Some people just lived with a family in one room. There was no housing.
We grew up and I was young and worry-free. I felt loved and happy with my family. My main goal was to make good grades because it was so important to get a good education, especially for Jewish children because one couldn’t get anywhere without education. Now the Polish could get away with getting jobs and things, but not Jewish children. And my parents stressed so much, you know – God forbid I shouldn’t come home with the best grades. So that is what I was taken up with – homework and things like that.
PRINCE: Did you like school, Toby?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, I liked school very much. All my sisters did too. We enjoyed school very much, and, like I said, I really put my whole self into school. The schools were crowded too. We just had to go to school at eight o’clock and we got home at one -thirty. We didn’t go until three o’clock. And then another shift went from one-thirty to five or six o’clock. That’s how they divided school. But we had a lot of homework because we didn’t have enough hours. And every day when we came home, it was the first thing we did. We sat down and did our homework.
PRINCE: How much time did you spend on it?
GUTTERMAN: Well, a lot of time – at least a couple of hours. Most of the time I was very good in everything, but I used to have problems in math. When it came to geometry – division and all this I had, but I had some problems with geometry. But I was very good in all the other subjects. I had a friend who went to school with me who was good in geometry, so she always helped me with that and I would help her with something else. So I used to go to her house a lot of times and we did homework together.
PRINCE: What was her name?
GUTTERMAN: The Christian girls called her Mary, but her name was really Miriam. The Christian girls couldn’t stand to call you a Jewish name, so they would say, “Hey, Mary.”
PRINCE: I would like to go back to that subject for a minute. You said that there were six days of school but you didn’t go on Saturday.
PRINCE: I’m not sure you used the word “friend” or whether you asked another person –
GUTTERMAN: Well, we were waiting when they got out of school to ask what kind of homework we had to do.
PRINCE: Did they tell you willingly?
GUTTERMAN: Some of them didn’t want to tell me, but I had a few that did tell me. So, I had to wait, and if I missed that girl who did tell me, I was in big trouble. So, I walked around to the school very early so as to not miss the girl who would tell me. There were some who were rude and didn’t want to tell me. They were jealous because we didn’t go to school on Saturday.
PRINCE: They didn’t want to help you.
PRINCE: This girl would help you. Were there others that helped other Jewish girls?
GUTTERMAN: With the homework you mean?
PRINCE: With telling you the assignments. In other words, were there certain girls who helped?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, there were a few, but there were quite a few who didn’t. By the way, we wore uniforms in the school I attended. You didn’t wear your own clothes. We had a navy blue or black satiny finish garment with a little white collar. It was belted and long sleeved, button-down.
PRINCE: Did you buy those or did your mother make them?
GUTTERMAN: My mother made them. The ones you bought were more expensive, so my mother took somebody’s and copied it. She made it and it came out cheaper. She was so excellent in making it that people could buy it. It kind of looked cute because everybody was wearing the same.
PRINCE: What kind of socks did you wear? What color?
GUTTERMAN: We had to wear either white socks or black socks, but everybody used to wear white socks because they matched the little white collar.
PRINCE: Did you mind going to that school?
GUTTERMAN: Well, that was the only school. I also used to go a few times a week to a Jewish tutor and I learned how to read Hebrew. It was called Bais Yaakov.
PRINCE: No Jewish school?
GUTTERMAN: No Jewish school, no. I don’t know if they were not allowed. I didn’t understand if they didn’t have enough money to have one. So I went to a tutor. We called him like a rabbi and he taught me. I still write in Jewish very well. I know how to spell and I learned to read Hebrew because my parents wanted me to.
PRINCE: Was there a cheder, a boys’ school?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, there were a lot of boys’ cheders where they went and learned every day. Some of them didn’t even attend public school. The really religious didn’t go. My parents wanted me to have a really good education and learn about other subjects like history, geography and everything.
PRINCE: What kind of education did your parents have? If you were having trouble in math, you went to a friend. Could you have gone to them when they were home? Could they have helped you?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, they could help me. My father was very educated. He spoke several languages. He even understood everything he read in Hebrew, every word of it. But the advanced math they taught – I think my father was good in math too and also my mother – but some of the very advanced math they couldn’t help me with. But, like the regular math they could.
PRINCE: That’s true in this country too sometimes. (LAUGHTER BY BOTH) You started to say that there was no cafeteria.
GUTTERMAN: We had to bring our own lunch. There was no cafeteria in our school.
PRINCE: But you would have probably brought your own lunch anyhow?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, I probably would have because we kept kosher. But we always had to bring our lunch and our school wasn’t very close, I want to tell you. There were no buses picking us up either. We walked about eight or 10 blocks to school, so we had to leave very early. Our school started at eight-thirty in the morning. So we had to get up very early and get going.
PRINCE: Who woke you up in the morning?
GUTTERMAN: I had to wake up myself really, although my mother usually got up early in the morning. She wanted us to eat breakfast. But most of the time I woke up and it wasn’t like teenagers nowadays or young children. They stay up late and watch television. We had to go to bed on time. We didn’t have that much freedom, although we felt free because we didn’t know any better. We thought everybody was supposed to do what they are supposed to do. But nowadays children know more.
PRINCE: It was normal for you.
GUTTERMAN: For me it was normal. I didn’t really have any complaint. I was happy with the life I had because I didn’t know any better.
PRINCE: Toby, you went to school, you came home at one o’clock, you ate your lunch at school, and you had a couple of hours of homework?
PRINCE: So then it’s three or four in the afternoon and then what did you do?
GUTTERMAN: Well, then I went out. We didn’t have a lot of toys then. We played hopscotch or hide-and-seek or something like that. Sometimes we went to visit a friend and even then we read a book. You know, I got so used to reading books, even when I was older. I used to put a book under my pillow. When everybody was asleep, I enjoyed reading because I was so used to it. From little on, I was told, “Oh, read. It’s so much fun.” So, when everybody was sleeping, in order not to awaken them, I laid in bed and read a book. I read so much even in my young life…

Tape 1 - Side 2

PRINCE: You were talking about reading. What did you like to read?
GUTTERMAN: I read all kinds of novels, biographies and educational books. I just got myself lost in it when I was reading. I just lived like – I felt like I was living in a different world, just living through this book. And I could visualize it when I was reading.
PRINCE: Did it make you want to be certain things when you grew up? Was there any particular hero?
GUTTERMAN: A lot of times the people in the book, I wished I had been. I was a big dreamer. I dreamed what I read and I dreamed that one day I would be in a different land. When I read, I was living through what I was reading and I enjoyed it a lot. That’s why I was very good in Polish. When it came to reading something before the class or before parents when they came, like the P.T.A., I was the one chosen to read because I spoke such good Polish. Now I don’t because I don’t have anyone to speak with, and so I probably have forgotten a lot of my expressions. But once someone starts talking to me in Polish, it comes right back to me.
PRINCE: You said you were chosen to read. Did that create a problem for you since you were a Jewish girl?
GUTTERMAN: I think the reason they picked me was because they couldn’t find anyone better. I’m not kidding because they didn’t pick Jewish girls for too many things. But there was this one teacher who thought I was so good, and I guess she wanted to show off or something, and that’s why. But otherwise she wouldn’t. Let me tell you, most Jewish girls – I don’t know any Jewish girl who failed when I went to school – and a lot of Christian girls did fail. They were very jealous. When it came to questions and answers, we raised our hands first, maybe because we felt that we were a minority and we had to maybe be better or something would happen to us if we weren’t. Of course, it was also stressed so much at home, it was so important that we were told everyday that we had to excel.
PRINCE: Did your teachers show any anti-Semitism in other ways?
GUTTERMAN: There were a few but…
PRINCE: They didn’t show it here if they allowed you to be picked, but were there other ways?
GUTTERMAN: I was surprised they picked me once to be in a play. I was very good in memorizing things.
PRINCE: Were they fair, is what I was trying to ask.
GUTTERMAN: In some instances they were fair. I think they enjoyed having good students who applied themselves and they could see. They couldn’t be different. I think every teacher takes pleasure in teaching students who apply themselves.
PRINCE: How was this explained to you, Toby? Was anti-Semitism such a way of life, or did your parents explain what it was all about or why you sat in a different row, why some girls wouldn’t tell you about the homework?
GUTTERMAN: Well, we knew that it was a way of life. Our parents knew, our family knew.
PRINCE: But did they explain why? Did you go home and question it ever?
GUTTERMAN: I did, but they didn’t give me too much explanation. They said, “Well, that’s the way the Polish people act. Just don’t do anything, don’t get into a fight.” I think now, when I think about it, they were afraid to tell me too much for fear that I might try to do something about it, because there were situations when one went into a neighborhood where there were no Jews, some of the people would throw rocks at you. As a matter of fact, one person was killed by a rock hitting his head. He died instantly. But that’s why maybe our parents were overprotective.
PRINCE: So, you lived in a Jewish neighborhood?
GUTTERMAN: Well, there were neighborhoods which were entirely Christian neighborhoods too – like on the outskirts of town. And we used to hear things from small little towns, smaller than ours. There were – they called them pogroms – they came to Jewish homes, the Polish citizens, and they got beaten up and robbed. We heard about these things, but that was the way of life in Poland. I guess nobody stood up but if they did, nothing would happen. I was too young to really understand all this. I knew I didn’t feel good about it but there were some Christian children who were my friends. Sometimes they would ask me about their homework, so I guess it worked two ways.
PRINCE: Would you use the word “friends”?
GUTTERMAN: Well, not friends – I could never go to their homes for some reason. They never asked me, let’s say.
PRINCE: Did you ask them to your home?
GUTTERMAN: I asked them but they never came.
PRINCE: Did you play with them?
GUTTERMAN: Sometimes, but not too much. But it wasn’t like they were true, true friends because there was that “air” between us.
PRINCE: Did you ever want to be like them?
GUTTERMAN: I don’t know. I wanted to be free like them, but I don’t think I wanted to be like them.
PRINCE: What does “free like them” mean?
GUTTERMAN: Well, nobody called them names They sat wherever they wanted to sit, with their friends. That’s what I meant. Other than that, no. I was raised to never talk back to my parents. You might get the impression that they were strict, but I never got hit, I had a lot of love, but for some reason I felt that I had to do what they told me to do.
PRINCE: You wanted to please them?
GUTTERMAN: Right. You see, my children are not raised this way although I raised them a good way, but they’re in a different country and different environment. And, like I said, I didn’t know any better. I was sheltered just in my little world and I thought that was the way one was supposed to live.
PRINCE: And your friends were that way?
GUTTERMAN: Right. So, I didn’t have any bad examples.
PRINCE: What were your mother’s and father’s names?
GUTTERMAN: My father’s name was Israel Broner and my mother’s name was Dvora Broner. That is the Jewish name. Dvora Hadassah, two names she had. And my father had a second name too. It was Lajbish. But, my mother’s name would have been now Dorothy or Debbie, but her Jewish name was Dvora Hudis, Hadassah, you know. And her maiden name was Cooperman. My father’s family came from near Lublin, a small town called Modlibozyce.
PRINCE: How did your parents meet, do you know?
GUTTERMAN: Would you believe this – I understand that my parents didn’t meet until somebody – a matchmaker – that’s what I heard from my father. I still have one aunt living and she told me that. My father was very tall and handsome. My mother’s parents had like a – years ago even before my mother was born, they had like a little farm, my grandparents. And they lived in a small village and they had a farm. They owned their own land then.
PRINCE: That was very unusual.
GUTTERMAN: Yes. And later on I don’t know what happened. I don’t know the details, but somebody, a matchmaker, thought my mother had more – you know, like those days a woman gave money for what they called a nadin. I don’t know what you call it in English – a dowry. My mother had a big dowry according to those times. They saw each other and liked each other and they got married. So, that’s what I heard. My father was far away, they didn’t live in the same area. In those days, girls especially, didn’t leave town for another place. They were very sheltered. But if they did leave, they were chaperoned.
PRINCE: We talked about your father’s education. What was your mother’s?
GUTTERMAN: My mother went to a Polish school and had just high school, but my father had more. He went beyond high school. Where he was, he learned a lot about Hebrew, but also a lot outside of Hebrew. Evidently where he was, they had a school where other subjects were taught, so he had more education than my mother.
PRINCE: Before, when you were talking about your school, you used the term “P.T.A.” What was it then?
GUTTERMAN: In Polish it was called something like a parents’ meeting. But it didn’t say “teachers.” The teachers did not really cooperate with parents in those days. You could not go to one of them and complain. The teachers had every right to do what they wanted to do. They used to punish students. Now that would be an outrage, right? They had a big black ruler, a yardstick, and when you did something wrong, you had to stick out the palm of your hands and they’d hit you with the ruler. It was really hard, and no parents could complain. The teachers were so respected at that time, like gods. And parents would say, “If she did something to you, then you must have deserved it.”
PRINCE: That’s the way they trained you at home too.
GUTTERMAN: Yes. So they punished you. You had to stay in the corner for three hours or so.
PRINCE: Did that ever happen to you?
GUTTERMAN: I remember one time that I arrived late, I stayed in the corner, but not two hours – maybe 40 minutes or something like that.
PRINCE: Did you have chores, a job at home that you had to do?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, I had to help clean. Not as much as my oldest sister. I got away more because I was younger, but my oldest sister had more responsibility. But I had to help wash clothes because we didn’t have washing machines then.
PRINCE: How did you wash them?
GUTTERMAN: We washed them in a big tub in hot water and we used a scrub board lots of times. We had to boil the water, and I helped a lot with the clothes. And we didn’t have dryers either; we had to hang our clothes up to dry.
PRINCE: Describe your house to me.
GUTTERMAN: It wasn’t a big house. We lived in somebody else’s house. It wasn’t our own. We had one big room where we cooked. We even had someone sleeping there. It was a big room. Another room we had to put a lot of grain into after my father died. So a part of that room was just grain. Then another room was it. And that was considered very good.
PRINCE: How did you arrange the sleeping? Did everybody sleep in one room?
GUTTERMAN: No, not in one room. In the room where we cooked, there was a little fold-away bed where you could sleep. Then regular beds were in that big room where my mother and father slept, and my older sister and my younger sister. But that was considered good. There were families who lived in just one room, would you believe that? We used to have a separate place for the grain at the business. But when my father died, my mother couldn’t keep it up, so she used that one room for our business. She couldn’t do as much as when my father was alive, but she wanted to keep it up.
PRINCE: But she did keep it?
GUTTERMAN: Oh yes, we had to have some income. Those men I told you about helped in carrying the sacks and loading and everything. I remember we had a big scale in that room where they weighed the grain. You know, standards of living in Poland – I understand to this day – are not as good as in other countries.
PRINCE: So, for most of your older life, your father was not living?
GUTTERMAN: Well, he died in 1935 when I was nine years old.
PRINCE: That must have been a heavy blow for you.
GUTTERMAN: Right, it was. My oldest sister wrote a book about my father. She loved him so much. It was just like a biography but I don’t have it. I remember she was very good in writing things. But it was a blow to the whole family. My mother really kept us going. The way of living didn’t change when my father died. We had everything we needed, the same meals, the same clothes. You might look at us and consider us very, very rich. She sewed the prettiest clothes for us and we were very well dressed and she made us feel like life would go on in the same way. Although inside of me I felt bad, but I received so much love from the rest of the family – from my aunts and cousins and my uncles. Like I said, our place was an open place. Everybody used to come and my mother always had enough food for everyone.
PRINCE: How did you observe Shabbat?
GUTTERMAN: I didn’t go to school or anything and my father used to go to services.
PRINCE: Let’s start on Friday nights.
GUTTERMAN: My father went to services but my mother didn’t on Friday night. When he came home we had a nice, lovely meal on the table. My mother used to light candles every Friday night and before we ate we had to say prayers. I know prayers just like boys learn before Bar Mitzvahs. I knew prayers even by heart. Before the meals and after the meals, and after that we couldn’t do too much. You see, that’s why I read so much. There was nothing else to do. Then on the Sabbath my father went to services again. Sometimes my mother went too. He walked. He couldn’t ride, and when he came home we had another nice meal and then company came and everybody was visiting. I would just play with my cousins and I felt I was very fulfilled because again, that was the life I knew.
PRINCE: How did you get the food for Saturday fixed?
GUTTERMAN: We had a Christian lady come in and warm up our food. We could not even turn on the stove, so we had a regular lady who even came on Saturday to see if the heat was on and everything. And we paid her for it. We had her since I could remember because my mother and father didn’t do it.
PRINCE: Was it the same woman all the time?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, and she was very nice. A lot of people did it like that. I think the Polish people were jealous because they thought, “Well, the Jews have such a nice life. They can get somebody to do things for them.” So, that’s why I think they were jealous. It was our religion and, like I said, that’s the only life I had, the only life I knew.
PRINCE: It sounds like a very lovely life.
GUTTERMAN: For me it was because I never heard any screaming or fighting between my parents. There are really nice memories. The only thing was when they wanted to discuss things between them, they would say, “Could you do something else?” Sometimes they told me what to do, so I knew they wanted to talk about something. But other than that, I never saw any fighting or anything like that, and these are pleasant memories. My sister was very close to me, my older sister.
PRINCE: What was the age difference?
GUTTERMAN: Believe it or not, my sister was about five years older than me – maybe a little over five years. And my younger sister was about three or four years younger than me. I was in the middle. And then they lost two children, the first born and the last born, who were both boys.
PRINCE: You mentioned that you had some toys. What were they?
GUTTERMAN: Dolls. But we didn’t have too many other toys. I remember when we were little, we played with just anything, like pots and pans. Oh, we did have crayons and coloring books, and when we got a little bit older we had construction paper and glue and do different things. But as far as toys, we didn’t have too many.
PRINCE: Do you know if the quality of life, which you so lovingly describe about your own family, was the same in non-Jewish families? Were you ever close enough to a Christian girl to have observed that?
PRINCE: Were the physical parts of their homes similar?
GUTTERMAN: No, most Christian children had more things. For example, I would have given anything to have a bicycle. Bicycles were very expensive and I remember there used to be a place where if you gave a dime or 50 cents, you could ride a bicycle for an hour, you could borrow it.
PRINCE: Rent it?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, I rented it. I found out from my aunt now that I could have probably gotten all those things but my father was so generous and so was my mother. He used to lend money to people who needed it when he could have bettered his life instead. But he did that a lot of times. My mother used to say, “Why do that? We could get something for the children or some extra things.” And he would reply, “Well, they need it. They’ll pay me back.” Some of them paid back and some of them didn’t. But later on, when my father passed on, my mother used to do things like that. We weren’t very rich. By Polish standards we were like middle class, but still they used to help others. So that’s why I probably couldn’t get things I could have had if they hadn’t loaned money to others. There was a lot going on like that in Poland. If you had a little business and you were short in money, a friend would lend you money. And most of the time they didn’t have a contract other than a handshake or telling you they would pay back. Most people did too. And that’s how life was in Poland.
PRINCE: Tell me about birthdays.
GUTTERMAN: Well, we didn’t have candles and things. When a birthday came, my mother either made something for me or maybe bought something. Most of the time, she made something for me. And it was just family. We didn’t have big parties or anything.
PRINCE: Did you have a preference as to whether she bought you something or made something for you?
GUTTERMAN: Well, I’ll tell you the truth, she made things so pretty that I really – I loved pretty clothes, you know. And when I was younger I could have maybe have been more happy if I had toys or something, but when I was older, I enjoyed her making things for me.
PRINCE: What about holidays?
GUTTERMAN: I think my most favorite holiday was Passover and I’ll tell you why. We used to have separate dishes that were stored away all year long and they were so pretty. There were little wine glasses which, instead of having a stem, had a little handle. Now they are considered probably antiques, and they were so beautiful. They were different colors of crystal, like red or green, and I always used to love to help my mother unpack those things and wash them and put them out. We had to get other different things out and it was like living in a different house.
PRINCE: A fairyland?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, yes. I really enjoyed it. Although, you know what, the Gentile population used to spread rumors that the Jews were killing some Gentile person or child and using the blood to make matzos.
PRINCE: A ritual sacrifice?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, they would spread those rumors. You see, again, we were different from others. I think a lot had to do with the priests. You know, we were generations away from the time Christ was killed and they still…

Tape 2 - Side 1

GUTTERMAN: We were generations away from the time Christ was crucified and they still – the Polish priests – still were preaching about it and blaming the Jewish people. We just read that as history and that’s why I think, from childhood on, the Christian children were brought up to believe that we killed Jesus. I think that created a lot of hatred toward Jewish people and the other thing – that we were a little bit different – weren’t too close with them. All that really brought on a lot of anti-Semitism. That was the situation between the Jewish people and the Polish people. There were some Polish people who were friendly toward Jews, but not in the way a true friendship would be. I mean, they were friendly because maybe they were nicer, but it was not a true friendship like there would be with one another. That went on for hundreds of years in Poland. It was the same way when my great-grandparents had some land a long time before I was born. The reason I bring this up is that they could not exist because the other farmers were very jealous and they would not help. And they had to sell their land because there were so many situations, being between so many other people. I was told that they just could not exist without some help, which they were not offered by their neighbors. Again, this was because they were Jewish.
PRINCE: So they existed together because of economic…
GUTTERMAN: Yes. Well, a lot of farmers needed the Jewish people, like if somebody was in the grain business, they needed them, or to buy other goods. But I think that’s the only way they connected themselves to coexist. But I don’t think they really wanted to be close because that’s how they were brought up. And when you get used to it like that, you just see it that way and you just believe that’s the way it should be.
PRINCE: Toby, how were you brought up to think of the Poles, the non-Jews?
GUTTERMAN: In a way I was brought up not to really hate anyone. I can’t believe it, in those days. I was brought up so good that I just thought everybody was good, although I was hurt by some Christian children calling me names and throwing rocks. But I still thought it was a good world, you know. When you’re young, like I was, you live in a dream world. You just push aside bad things and just go on living.
PRINCE: Let’s talk about the synagogue.
GUTTERMAN: I recollect that for Passover or High Holidays we always went to services. During the year we didn’t go that much, but during the holidays. I’ll never forget it. I felt so grown up the first time I got a pair of silk stockings on the High Holidays and also a pair of new shoes. In Poland most people had their shoes made from scratch. You could buy them ready-made but there were shoemakers. You went and they took your size and I remember I had a pair of navy blue shoes with white trimming and the silk stockings and for the first time a little bitty heel, and I felt so grown up. That was right before the war.
PRINCE: How old were you?
GUTTERMAN: Well, right before the war I must have been 12. And my mother also made me an outfit. It was navy blue material with little white polka dots. And she made a pleated skirt and the polka dots were like folded in the middle, and it matched the navy blue shoes. And I felt really great because that was the first time I had all this, and I always wanted to wear my older sister’s clothes, but I couldn’t because I didn’t fit into them. (LAUGHTER) I really was so proud and it was a very happy day for me. People kept saying, “Oh my, you are so grown up.” I don’t know whether I was really pretty, but they kept on saying, “Oh, you’re really pretty, and you look so grown up.” And they kept complimenting me and I felt like my head was getting big. I always, when I was growing up, had very good skin. I never had pimples on my face, like “peaches and cream,” and I was really high on a pedestal when I was told this. By the way, I looked like my father. I wasn’t as tall. He was tall, but as far as looks, I resembled him. My mother was petite and real thin. She was short, she wasn’t tall. So, I recollect that when we went to shul for services – the synagogue. So I went with my mother.
PRINCE: Did you walk?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, we walked. It wasn’t too far. We walked and we really felt great. Like I said, the standard of living wasn’t as great as here in the United States. Even though we slept in folding beds and the living quarters weren’t big, I still felt like I was in a dream land, just like a regular young teenager.
PRINCE: In the synagogue, were the seats separated?
GUTTERMAN: Right. Where I went, the women were sitting separate from the men because in Poland 90 percent were orthodox.
PRINCE: What did teenagers do?
GUTTERMAN: Well, believe it or not, even though they were orthodox, a lot of teenagers went out with boys. I didn’t yet, but my oldest sister did. Maybe they just took a walk or something. There were no places to hang out or anything like that. And most of the time parents chaperoned children if they went out, you see. So it wasn’t an open society like it is here at all. And most of the people who got married met through somebody. Like somebody told somebody. They didn’t get any money for it, some of them, but I heard that some matchmakers worked for that, but not where I was. I remember my cousin from Warsaw who had family in a town close to us, and she went one time to visit her aunt. She was not that religious, although her parents were leaning toward, maybe, conservative. And they got together a bunch of young girls and guys to have ice cream or something. I think it was in somebody’s house, and this one guy was really taken by her. She was a beauty. And she didn’t care for him. And they were drinking a glass of wine and he took a ring out of his pocket and put it on her finger and started saying the prayers you say when you get married, and everybody was laughing and thought it was a big joke. Do you know, after her parents found out, she had to go to a rabbi and get a divorce, even though it was done in a joke. And she never was with this guy or anything, it was just a joke. And, oh, they were furious that she let him do that even in a joke, and it was something, I tell you. I remember how she was scolded and it was a big thing. I’ll never forget that. She was older than me. That was part of living in Poland, you know.
PRINCE: I hate to leave all the good things, but after leading such a wonderful, caring, loving life, as you described it, what was the first thing? Was it over the radio or newspaper or an overt act in your town that made you as a child or your mother aware that there was something not good happening as far as the world?
GUTTERMAN: When it came close to the war, we started hearing things about unrest in Germany and we heard about Hitler. And the Polish people were concerned a lot too, not only the Jewish people.
PRINCE: Had you heard about Hitler all during the 1930s or just…
GUTTERMAN: I didn’t really hear about it until a little while before the war started. Maybe I don’t recollect.
PRINCE: You were a child.
PRINCE: I’m asking you as a child, not for the Polish people, were getting your story. So you, yourself, did not hear?
GUTTERMAN: No. And I just didn’t understand the seriousness. I never dreamed, as young as I was, I never dreamed a war could happen. I remember my father telling us that he was in the First World War, and I remember my mother talking about it. But I just did not believe that I would live through a war, and what else happened – we didn’t have any warning until about a few months before the war started. The reason I knew it was a warning was because they started – I don’t know who drummed up all that excitement – they started asking young teenagers to look at the sky to see if there were other than Polish planes up there.
PRINCE: The government?
PRINCE: Did they ask Jewish children too?
GUTTERMAN: I didn’t do it, but I think the Polish children were doing this, and they also told people to paint fences. If you had a white picket fence, you had to paint it green so it would blend into the landscape. I understand that a lot of German people lived in Poland because at one time a part of Poland was close to Germany. So, what they said was to watch this, and they spied for Germany. And I think they took up all the – so people would be busy with some other things, like they were attacking or something. But what could young people do while looking at the sky? What could they do about it anyway? When I think back, it was really foolish. But that’s the first inkling we had about war coming on. Something was going to happen! But, I’ll tell you, I went to school until they started bombing. It was a surprise attack on Poland. When the bombing started, I was at a friend’s house, not far from where I lived, doing homework.
PRINCE: Was it in the afternoon?
GUTTERMAN: It was in the afternoon and my friend was the oldest in her family and she had a little baby brother. When the noise of explosions started, we ran out to see what was happening. And her mother was holding her baby brother, and part of a bomb hit her mother, but not her little brother. Her mother dropped dead to the ground and her little brother was just crawling. When I saw that, I thought I was fainting, because I didn’t understand all that. So my first thought was to run home. And as I went back to her home and we were on the porch, a big post almost hit me. The porch was falling apart, and I ran home and when I arrived, my mother and two sisters were there. My mother was trying to grab some food and a couple blankets, and a little bit of jewelry, I think. Then she said, “We have to leave because it looks like the bombs are really coming down. We have to go somewhere to a safer place.” And so we were running toward the woods on the outskirts of our town. We had to often fall to the ground to avoid being hit, and it was frightful. I was shaking, I was crying, I was hysterical. I didn’t know what was happening, and I said, “Oh, my gosh, we are going to get killed!” My youngest sister was crying and my mother was so upset, and finally when we reached the forest, there were some other people and we were all huddled under the trees and were sitting and praying that we would survive. Over our heads there were Polish and German planes fighting in the air and there was so much noise. I was just so frightened, I was saying, “Dear God, please let us live.” Maybe that’s why I’m still alive.
PRINCE: Because why?
GUTTERMAN: Because I was just praying. I wanted to live so much. I thought I was going to get killed right then and there.
PRINCE: You feel your prayers helped?
GUTTERMAN: I think so, yes. And my will – I was praying so hard. I was just sitting and kept on repeating, “Please let us live, please, dear God, let us live!” And it went on all night. And it didn’t take long in the morning when the Germans took over our town. That’s when our troubles really started. First of all, they told us to hold our hands high up over our heads.
PRINCE: When they took over, did they come in with tanks? Did they come in marching?
GUTTERMAN: A lot of them dropped from planes.
PRINCE: Paratroopers?
GUTTERMAN: Yes. But they came also with tanks and a lot of trucks. There were a lot of them marching, hundreds of them. First when we came into town…
PRINCE: You got out of the woods on your own?
GUTTERMAN: No, with everybody who was there.
PRINCE: They didn’t come into the woods to get you?
GUTTERMAN: They did. They told us to put our hands up high and we couldn’t even carry the things we’d brought with us because they were afraid, I think, that some might have weapons or something. They made sure nobody could give them problems. Now, what could a young girl like me or my mother do to them? But they did it to the men, so they did it to everybody.
PRINCE: Were they ugly acting or were they just firm?
GUTTERMAN: At first they were firm, because I think they didn’t know who they were dealing with. There were a lot of men there too, hiding in the woods. So they said, “Out of the forest, hands up, go back to town.” They didn’t want anyone hiding in the forest. Maybe they’d heard of the people underground or something. So maybe that’s why they were afraid. But, anyway, we went back to town and then they let us loose. But when we went to the place where we were living, everything was burned down to ashes; the whole house was burned down to the ground. So, we were standing there, not knowing where to turn. There were dead people everywhere. The stores were burned down. There was chaos. If some stores still were standing, there was looting, and we found out from somebody that my aunt’s apartment was still up, so we decided to go to her apartment. She was living near a main street.
PRINCE: When your town was bombed, everyone ran, so you were among Gentiles also?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, everybody ran. I found out later that the reason they bombed our town was that there was no industry in our small town. But right before the war, the Polish people made an image of Hitler and burned it.
PRINCE: In your town?
GUTTERMAN: Yes. They knew that, and I think they got angry or something and then bombed our town. There weren’t any factories or important industries that they needed to bomb.
PRINCE: They wanted to be sure to show you all that they meant business.
GUTTERMAN: Right. So my aunt’s apartment was close to the main street and there were convoys and convoys, marching soldiers numbering in the thousands. They were marching into different areas. When we came there, I couldn’t believe it. There were other relatives there whose homes had burned down. So there were about 20 people in one little apartment and – don’t ask – everybody slept on the floor and wherever they could find a place. What happened that was so frightful was the soldiers, when they stopped some place for a meal or something, they came into the houses and they took out especially young, pretty girls, and they raped and then shot them. Not one of them remained alive. Although they hated Jews, they didn’t want anyone to survive to tell what they did, that they went to Jewish girls. So, when this was happening, someone came into this building, and my mother took my older sister and told her to go under the bed. She was already a young lady. She sat me on a little stool, took a towel – I’ll never forget this – wrapped it around my face like I had a toothache or something, so they couldn’t see my face. I was little and my younger sister was littler and they wouldn’t take her, but they did take one of my cousins who was already married and expecting a baby, but her pregnancy was not apparent yet. They took her and we never saw her again. She was raped and killed. So that’s what happened, and they didn’t take anyone else.
PRINCE: This was in the first 24 hours?
PRINCE: You must have been traumatized.
GUTTERMAN: I was so naïve. I didn’t understand what was going on, but my mother knew and she was so scared because I looked older than I really was. She was afraid they would take me. And she made sure my older sister was hidden under the bed. They didn’t look under the bed, they just came in and picked one and left. No one could do anything because they pointed rifles at us.
PRINCE: At that time you didn’t really know what they were taking them out for.
GUTTERMAN: No. Later on, we found out what was happening, and they did that to a lot of Jewish girls. That was my first traumatic experience.
PRINCE: But your mother knew enough to hide you. How did she know that?
GUTTERMAN: She maybe didn’t know exactly what would happen, but before they had taken out men for work or something, and they didn’t want to leave them alive, so they just shot them.
PRINCE: So this was like the second or third day, so news had gotten around.
GUTTERMAN: Right, and I don’t think we knew then what they were taking people for, but we knew it was something bad. See, my mother knew enough to know it was something bad and she didn’t want anything bad to happen. It was enough, what was already happening. I really don’t know whether that experience didn’t do something to my mind, because I was really scared, truly. I didn’t understand most of it. I visualize now when kids get kidnapped and lost nowadays, I can imagine how they feel when they get grabbed and can’t see their families anymore. They must be so scared.
PRINCE: You mean the children who are missing persons?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, I can imagine what they go through. Well, the first traumatic experience was when I saw my friend’s mother get killed. For about four or five nights, I couldn’t sleep or eat. I was just so scared. First of all, I was scared it would happen to my mother or to someone close to me, or to my sister or myself. I was so frightened out of my mind and that’s why I was just sitting there and praying like that. We couldn’t stay at my aunt’s apartment for long because it was so crowded; it was unbelievable. She had small children too and it was just too much. So we started looking around to find a place to stay. On the outskirts of town, we found this man who was a small farmer in a Polish family. And I guess they wanted some money and we still had a little money because my mother had taken it with her when we ran to the forest, and she had it on herself because we had to throw away all the other things we were carrying. So, he let us stay in a really large room and we stayed there…
PRINCE: Was this someone you had known?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, my parents knew him. So they let us stay and we paid them for it, and for a while it was nice because in the city there were a lot of people who were taken out at night. They didn’t come so often to the outskirts of the town. I remember some relatives and friends who used to come and stay overnight in order to avoid being taken away at night. So, in a way, it was lucky for us. But that didn’t last long because after they started forming a ghetto, our luck ran out because we had to leave that place. They put a sign up making it off limits at the farmer’s house, so we had to go back to the area where the ghetto was.
PRINCE: That was for Jews.
PRINCE: And how did you find out about that?
GUTTERMAN: There was an announcement.
PRINCE: How did they announce it?
GUTTERMAN: They announced it through loud speakers and they drove around everywhere.

Tape 2 - Side 2

GUTTERMAN: All Jews were supposed to congregate in one area of our town and anyone who lived on the outskirts of town, beyond that “off limits” sign had to leave, so we had to leave.
PRINCE: Did they announce it in different languages? Polish? Yiddish?
GUTTERMAN: Polish and German, not Yiddish. They didn’t ask any Jews to do anything at first. Later on they did, but not at first. The only thing they did was take people to work. Later on they formed a committee to sort of convey what things they wanted us to do through this committee. They told us, the Jewish committee, or whatever they called them.
PRINCE: Did they call them by a name that you can remember?
GUTTERMAN: Well, remember them calling it like a Jewish Committee. It was called in German, Gemiende. It was just like a little city hall or something. And they were supposed to be in charge. Whenever orders came out, they were supposed to be responsible for informing all the Jews, and if they didn’t, they were killed or something was done to them.
PRINCE: There is a name: Judenrat, but I don’t know if that…
GUTTERMAN: Maybe that was in German. I don’t remember that. But anyway, we had to come to the designated section of town and that area was just for Jews. Again, we didn’t have anywhere to go. So, finally we found another place, also because all the Jewish homes were at that time taken over by the Polish. So even if somebody had a house – I don’t know – maybe they got killed or they weren’t there – I don’t know what happened – the Poles took over. So we went into this house and we asked if they could give us at least one room to stay in. So, he let us in.
PRINCE: A Jewish man?
GUTTERMAN: No, he was not. It was again a Polish man. They took away the Jews’ homes.
PRINCE: But this was inside the ghetto, the designated area.
GUTTERMAN: Yes, but the home belonged to a Polish man. He let the Jews live there and we had to pay him for it. He did not live there but that home was a Polish home.
PRINCE: He owned it but he didn’t live there?
GUTTERMAN: It used to be Jewish, but it was his then. You see what they did? They took Jewish homes, some Polish too, and they got out and they gave them better homes where Jews were too, in the sections where we couldn’t go. But the home we went to, which used to be a Jewish home, then before they made the ghetto it was a Polish home. Then they gave him a better home but it was still his, and we had to give him money for it. But he wanted more money so we couldn’t have the whole thing. He rented, room by room, to different people. So do you know how much money he got in because that’s what was happening. By that time we had a little place where we used to have our grain things, so my mother used to still get to that for the first few weeks. After that we couldn’t. And she would bake some bread and share it with the neighbors, also Jews who were in this dwelling. But this went on for just a few weeks. After that, we couldn’t get to the place where we could get the flour. That’s when the trouble really started because we were out of money, we were out of food, we were hungry. That’s when we took our lives in our own hands.
By the way, we had to wear white armbands as soon as the ghetto was formed, with the blue Star of David. They did that in order to recognize us as Jews. And you would be killed if you didn’t wear your armband. So, you couldn’t get out of your designated area, behind that “off limits” thing. So my sister and I took off our armbands and, like I said, we took our lives in our hands because if we had been caught, we would have been killed in front of everybody as a warning. We took side streets and went to the villages where the farmers were and we only went to farmers whom we knew.
By the way, before we went, we knew a family that was in the dry goods business before they took it away. They had salvaged some yard goods and took it with them, and they had it in the ghetto. So, they gave us some yard goods and we wrapped it around ourselves. We couldn’t carry it because somebody might take it away from us. There was a lot of looting. And when we came to the farmers, we gave them the yard goods in exchange for some food which we shared with the people who had given us the yard goods. So there was some food for us, and that’s why we did it.
By walking there – we were scared to death – I remember we walked by cemeteries and side roads because the main roads had big military trucks going and we were afraid that if they saw two kids walking, they would know something was fishy. And sometimes we hid in cornfields until they passed us by because we were so scared. And that went on for a long time. I remember we had a big basket and we took a towel and put it on the handle of the basket and carried it on our shoulders. My back was hurting all the time from the weight we carried. They would give us eggs, butter, bread, things like that. I remember I didn’t have any shoes and when it was cold and snowing, I put on a pair of low rubber boots which were so big on me. Without any shoes in them, my feet were going back and forth, and we were so cold. I really think that’s why I have bad feet (LAUGHTER) since then, because I didn’t have the proper shoes to walk in. But my sister was lucky. She still had a pair of boots, regular leather boots, but I couldn’t fit into them. So we went back and forth for quite a while to the farmers to exchange yard goods for food. That’s how we existed and shared with the others. There was a lot going on at that time too. They used to come to the ghetto and get people out.
PRINCE: By this time were they more than firm?
GUTTERMAN: Oh yes. They were beating people and they came in the middle of the night and took men out of the house. It was evident that they had a really good plan. First of all, they were trying to separate families, so people would be so upset with the separation that they couldn’t concentrate on doing something about the situation. They had it well planned to eliminate and to dehumanize people. I think they planned to do this in the ghetto.
PRINCE: They diverted their ability to think.
GUTTERMAN: Right. People were hungry, thirsty, cold, separated from their families, and especially the young population, the men and young women who would probably do something, were just tortured sometimes, taken away in the middle of the night and beaten. This was done after they did the work the Germans wanted them to do, like getting rid of the rubble, the rocks and the bricks from the bombardment. All the Jewish people had to do the cleaning up. They used them to their advantage.
PRINCE: Instead of being able to strike back at them, they confused and –
GUTTERMAN: – humiliated people…
PRINCE: So they could only be concerned with the basics of life?
GUTTERMAN: Right. A person’s only concern was to survive and to have something to eat. They degraded people so badly.
PRINCE: How did they do that?
GUTTERMAN: Well, they took out really religious people, whoever had a beard or something, they literally either pulled the beard off or cut it off. It was very painful. They would beat them, especially the very religious rabbis. And they took out all the books from the synagogues, all the Torahs, all the bibles and prayer books, and they made a big party out of it. Everybody had to come and watch this. No one could do anything about it. They put fire to these books.
PRINCE: Did somebody try to do something?
GUTTERMAN: I remember one man who must have been very religious who tried to grab a Torah before they threw it in the fire. A few soldiers grabbed him, beat him with their rifles and threw him in the fire. Then they said, “This is a warning. If anybody else tries to interfere with what we’re doing, it’s going to end up the same way.” And everybody had to watch it. I was so bewildered; I just couldn’t stand what they were doing. I stood with clenched fists and I couldn’t do anything about it (CRYING) and the rest of my family felt the same way. It was then we knew that if we were going to do something like that, it would not serve any purpose because they were standing right there and pointing guns at us. So what’s the use? If you wanted to live – I guess that’s why people who survived did survive because there was no way to do anything about it, but just to go through that.
Sometimes I felt I was living in hell – fire burning, people getting beaten, books being thrown into the fire. I couldn’t sleep for nights and nights and nights and my mother was so worried about me. My older sister understood more. My younger sister too had so much grief just to calm us down because we were so scared. And at night we held on to each other as we went to sleep. We were close together and holding on to one another so no one should come and separate us. Even to this day, I’m still frightened if someone is ill in the family. I’m frightened that they are going to die or something. Thank God, that’s my only hang-up from the war remaining. And I’m also afraid when I go somewhere that I’ll get lost because when I was taken away from my family, I felt like I was lost. I didn’t know anybody. That got stuck in my mind, so if I don’t know the area where I’m going, I’m afraid to go to it without anyone coming with me and I have to make sure that I know where I’m going. I think that’s the only hang-up I still have because of the fright I went through during the war. And I’ll tell you, it was very traumatic. I think God was with me that my mind and my whole life is the way it is, that I have a healthy mind still. It’s indescribable how frightening it was – all the things happening around us then. Day and night – there was no let up. We heard drunken soldiers at night, just firing their guns into the air around us and it seemed so close that we felt any minute they might come and get us, and then we didn’t know what was going to happen. We were always wondering what was going to happen to us. Some people took their lives.
PRINCE: How did they do it?
GUTTERMAN: There was a big river and one young man went and drowned himself. He couldn’t stand it. All his family had been killed in the bombing and there was no one there to keep him going. I had a mother that was so great in calming us down and reassuring us that everything would be all right. But he didn’t have anyone – I think he was about 16 years old then and it was very tragic.
PRINCE: Who lived in the house besides you and your family?
GUTTERMAN: We just had one big room, my mother, my two sisters and me.
PRINCE: Were there any other Jewish people in other rooms in the house?
GUTTERMAN: Yes. The people who gave us the dry goods were there. In another room was another family.
PRINCE: Were you all helpful to each other?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, we shared our food.
PRINCE: Did you share the fear?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, we shared the fear. I remember that it got so bad that we didn’t even know the day or date. We didn’t have a calendar or a radio. We were so much in the dark. We didn’t know what was going on. Everything was just instinct, feelings, fear for what would happen. We just went by our instincts. We were like animals when they try to survive. I think that’s what we became because our fear was what they were going to do. We looked around to see what was happening, looked outdoors to see what was going on, and that’s how we lived.
PRINCE: Like an animal in the woods…
GUTTERMAN: Right, trying to survive the other animal who would come to eat us. Yes, that’s the basic feeling we had, and I think that’s what they were planning to do to people.
PRINCE: It didn’t take them long to accomplish that either.
PRINCE: It was September 1, 1939 when the bombs started falling?
GUTTERMAN: Right, right. They took over Poland so fast that it was unbelievable. I think that’s the first country they attacked.
PRINCE: And they were working on the Warsaw ghetto?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, yes. And we didn’t know then the Warsaw ghetto was what they were doing. Again, we didn’t have any news.
PRINCE: You had no idea that this was happening all over Poland?
GUTTERMAN: No. We had a lot of family there in the Warsaw ghetto. My mother’s sister and her family and my grandmother was there.
PRINCE: Did you cry a lot, Toby?
GUTTERMAN: I did. I really cried a lot. Now, I don’t remember about my grandmother. Come to think of it, I think my grandmother – let me see – my emotions are so high – I think my grandmother was still where I was. I have to think about that. I don’t remember.
PRINCE: It will come back.
GUTTERMAN: But when she was gone, I don’t remember. I know that my aunts and uncles and cousins were there in the Warsaw ghetto because they lived in Warsaw.
PRINCE: What about the family you had here in this ghetto? Did you find them?
GUTTERMAN: I found the ones who were alive, yes.
PRINCE: You mean after the initial gathering?
GUTTERMAN: After that it was so bad, we couldn’t even go and see each other because we weren’t safe going from one place to another even inside the ghetto.
PRINCE: Did that begin to stop you from getting food?
GUTTERMAN: No, we still went, but we removed our armbands. We hid the armbands as soon as we reached the “off limits” area. We had to wear them inside.
PRINCE: Where did you hide them?
GUTTERMAN: I hid it in my socks. I was afraid to throw it away because if somebody found it, there would be a track and they would be looking for somebody. Thank God no one ever approached us walking the side streets. It was lucky because they would have found it on me.
PRINCE: The area that you lived in, was that what they called the “General Government?”
So, you had a blue and white armband, as opposed to the yellow star.
GUTTERMAN: Where I was, they didn’t have the yellow star. They had just a white armband and a blue Star of David. We could still wear our clothes. They didn’t take away the clothes we wore from what we salvaged – we didn’t have much.
PRINCE: What did people say to each other, Toby?
GUTTERMAN: We sat and talked until late at night, “What do you think is going to happen?” Everyone was contemplating that. One thought this and another that – different things. We knew that things were bad but I don’t think anyone dreamed at that time about concentration camps. We didn’t know about them. So no one talked about that because no one dreamed that something like that would happen. We had no idea, but we knew one thing – that nothing good was going to happen. But we didn’t know they were going to go that far because we didn’t dream it could and nobody knew that. We became very close with other people who weren’t in our family and that was nice in a way because we could all be supportive of one another and share. Now, later on we weren’t that lucky. It got so bad that some people stole from each other. In some sections of the ghetto I understand there were people stealing from one another – Jews from Jews. Like I said, if you wanted to survive, you became like an animal. The nicest people became animals, just in order to survive. It was like animal instinct.
PRINCE: It’s difficult to see your children starving.
GUTTERMAN: Right. Can you imagine how my mother felt? Unbelievable, you know. I remember that she sometimes didn’t want to eat and she wanted to save bread, but we didn’t let her. She was so very thin anyway; she was always thin. My older sister said, “Mother, we’re not going to eat if you don’t eat.” So, she’d take something. It was bad. From day to day, to live in fear, wondering what was going to happen to you, and seeing all the brutality and the killing. Every day, we’d hear people working with the cleanup of the debris from the bombing, “This one got shot. This one got hit with a brick and killed, and so and so happened to this one…”
PRINCE: Did people try and bury people?
GUTTERMAN: Well, let me tell you. They let people bury people but you couldn’t have a regular funeral. They even messed up the cemetery, the graves. They were so mean and so destructive that they were also animals. Maybe in starting to do bad things, they themselves became animals. They just didn’t care.
PRINCE: How could you leave the ghetto? How did you manage that?
GUTTERMAN: You mean to get the food?
GUTTERMAN: My heart went, “Bang, bang, bang.” I was shaking inside of me. It was like when one is cold and shivering. My shivering wasn’t from the cold; it was from being frightened.
PRINCE: How did they differentiate the ghetto? Did they have barbed wire?
GUTTERMAN: No, they didn’t have barbed wire. There were big signs like a border thing and they were erected on poles and read, “Off Limits For Jews.” The only thing was, they didn’t stand guard there all the time, so that’s how we could sneak out and mingle among the Polish people. Because once you removed your armband, they couldn’t tell if you were Jewish or Polish. And we spoke a good Polish too.
PRINCE: So you just really walked out of the ghetto?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, we walked out when there was no one on guard. Sometimes there were soldiers standing there, but they didn’t have a special watch. But there were some people who got shot for being near the off limits area before they took off their armbands. They were just near it and maybe they wanted to go out, and the Germans took it for granted that they were sneaking out and killed them. So, in a way, I was lucky with my sister that no one ever saw us.
PRINCE: Approximately how many trips do you think you made?
GUTTERMAN: Oh, my goodness – we made at least – at first we went once every two weeks, and later on when things got worse, we went once in three weeks.
PRINCE: So you were using less food then?
GUTTERMAN: Right. We had to really watch ourselves as to how much we were eating, and spread it out so we wouldn’t be stuck without food.
PRINCE: Did you know that this was happening only to the Jews?
GUTTERMAN: Yes we knew because the Polish were moving around freely and most of the businesses and some of the stores were in the Polish section, and we couldn’t go there. There were bakeries but we couldn’t go there to get any bread.
PRINCE: Where did you go, Toby?
GUTTERMAN: I went to the farmers.
PRINCE: What kind of reception did they give you?
GUTTERMAN: Some of them were nice. They knew my family for a long time and we used to do them favors like when they sold some grain and they needed a little extra money, we knew they were honest and were going to pay us back. I think my parents did give them a little extra money to apply to the next load they would bring, and then we paid them less the next time because we deducted what they owed us. And they knew that.

Tape 3 - Side 1

GUTTERMAN: My parents were very well liked because they were nice to the farmers too when they did business with them. So, they were pretty good. That’s the only time the Poles were nice to me. They could have refused to give it to us but there was a shortage of material and things which they wanted. So they were very glad to get what we brought; they really needed it. They also made their own clothes and they didn’t come to the villages anymore like they used to come to the city. They didn’t want to come. A lot of stores were burned down, so there was a shortage. Actually, you might say that, “One hand washed the other,” so that’s maybe why they did it. But we didn’t go to farmers that we didn’t know.
PRINCE: Did anyone ever turn you down?
PRINCE: Did they express any feelings?
GUTTERMAN: Yes. They asked us what was happening. They wanted to know and they were curious. They didn’t know much either because even with radios, the truth wasn’t broadcast. They were very much down, even the Poles, by the fact that their country was taken over. They were upset. So, I was lucky that they were nice enough to help us with food. They gave us as much as we could carry.
PRINCE: And you said that was the only time the Poles were nice?
GUTTERMAN: Really, yes. Oh, I understand some other people had good experiences with some Polish citizens. They saved some children during the war. My husband’s cousin was saved by a Polish family. She was about two or three years old when the war broke out and she’s now in Israel. I understand that some convents took a lot of Jewish children. Someone told me after the war that they had some relatives there. Of course, the children were small and they raised them as Catholics. When the war was over, some of these children didn’t want to return to their parents because they didn’t know them as parents, and some of them who wanted to go back weren’t allowed to return. I understand that one family had to kind of steal the child away from them and then explain to the child that when he was small, that it was his family. He had to have a lot of counseling too because it was a trauma for the children too. Did you know that a lot of Jewish people walk around in Poland now, not knowing that they were Jewish because they were raised to be Christian.
PRINCE: Toby, did you ever run into any children who were friends of yours when you were trying to get food? Did you ever run into any non-Jewish children whom you had known when you were in school?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, I did. I saw them, but I don’t know if they saw me. I was afraid for them to see me because I was afraid they might tell on me. So we had to watch out for them too. My sister and I had to be very careful for Germans not to see us, and also for the Polish people who knew us not to see us. That was very, very important to us. We once saw a girl that I went to school with and I kind of got away very fast into a crowd so that girl wouldn’t see me.
PRINCE: It must have taken a lot for your mother to let you and your sister go.
GUTTERMAN: She insisted that she wanted to go, but we didn’t want to let her go because we were younger and blended in better with other Poles. When we were younger, they couldn’t tell the difference as to whether we were Jewish or not. We tried to look nice. We did our hair nice and everything so that we wouldn’t be conspicuous. We were clean. That’s how we got away.
PRINCE: How did you feel when you would come back each time?
GUTTERMAN: We felt exhausted. I think the distance we walked was 14 kilometers each way.
PRINCE: How many miles?
GUTTERMAN: One kilometer is more than a mile, I think.
PRINCE: So maybe you walked 20 miles or more.
GUTTERMAN: I have to look that up, how many miles make a kilometer. And we had to carry heavy loads on our shoulders in the winter too, in the snow. It was really hard. I had sores on my legs from my shoes rubbing. There were blisters, and I had to recuperate after I came home.
PRINCE: I asked how you felt when you got home. You felt tired?
GUTTERMAN: I felt very tired, but I felt good inside. You know why? Because I knew people there who needed that food, including myself, or we would have gone around hungry. So even though I felt exhausted, I felt good because we had food.
PRINCE: Were you the only ones from your house going out to get food?
PRINCE: Where did these people continue to get the materials?
GUTTERMAN: They had quite a bit stashed away. We didn’t take a lot with us. I don’t remember how they stored it, but they had it.
PRINCE: How long did this life you are describing to me go on?
GUTTERMAN: It continued until 1942 when they started to deport people to concentration camps. (TAPE STOPS)
PRINCE: This is July 20th. Toby Gutterman and “Sister” Prince are beginning the next interview.
Let’s begin where we left off, which is when you mentioned the beginning of the deportations. What was the beginning and how did they start?
GUTTERMAN: What happened was they had always come at night before, but now they came every day into our dwellings and took men especially. They took them out of their homes and the families did not know where they were taken. There were really bad problems because everybody was worried and didn’t know if they would let them come back or whether they had special work for them to do, or would they put them some place or send them away so we’d never see them again. That happened to a lot of families, especially where there were men.
PRINCE: When they came, Toby, how did they act?
GUTTERMAN: Very, very mean. They dragged people out of their beds and hardly gave them time to throw on some clothes. If the people weren’t fast enough, they were beaten. So everybody was frightened to death when that happened. I knew a lot of people, not only family, where men were taken away at first. We were so much in the dark that we didn’t know what was happening. Later on it was clear what they were doing, but at first they didn’t tell us anything. It was devastating for many families to have members taken away. Everybody was bewildered and frightened. They didn’t know what the Germans would do to the person. That went on for quite a while and was psychologically very bad. People were terribly upset and even if they had food, they couldn’t eat because of the worry about what was happening.
As I look back now, it seems to me that they were trying to reduce us to nothing by dividing families and separating them, maybe to keep people from thinking or protesting or anything. People were so wound up with what was happening to their lives and their families they didn’t have any time to think of anything else. And our main problem was that we were in the dark. Without newspapers and news, it’s a dark world. It’s like turning off the lights. So that was our biggest problem.
That went on for a while until one day when there was an order out for everybody to congregate in one area. On top of everything else, they put some Jewish people in charge – I think they called it Gemiende in German. It’s sort of like they were Jewish policemen in the ghetto. These Jewish policemen had to do whatever the Germans told them to do, or they would be eliminated. So one day this order came out that everybody was to congregate in a specified area in the city. They did not say what this was for or the reason they were doing this. Now, my two sisters and I were told by our mother that she would go to see what was happening but we should stay in the house. She had some kind of feeling that something bad was happening.
PRINCE: How did they do this? Was it by loud speaker?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, they drove around all over and used loudspeakers to tell everyone to congregate in the specified area at a particular time. Everybody heard this. So, my mother went and we stayed in the house. A little while after, there was a bang on our door and they said we should go there too. At first, before they knocked on the door, one of us went out in the yard to see what was happening. We were all curious. And we saw two SS men coming toward us – I don’t remember whether it was just me and one of my sisters or which of us was there exactly, but we went back into the house. And then suddenly there was that banging on the door and they ordered us out. So we went and I was thinking to myself, “Well, after they leave us, instead of going to that area we were supposed to go, we’ll run back home.” But they followed us all the way to that area. So, we didn’t have any choice but to go there because they had those rifles on us. So we got there and saw a huge amount of people. It was such chaos, everyone was crying and what was happening was they had people divided in two groups – with a lot of people on one side and a lot on the other side. There was a road in the middle and the soldiers went around. We saw our mother, my grandmother and one of our aunts on the other side across from us. So we went toward them and a soldier hit me with his rifle in my stomach and I doubled up with pain.
PRINCE: That was when you started to go toward your mother?
GUTTERMAN: Yes. And he wouldn’t let me go. And when I looked at my mother, she was wringing her hands and she didn’t know how we got there. She had told us to stay home and she was very upset. That’s the last time I really saw my mom. I didn’t see her after that anymore. We were all congregated there and told to stand still and the soldiers went around looking at us. For my age, I looked older and I looked very healthy.
PRINCE: How old were you then?
GUTTERMAN: In 1942 I must have been about 16 years old but I looked older. We didn’t know at first why they were doing this. The soldier told me to go on one side – he was telling people to go to the right, to the left, etc. And I noticed that he told my sisters to go to the left side. I did not understand what it meant at the time. My heart was going, “bang, bang, bang,” because it scared me that I’d be by myself because I was sent to the side where no one in my family was, and I was shaking with fear. Even though I was 16, I had been sheltered and immature for that age. I was also frightened about what had happened in the ghetto. So, when I was separated from my family, I wondered what would happen to me, what they would do to me. I thought of all kinds of things. You wouldn’t believe how my brain was working.
PRINCE: What kind of things were you thinking?
GUTTERMAN: “Are they going to kill me or do something horrible to me, or are they going to rape me,” or whatever. All kinds of thoughts came into my head. And I was actually crying. When I looked around me I saw very young, beautiful girls, some older than me, some maybe a year or two younger, and I could see that they were all scared. But some I could see were like two sisters, while I was by myself.
PRINCE: Were there only women on your side?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, only women.
PRINCE: Were you able to be aware of what was happening in the other areas?
GUTTERMAN: At the time?
PRINCE: Yes. Were people quiet or crying or…?
GUTTERMAN: Everybody was crying or yelling and they kept saying, “Quiet, or we will…” At first they were just threatening, but later on they started to hit anyone who wasn’t quiet. After a while, everything quieted down. And then I noticed that there was a group of older people. My grandmother was in one little group and they were separating people into groups. At the time I didn’t know, but after a while I found out because when all this separating into groups was over, there were trucks. There was no railroad near where we were gathered, no train.
PRINCE: Did people have suitcases?
GUTTERMAN: No, we were just as we came out of the house. We thought we were going back to our home. So, whatever we were wearing, that’s what you had. They didn’t give us a chance to take anything. And then military trucks started coming and they told us all to get on the trucks. That’s when I really was scared, and I started to cry. Everybody was waving to the people who were left, and I tell you, it was so upsetting. I was really just shaking. My nerves were like so tied up that it was surprising I didn’t get sick or faint. I must have been very healthy to have withstood all that. Everybody was screaming and waving to people. Like I said, that was the last time I saw anyone in my family – my mother, my grandmother, my aunt. They were in the first row but there were a lot of people behind them and a lot of people I couldn’t see because there was such a huge crowd. They drove almost all night.
PRINCE: What kind of seating was there?
GUTTERMAN: We were just sitting on the truck, no seats. We stood or sat, but most were standing. It was very tiresome. We didn’t have any food or anything. Finally, the next morning we arrived at our destination which I didn’t know or where it was.
PRINCE: What if you had to go to the bathroom?
GUTTERMAN: They wouldn’t let us out. You should have seen. Everybody went on the truck and it was terrible, really bad. Can you imagine?
GUTTERMAN: It was smelly and we were so upset that it was unbelievable. When we came there, the first thing they did – we came to an area that was all fenced in with wires around it, and we saw a bunch of barracks and there was a tower where soldiers were watching. It was a watchtower. They let us out and the first thing we had to do was to congregate in one place and remove all our clothes and take a shower, which was a blessing. Then, you didn’t get back the clothes you had been wearing. They gave us clothes made out of burlap. I had a pair of gold earrings and I was told, because I was really young, not to take them off because I would lose them. I never did, but when they told me to take them off, I couldn’t easily and it took me too long. This soldier came over and tore my earrings off. My ear lobes started to bleed and I was really hurting. To this day, my ear lobe is separated. But anyway, after that, after they gave us the clothes, we had to line up and somebody stood with a bucket of oil paint and they painted a Star of David on the back of our burlap clothes. That was instead of wearing armbands.
PRINCE: What were people saying to one another? Were they comforting each other? Were they helping each other? How were they acting?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, everyone was comforting one another at first. Later on it wasn’t like that, but at first everyone did because we were all in the same boat, in the same situation. After that, they gave us wooden shoes and if anyone had good shoes, they were taken away.
PRINCE: Describe the wooden shoes. Was it like a Dutch shoe?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, like a Dutch shoe with wooden soles and there were canvas things like on a high tennis shoe.
PRINCE: Did it have a back to it?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, it had a back, it was closed in and we were lucky because when it got cold, they kept our feet warm. Another thing we did – they gave us a number. Nobody was asked their last name or anything. The number was on a piece of round metal and we had to wear it on our necks threaded on a piece of thin wire. That was our only identification, that number. Then they led us into a barrack. In the barrack were bunk beds without mattresses but with a little straw, no pillows. It took them almost all day to do all that and to count us. They counted the number of people they had. And when we came in, we were so exhausted and hungry. Finally, that evening they gave everybody one little slice of bread.
PRINCE: Was it brown, white?
GUTTERMAN: It was dark bread – one little slice. That was all we had to eat on that day.
PRINCE: Was it about the size of a piece of thin sliced Pepperidge Farm?
GUTTERMAN: It was like a round rye bread, not the square kind.
PRINCE: Was it thick or thin?
GUTTERMAN: It was about a little over one-half inch thick. We didn’t have water in the barrack and no sink. So, if anybody wanted some water, he had to run out to the bathroom.
PRINCE: So, the first water you had was when you took a shower?
PRINCE: You could drink it if you wanted to?
GUTTERMAN: In the shower we couldn’t drink the water, but we got it after we arrived in the barracks.
PRINCE: But you could open your mouths and drink the water from the shower – I mean you were thirsty because you had been without water for so long.
GUTTERMAN: Oh yes, we could. Some people opened their mouths, but the water was warm, not cold, but it was better to get a little water. So, that was my first experience after arriving there.
PRINCE: What was “there”?
GUTTERMAN: It was a Polish camp called Skarzysko-Kamienna.

Tape 3 - Side 2

PRINCE: There was a munitions factory?
GUTTERMAN: Right. And that was why they brought us there. They needed people – would you believe it – they hated us but they used us to work for their war. See, at that time we didn’t know, so the first night, no one could sleep. We weren’t used to it. We removed our shoes and put them under our heads with our clothes. We slept in our underwear because we didn’t have a gown. And all night long we were talking to one another about what they were going to do and what our families might be thinking and what they did to our families. We were just wondering what was happening. We did that all night long and we were exhausted in the morning.
The next morning, everyone had to go out into a big yard and line up in fours, and they started counting us. After we were counted, they told us to march as we were already lined up. On both sides we had soldiers with rifles pointing at us. We marched to a large area where there was a large building and they marched us into the factory. That’s when we found out what was happening. When we entered the factory, we saw some civilians who were supervisors. At the time we didn’t know whether they were German civilians or Polish civilians. After a while we learned they were Polish civilians working as supervisors in the factory. They assigned different groups of people to different jobs. I was assigned to a job where there were boxes and boxes full of shells, and I had to pick out the damaged ones and put them in a different crate. We did that for the first two days, but after that they had a big conveyor belt and the shells were on it. We had to pick out the bad ones and throw them away. So that’s what I was doing for quite a while. The next day the food was given us at noon and they gave us a ladle of soup, a watery soup. Sometimes it had some noodles. They had a sweet taste like they had added sugar. I don’t know how they made it.
PRINCE: Could you sit? Was there a place to sit?
GUTTERMAN: There was no place to sit. The food was dished out outside, so you sat on the grass.
PRINCE: When you were working at the conveyor belt, did you stand or sit?
GUTTERMAN: We were sitting at first when the shells were small. We had to sit close to them or a lot of things could get by. But later on I was transferred to big shells and then I had to stand and pick them out because it was easier to see them, and they didn’t want us to let through bad shells.
PRINCE: Could you talk?
GUTTERMAN: No, no. Let me tell you, I had a young Polish supervisor, maybe 22 or 23 years old, and when he saw you stop or look away for a second, he slapped you. So we were afraid of him too. We were afraid to do anything.
PRINCE: Up to this point, from the ghetto to this point, did you ever observe, besides the fact that the people gave you food when you went out of the ghetto – did you ever observe a humane act of normal behavior toward you by the Germans, or someone like that?
GUTTERMAN: No, I didn’t have the luck for anyone to be kind to me, really. There was one exception that I was just about to tell you. One older person, maybe 35 or 40, was taken there and he was from our own hometown, and I went to school with either his son or daughter. He knew my parents. So one time when we were counted – in the factory, there were men working too. Only in the barracks were women and men separate. So, when he saw me one time, he said, “Listen, I know somebody in the kitchen where they cook the soup and all that, and if you come there and I’m there when you come, I’ll give you some extra soup.” So it was close by and after they dished out – that’s the only time I was free – I ran over to there to get some extra soup. I was constantly hungry. So I got some soup and evidently when I came back, they had already started working. That Polish supervisor came up to me and really slapped me around. After that, I was afraid because my face was all swollen and I didn’t go ever again for the extra soup. I was too afraid. So, later on, when that person saw me, I told him I was afraid to go because I had been beaten up. So that was the end of someone being kind to me. But, as far as the Germans, I wasn’t lucky. Some people maybe had someone who was kind to them, but I didn’t, except the one who knew my family and he felt bad.
PRINCE: I meant by that question, not someone who was Jewish, but just the so-called enemy who was so brutal, was there ever one who was kind?
GUTTERMAN: No, no, not really, not in my case.
PRINCE: Did you see this happen to anyone else?
GUTTERMAN: I really didn’t. Maybe I just wasn’t observant. I understand some people were lucky.
PRINCE: In just helping people on the trucks – did they push everyone or was there an older person you ever saw who wasn’t?
GUTTERMAN: No, no. Everybody was pushed in, like a bunch of cattle. I didn’t experience any kindness as far as the German people went. I really didn’t. The only time I did was when I was in the ghetto and went to the farmers. They were nice, some of them. But other than that, I did not. I’m sorry to say that.
PRINCE: So, you’re working on the assembly line…
GUTTERMAN: Yes, and that went on and I kept on losing weight and losing weight. I got skinnier and skinnier. Sometimes I had a piece of bread and I wanted to save it for later. But that was trouble because other people who were hungry became like animals and they stole your bread from you. So, a lot of times when I was trying to save a half piece of bread, I didn’t have it anyway.
PRINCE: Where could you have hidden it, to begin with?
GUTTERMAN: The only time I hid it was under my shoes or my pillow, but when I fell asleep, people reached in and they took it. You really couldn’t do anything about it.
PRINCE: Did you have any personal belongings besides your clothes and shoes?
GUTTERMAN: No, I really didn’t because when I started out I just had my clothes and there was nothing else. So that went on, and I got weaker and weaker. At the time, I forgot to tell you, I had long hair and that was my pride and joy. I didn’t have any shampoo or soap, and after a while there was a lady, supervisor two, and when I was picking the shells and things, we started getting lice because we didn’t take showers. There was no hot water. So we got lice. And this lady was so afraid she’d get lice or something. She was a Polish lady. Anyone she saw lice crawling on, she wanted to eliminate. What happened was that she told someone higher up than her that I permitted bad shells to go through, like sabotaging the factory. What she wanted was to get rid of me. They took me out and I was really beaten up. I was so badly beaten. First of all, everybody thought I would probably be shot because the sin they thought I committed – which I didn’t – led to bad shells and that’s just like sabotage to them. So took a big wooden post and I was hit over and over again.
PRINCE: Did men do this?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, men. And this happened near the forest and I fainted because it was so painful and I was weak to begin with. The next thing I knew, I was away from the forest where they had beaten me. I was near the barracks and somebody poured a bucket of water on me, and I came to. And I looked up, and there was a Jewish policeman who was working at the camp and he felt sorry for me. I don’t know if he was told to or had done it on his own. I was then thrown into a shed where tools were kept or something and was there in the dark. I was scared and hungry and hurting all over. So after a while, he came back and let me out. He also gave me a piece of bread and a little water. After that, I returned to the barracks. Everybody thought I was a ghost coming back. They were so sure that I had been shot or done away with. It didn’t take long before conditions worsened and I became so skinny that you could count my ribs. After that they shaved off my hair.
PRINCE: Everyone else’s also?
GUTTERMAN: No. They did that to people who did something at that time. So, I found an old shawl and because it was cold then, I wrapped the shawl around my head like a turban. I was so closely shaved that I didn’t feel like a girl anymore. I was a little bit ashamed of it too, so I wore that turban. Well, it didn’t take long before people got typhoid fever. The conditions, the dirt, the lice and everything contributed to it. There were rumors going around that some people had been injected with typhoid fever to make them sick. And since I was getting so weak, they knew that before long I wouldn’t be of any use to them because they needed fresh, healthy people to work for them. So they injected people, or at least that was the rumor going around, that they took people at random and gave them injections which gave them typhoid fever. I don’t know which it was, the dirt and conditions and the inhumanity which went on there, or if it was the injections.
PRINCE: The injections were supposed to cure you?
GUTTERMAN: No, the injections were supposed to make you sick and do away with you. That’s the way I understood it. It didn’t happen to me because I didn’t get any injections. But as I got weaker and stood outside for them to count us, I slowly started dropping to the ground. One girl, who was my friend, grabbed me and made me stand up. I was allowed to go back to the barracks because I couldn’t go to work. That was when I started getting sick with typhoid fever and I was burning up with fever. All the people who had typhoid were put into a big, long barracks where they were isolated. For a couple of weeks, I had a high fever and I don’t really know how I survived. The only thing they gave us was a liquid like coffee, dark like coffee, but it was made out of beets, I understand. And that’s what I was drinking, so maybe that flushed my system through because there were a few people who knew somebody in the clinic, like a nurse or doctor. And the reason they had the nurse or doctor was for the people who were supervisors, not for the prisoners. But a couple of the girls knew someone in that clinic and they got injections for the fever. I wasn’t the lucky one there, I didn’t. But, you know what, even though they had medical help, they died and I didn’t.
In that room, you had to step over dead people. They didn’t take their bodies away right away. They came in every day and one had to walk from one end of the room to the other. If you couldn’t do it, you got taken out and shot. My will to live was so strong, that I made myself walk from one end of the room to the other and that’s why I was spared. People who couldn’t do this were taken out because the Germans didn’t want to be bothered any longer if you were near the end. So they just did away with you. That’s how I survived.
There were complications after the typhoid fever. I developed a bad sore in my right leg and my knee was so stiff that I limped for a while and couldn’t walk well, but my will to survive was so powerful that I kept on walking and walking. The more I walked, the more it was like an exercise. My knee regained strength and my sore began to heal. I still have the scars on my foot, really bad scars. But slowly, I began to walk better. I didn’t want them to see me limping because my knee was so stiff and painful that I could not straighten my leg.
PRINCE: But you made it work for you.
GUTTERMAN: Yes. And the determination to walk made my leg better. Would you believe it, without any medicine, without anything. So, that went on until during 1944 and they were getting fresh people into this camp and they tried to…
PRINCE: Fresh Jews?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, a new group of fresh Jews came in. Almost daily people came in and they were replenishing the ones who died or were eliminated. There were times when they got everybody together and asked, “Who wants to go home?” That’s the kind of psychology they used. I was getting smarter by then because I had more sense, whereas before I was in the dark and I suspected something was funny because when they took me away to the camp, I knew what was happening. I almost raised my hand once, because I wanted to go home, but something told me not to. Some girls raised their hands and they were taken away in a different group. And I noticed that the ones who were taken away were really, really badly off. They were so little and so skinny that they looked like skeletons, and they were so sickly. They wanted to go home to see their families and I thought something was not right because they all looked weak and sick. Then, later on we found out that the girls who volunteered to go home were taken out and taken to the gas chambers. They didn’t want to bother with those people.
PRINCE: That was like self-elimination.
PRINCE: They did their own selection.
GUTTERMAN: Yes, yes. And they were treating people so badly, especially young people. We were so naïve. They would ask, “Why wouldn’t you want to go home to your parents? That sounds wonderful.” And psychologically you wanted to go but it didn’t work out this way.
PRINCE: But only the frail ones seemed to want to go.
GUTTERMAN: Right. They were so sick and tired. Some of them were nearly suicidal. They had given up. And, you know, the ones who gave up died earlier. Only the ones who tried to survive, survived. They were stronger in believing. At that time, I didn’t know I would never again see anyone in my family. See, that kept me going and I had a strong will to go back to my family which kept me going. But many people just gave up, especially those who were older than I. There were some 25 year old girls who were smarter than I, in a way. They figured out what was going on and they gave up. Those were the ones who didn’t survive because they didn’t have that strong will. And I was too naïve, I think, and too believing that I was going to be okay, this was just temporary, like a bad dream. When I think back, that helped me survive. The ones who gave up were dropping like flies.
There was this one girl who was so beautiful and she was from the same town where I was brought into the camp. And she didn’t survive. She kept saying, “What’s the use? We’re all going to be dead. Why bother? Why listen to them? Why do a good job?” And she died. The day I saw her dead, I tell you, was the worst day of my life. I was so scared. She had been so nice and we helped each other. And I kept saying to her, “Why are you giving up?” She said, “No, I’m tired of the whole thing. I just can’t fight anymore. Let it be the will of God.” And I didn’t believe she was going to die, but one morning when I got up, there she was! And on top of everything – I was crying and crying – they didn’t take her away right away and she was laying on the bunk bed, just laying there. It must have been like a day and a half. It was so disgusting and so upsetting and so – I cannot express it. Maybe my vocabulary is not sufficient. There are no words to describe how I felt seeing her and some other people laying dead. And when you went to bed, there was a dead person laying next to you! I couldn’t sleep. As hungry as I was, I couldn’t even swallow my piece of bread. That’s how upsetting it was.
It went on like that until the end of 1944 and they transported us to another city, Czestochowa. That was a city in Poland where there were also ammunition factories and there were three concentration camps there. There were like “A,” “B” and “C” sort of. I was in “A” and I was lucky. It wasn’t as deadly as “B” or “C.” Where I was, there was a munition factory and the work was very hard, harder than in Skarzysko-Kamienna. But it wasn’t as deadly as the others. “C” was the worst because there were people there who filling bombs with chemicals and they didn’t wear protective clothing. The chemicals penetrated a person’s skin and the person would begin to look yellowish and then the chemicals seemed to destroy that person. A person who worked at that kind of job could only last maybe four weeks to six weeks at the longest.
PRINCE: They must have died horribly.
GUTTERMAN: Yes. Then they would bring in a new supply of people. One of my uncles who was just married right before the war – my aunt married him. He was from Warsaw. He was a very young man and he was taken away. Once in a while we were taken to a shower and they were bringing people from all the different places, and I couldn’t believe it but I saw this uncle. I hadn’t known he was there. And he looked so bad because he was all yellow – he looked horrible. I had my piece of bread and I gave it to him because he looked so bad. That’s the only time I saw him.
PRINCE: Did he know you then?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, yes, but he could hardly walk and I could see that he wasn’t going to live too long because he had already started getting all yellow.
PRINCE: It was very kind of you to give him your piece of bread.
GUTTERMAN: Well, the girl I was with shared her piece of bread with me and that was very kind. She saw that I had given mine to my uncle. It was really touching, you know. We were helping each other. As I told you before, some people became animals but I had a few people who were all very close and we helped one another.
PRINCE: It seems like it either brought out the best or the worst in people.

Tape 4 - Side 1

(JULY 20, 1987)
GUTTERMAN: I myself did that. I stole a piece of bread. There was this girl and she had a friend who was a policeman. He gave her – one time he gave her a whole loaf of bread and she was so selfish she wouldn’t share it with anyone. I knew she had all that bread, and so when she wasn’t looking, I took a couple of slices of bread. Well, she found out, I tell you, and she went and told on me that I stole, and not only the bread. Well, it’s true, the bread I stole, but I didn’t steal anything else, but she claimed I did. So, the policeman knew and he felt so bad for me. He said, “Well, I’ll deal with her,” and took me out. When he took me away – she didn’t see it – he gave me some bread and said, “Don’t say anything except that I slapped you around,” and that was the end of it. So, I did meet kind people, but he was a Jewish guy. He just felt bad because I’m sure – he mentioned that he had a daughter and he felt bad for me. So, I found kindness in him. So, when we came in to Czestochowa – that’s the city where the Black Madonna is, by the way…
PRINCE: And where Pope John was born…(OVERTALK)
GUTTERMAN: Yes. Was he born there?
GUTTERMAN: So, that’s where I was and I was put to harder work. I was working by a machine, a big machine where they were cutting the shelves to size. It had a big sharp thing which was cutting the shelves, and I had to fill up containers constantly because it went fast. You couldn’t be behind. You were standing on your feet and there were big barrels of shells, long shells and you had to cut them to size to fit into wherever they were going.
PRINCE: You had to cut them?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, the machine did it. I didn’t do the cutting, but there was a machine with like a big container on top and you had to fill it with shovels. You had to fill in the machine with those big shells and at the other end there was a thing cutting the shelves to size.
PRINCE: Was there also a conveyor thing?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, sort of like. But you had to keep on filling that thing so the conveyor wouldn’t be empty, but you had to stand up and you had big shovels – that thing was heavy. I tell you, my hand was hurting horrible ’cause you had to lift it. Oh, and by the way, I’ll never forget, there was one lady, a young woman, I don’t know, and maybe they took her to camp when she was already pregnant and didn’t show. Well, she was pregnant and I don’t think her husband was with her. They let her carry out the pregnancy, but you know what they did? Oh, I’ll never forget in my born days, this was such a horrible thing. They let her have the baby and when she had the baby, in front of her – and they called other people too – and they killed the baby in front of her as soon as it was born. They knocked the baby in the head with a big, like a wooden-like hammer and everybody – we were covering our eyes. They wanted us to see. I don’t know if there was a warning, if anybody – because who could get pregnant in a place like that anyway – but I don’t know what they think. She came pregnant because she was working in the same area where I was, in the same department and she was telling me that she was pregnant when she came here but she didn’t show, and they took away her husband and she didn’t know where he was. I just thought about it, and – oh, that woman is still before my eyes. I tell you, that woman didn’t live long. She was so devastated and I guess after that they probably didn’t give her proper care after she had the baby. She probably developed an infection or something, and she died. But they didn’t want her around and they didn’t want any Jewish child being born there. In other words, I think their reason maybe was that if somebody was pregnant, they were supposed to tell them when they took them in. I think that was their aim to discourage people to come when they’re pregnant.
PRINCE: It sounds like it’s a combination of getting rid of Jews but also developing…
GUTTERMAN: Oh, the systematic – I bet some people were sitting in offices thinking out what they can do and how they can torture people without people being aware of it.
PRINCE: But you mentioned that some of the Jews became animals and some of the slave laborers became animals. But, they were animals, the Germans, and they actually got enjoyment out of what they did.
GUTTERMAN: That’s true. They wanted us to come down to their level and they had pleasure out of our pain. Some people fought, some prisoners, especially some men. Maybe somebody said, “You took my piece of bread,” and they started fighting. Well, they got pleasure out of that and they let them fight. So it was very bad there.
Like I said, I was working there until one day something was wrong with the machine, and a part broke off the machine and it landed on my arm while I was filling the thing; it hit my arm. And I was bleeding and I couldn’t do nothing until the shift was over. So I found a piece of clean cloth and I wrapped it around my arm. I was lucky because I didn’t have no medical help and it wasn’t too far away from the war ending. I didn’t develop any kind of infection and it was really hurting me and every time I went, I was afraid to tell anybody what was happening to me. The person who was supervising me saw me but as long as I did what I was supposed to do, he didn’t say nothing. But I was afraid once I start complaining that I want some help, they’re gonna do away with me. See, always in the back of my brain was my thought how not to get killed. So, like I said, that kept me going. I prayed a lot too, really.
So, it went on like that for a while and then my arm started to get worse and worse, and I couldn’t lift the big shovels of the shells. I was then too late in filling the conveyor and they took me away. They took me away, and everybody thought, again, that I’m gonna be shot. Where they took me is to a place on a road where – I think they really didn’t need to build that road, to tell you the truth. There was a lot of gravel, and what they’re doing, well since I couldn’t perform useful work for them, they may as well torture me doing work they didn’t need to do. So what we were doing was dragging the gravel from one pile to the other, and sometimes they told us to pick bigger rocks out of the smaller rocks. Later on, somebody came and took the pile away and I understood that farther down the road they did build a road and they used those rocks.
PRINCE: What other kind of people were working with you?
GUTTERMAN: There were men and women and some of them, my God, they were worse off than me because they were working a longer time and people were just falling like flies because it was hot and there was not enough water or food, and they just couldn’t take it. I guess that wasn’t meant for me. When I came back, when they took me out of the place I was working before, all the girls in my barracks said, “Oh, my gosh, you are still living!” They thought I was dead again. I’ll tell you, I had nine lives.
PRINCE: Did you feel like you had nine lives, Toby?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, yes, I did, because when they took me away, I didn’t know where they were taking me and I thought for sure beyond that road I would end. Maybe for a week or so, I was so depressed, I thought, “Oh, I don’t know. How will I be outdoors? How will I survive?” Because inside – okay, it was raining or something and I wasn’t exposed to the elements. I was afraid being outside would finish me up. But after a while, I thought to myself, “What are you doing to yourself? Come on, (you know I was talking to myself) keep going.” So I started again having this hope and I started again having that will. But for a while, I almost gave up.
PRINCE: But you pulled yourself out of it?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, all of a sudden – yes, I pulled myself out of it.
PRINCE: Did you stop trying when you were depressed?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, yes. I said, “God where are you?” I was talking like that. “What are you doing to me? What’s happening, what did I do, what kinds of sins did I commit?” I was mad, I was angry, God forgive me. And God is everybody, you know. I said, “What’s happening, why am I suffering so much? How much more can I take?” But after a while, I snapped out of that depression and I started thinking a different way. I don’t know – was it meant for me to live?
So, that went on, and I was getting weaker and weaker again – no food – oh, I tell you! I don’t know. Then some people were lucky. There was this policeman who was from my hometown and he knew me and my family, and he told me, “Well if you want to, when they dish out food from another group, maybe you’ll want to come and I can give you some.” But, I don’t know, I was scared. I thought, “Gosh, because I look this way, maybe he’s going to do something to me because I take some food.” So, I was so chicken. I was so naïve, so chicken, I didn’t want to go. I went one time and then that was it. I was scared to go back.
But I knew this lady and he was with her daughter – a mother and daughter – he really kept them fed and everything. I don’t know what was going on between them, but everybody was talking. Even though she was skinny, she was a pretty girl with her mother, and I understand that after the war, she went and told on him that he was really mean and that he beat her. She wanted to get rid of him. But he didn’t. And a lot of people – witnesses – said he was humane and nice, so they didn’t do anything to him. He’s still alive, that guy. I tell you more about him later on. But he’s still alive and I know where he is. But he was nice, really.
So, going back to when I was working on that road, I would not have survived too long except I think the Allied armies were closing in on the Germans. That was toward the end of 1944. I think the Germans didn’t want the Allies to see what they had done and were doing, so they tried to take people away to Germany, and I was assigned to go to Bergen-Belsen.
PRINCE: Did you ever get any news from the outside?
GUTTERMAN: No, I forgot to tell you. The only time I got news was in the beginning when I came to that concentration camp in 1942, and somebody brought in some food that my mother sent for some reason. You know, to a Polish person…
PRINCE: Your mother sent?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, yes. Or maybe she paid them. No, she didn’t give them the food, but she paid them one time and she brought in a letter and some food. I think that the Polish person gave them something – it was not too much – in a letter. And the letter said – I forgot to tell you – the letter said, “The whole thing is like a bubble. Any minute it is going to explode. They are taking people away. They are deporting people somewhere where they are going to get killed.” And I didn’t know what they meant or what way they would be killed. That’s the only time I had some connection with my mother, I’ll tell you.
PRINCE: So, your mother was left in the ghetto for a while?
GUTTERMAN: Yes. And through somebody was able to smuggle through a letter. Now, to this day I don’t know whether my mother gave this person the letter and she gave it to me, or whether my mother told her to give it to me. I don’t remember that.
PRINCE: Did you ever find out what happened to your mother?
GUTTERMAN: Yes. I found out because I wrote after the war, “If anyone exists in that town,” to the city hall. They answered that everybody was gone and I found out from other people that they had been taken to the gas chambers in Auschwitz, I think. That’s all I know about what became of the rest of my family.
PRINCE: When you said that the Allies were nearing, how did you know that?
GUTTERMAN: Well, I found that out later on. At the time I did not know. There was no way I could have known. Later on I found out. So, they came with trains and the trains were so filled up. Like I said, again it was meant for me to survive. Another girl and I were very good friends and we decided not to run and be the first ones on the train. We didn’t know where we were going anyway, so we thought, “What the heck, why rush?” If we’d known something good was happening, we would. So, we didn’t run first and we let the others go. We waited, and when it came to us, the train was so filled to capacity. People were even on the roof and outside. There were about 200 of us women left and they put us in a big barrack and locked us up. They were supposed to return with another train, an empty one. We stayed there for about two days. Can you imagine 200 women staying in one room, one big barrack?
GUTTERMAN: People fainted, they simply keeled over from thirst. Only one day did they take us out and give us a little soup.
PRINCE: Oh, they were still outside guarding you?
GUTTERMAN: Oh yes. They had locked us in. It seemed worse when we couldn’t do anything but just sit there. Finally, we thought we should have gone first into that train. We didn’t know what was happening. So, one day somebody knocked on the window and we didn’t see the guards. They said, “Get out, the war is over.” We didn’t believe them and we were scared. We wondered what he was talking about saying the war is over. So he left and came back with a hatchet. He broke the door down.
PRINCE: Who was he? Was this like a peasant or something?
PRINCE: Was he in uniform?
GUTTERMAN: No. He was a civilian. I don’t know who he was to this day, would you believe it. I’m sorry that I didn’t find out. It was bad and so exciting and there was so much commotion that I didn’t think to find out who he was.
PRINCE: How did other people react?
GUTTERMAN: No one believed it. He broke the door down and we still didn’t believe it. We were all bewildered.
PRINCE: But did everybody come out?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, we came out and we saw German soldiers throwing away their uniforms by the railroad tracks. That’s when we started believing it.
PRINCE: Today is August 3, 1987, and we’re beginning our next interview. Toby, you said you were locked up for a couple of days with 200 women in a barrack. Could you tell me if anyone died?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, there were people dead when we left the barrack. Some people just dropped dead out of weakness and probably because they were hungry and thirsty. The sanitation was not good. There was one bathroom and there were so many people. So, it was really bad. It was polluted and there was this smell. When we were let out, there were a lot of people – I don’t quite know how many – but there were quite a few dead people there who didn’t live to see freedom come.
PRINCE: Can you describe the surroundings?
GUTTERMAN: It was near a railroad track and it was kind of – it must have been on the outskirts of the town because there was nothing nearby. It was just fields. It could have been near farmers but I didn’t see any houses. I think what they were trying to do, the Germans, is to erase all the tracks of what they had been doing and keep them from the Allied armies. When they were losing the war, the Germans didn’t want the Allies to know that much, so they were trying to cover up…
PRINCE: The destruction of the Jews?
GUTTERMAN: Right, right. And that’s the reason they wanted to deport us to Germany – I don’t know if Germany was taken then, I’m not sure. I was unaware anyway.
PRINCE: Do you know what month we’re talking about?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, I’ll never forget this day, it was January 16, 1945.
PRINCE: And may I ask how you knew it was January?
GUTTERMAN: I didn’t know then (LAUGHTER) really, but after I got out, I knew what date it was. To my dying day, I will never forget that day! I was liberated by the Russian army because it was Poland. It was chaotic when we went out. First of all, when we came to town, there were Russian soldiers trying to line us up, like we used to in the camps, and we all said, “Oh, God, what now?” But they did it for a reason because everybody was pushing themselves and it was near a German officers’ club, a big beautiful building. There was a restaurant there and a kitchen, food and everything. Someone should have been there taking pictures, because when we came into this building there was a big, big picture of Hitler which took up most of the wall. Everybody threw dishes at it or anything they could pick up in their hands and the picture was demolished after a little while.
People just went crazy because everybody was hungry, starved. They were all grabbing food wherever they could and they were trying to fix things, and it all just got out of hand. So, soon someone came out from the Russians and remarked that things were simply out of hand. So we were lined up again and everybody was given a loaf of bread because they had a lot of food there. I understood they had just baked fresh bread. Can you imagine all those years when we were in camp, we were praying that one day we would be able to sit down and have a loaf of bread to eat however much we wanted. (LAUGHTER) That was our dream, although our first dream was to see our families and get back to our loved ones. And there we were with a whole loaf of bread.
I also recall that some people, before the Russians restored order, because people just went wild, some people grabbed butter and bacon and things like that. And they devoured so much food that the poor things died because their systems could not take it. For a few years we did not have any proper nourishment, especially no butter or grease, and they couldn’t digest all that. They really died from it. My stomach was so shrunken and I was so skinny that you could count my ribs. I just couldn’t eat much. I had that bread, but I just couldn’t because I got filled up right away. For some reason, though, some people could do it, especially some of the men. They lived through the war and then right after liberation they died from overeating. I was lucky that I couldn’t overeat even though I wanted to. It was like getting precious things and everybody was clutching their loaf of bread and we all knew nobody would take it away from us or steal it. But we still couldn’t believe that we were free. You know why? Because when we went through the streets, there were scars all over. There were still corpses laying around that they didn’t have time to clean up. There were dead horses because it was winter and there was snow.
PRINCE: Where were you?
GUTTERMAN: I was liberated in Czestochowa, in Poland. People were looting. They ran into stores and looted. I was chicken; I was scared. I had torn-up shoes, my feet were cold and there was snow on the ground, but I was scared. I don’t recall how it happened that I wound up in a place in the city where I met this couple and I think that the man was Jewish but the lady wasn’t. I don’t recall exactly what nationality she was, but I don’t think she was Jewish and I never asked. But they lived in an apartment and they saw me, and I started talking to them, and they asked me if I was from this town. I said I wasn’t and would never be in this town if it hadn’t been for the war.

Tape 4 - Side 2

GUTTERMAN: I don’t remember whether he was in a concentration camp too, but he didn’t look like he had been undernourished and neither did she. They were nicely dressed, so it’s possible that he was hiding out with her.
PRINCE: She was Jewish?
GUTTERMAN: He was, but I don’t know about her. So they offered this, but I said I felt very bad because I was really dirty and the only clothes I had were on my back. I was also covered with lice and my hair was full of lice. I said to them, “The first thing I have to do is to de-lice myself and to clean myself up.” She was really nice and she said, “I know a pharmacy where we can get some stuff to apply to your scalp.” I had to take off my shirt and I remember that I boiled it in some old thing, because I didn’t have any clothes. I don’t remember, I don’t know if she was afraid or what. She did not give me anything to wear, so that’s what I had to do. I was still weak but I tried real hard when I was cleaning her apartment.
After a while, I thought, “I don’t have any shoes to wear,” and I started to look around for someone I might know. I met one girl who was in the same camp although we didn’t work together, but I had known her. She told me she was working in the kitchen of one of the hospitals where they were bringing wounded soldiers for treatment. She offered to ask someone to hire me. Now the Russians didn’t pay you any money. Everything was rationed because a lot of bakeries and things were closed or taken over by the Russians. So there was a shortage of everything. So what they did, instead of giving you money, they gave you bread and marmalade or something, and since there was a shortage, you could sell it. People would buy it from you and for the money you could get some things for yourself. So, she asked someone where she was working and they said I could come and help out in the kitchen.
Then I started helping out in the kitchen for a while and it was at night. In the daytime I went back. But one time I was going home and I was so naïve that I didn’t realize it was so dangerous for me to walk at night. First, the law was martial law and after a certain time you weren’t supposed to be on the streets.
PRINCE: They had a curfew?
GUTTERMAN: Right. One time we were running late and I got off work and was walking home to my apartment, and I heard someone tracking me, walking behind me. The faster I went, the faster they went, and I saw a couple of soldiers behind me. I was scared to death. When they got really close and they almost grabbed me, a car came from the opposite direction and its lights were on. That scared them off. That really scared me and when I got home I talked to the lady and told her I was afraid to go to work anymore. So I didn’t go back although I really needed to because for the few weeks I worked, I sold the food they gave me because I was eating where I was working and didn’t need the extra food. I bought a pair of shoes – everything was on the black market. Someone would say, “Do you need some shoes? I have some shoes.” So, you traded whatever. So, I had shoes but I needed clothes too and I didn’t have any. From then on, I started inquiring. The hospital was across the street and the kitchen. I went there and I knew another girl who worked there. I asked if I could get any kind of work. I wasn’t choosy, I was willing to clean or do anything.
PRINCE: This hospital was closer.
GUTTERMAN: No, it wasn’t closer, but I had one advantage because I went into the office and told them what had happened to me. By then I spoke pretty good Russian.
PRINCE: What was your age at that time?
GUTTERMAN: I don’t recall how old I was. Let’s see, in 1945…
PRINCE: You were born when?
PRINCE: You were 19.
GUTTERMAN: 19, okay. So, she said there was a possibility they could give me a room because some other nurses were sleeping there who didn’t have apartments. So they said they would give me a room so I could stay there after work. I agreed. Then she warned me that not a soul should know I was residing there. So I had to work at night, but in the daytime I slept there.
PRINCE: You were responsible for yourself. Was there any bringing together of all the survivors?
GUTTERMAN: No, not at first. I was on my own and that’s what was so hard because I was so young when I left my family. Before, I had been protected, but all of a sudden I had to care for myself and I didn’t know how to take it. First of all, I had this urge to find out what had happened to my family, but it was very chaotic and I couldn’t do anything. There was no proper mail, so I couldn’t do it. So the first thing was just to keep on surviving and it was very hard for me. It was a hard job being free, not knowing anybody hardly, and being among strangers was very difficult. I felt so unprotected still. I was free and still I wasn’t. I was in the dark, not knowing what would happen to me. I was afraid of everybody. I didn’t even trust the Russians. If you worked for them, they were okay, but they were knocking everyone who didn’t work.
PRINCE: Knocking?
GUTTERMAN: Well, that means they were criticizing the capitalistic people who didn’t do anything. They looked down on women who stayed home and didn’t work.
PRINCE: They were giving you a Communist line?
GUTTERMAN: Well, sort of, yes. So, I kept on working there and later on they switch me to daytime work. I was doing almost everything. I cleaned the rooms. I already understood Russian although I didn’t speak it too well, but I did speak it. One time a soldier said in Russian, “I am a Jew.” And the patients didn’t have enough to eat, so I tried to bring them food. The soldier was in the Russian army, a Russian Jew, and I brought him food. There were a few – one was a captain and they were so patriotic, I couldn’t understand it. Some of them had their legs cut off. They were pitiful, they were in casts, and yet they were so patriotic. They said that if they could, they would get out and still fight the Germans for their country.
PRINCE: How long were you there, Toby?
GUTTERMAN: I was there until about October, but that’s not the end of it. I was there until one day I went out. I was in the hospital and no one was there except one patient who had already recovered. He was walking around. Later I found out he was supposed to be discharged because he was well. I had to bring something into a room and I don’t recall what it was because I was just like a girl “Friday,” cleaning, bringing supplies from one place to the other. I did whatever they told me to do. Sometimes I helped people in the x-ray room, with the wheelchair. I’d wheel them in and take them back to the room. I did everything. And I went into this room to deliver something, and this soldier I was telling you about came in after me. The room was empty. He took the blanket off one of the beds and I saw what he was going to do, and I was really scared because I knew he intended to rape me. I don’t know what came over me. Maybe my parents were praying for me, and it came to my mind. I said, “Oh, wait a minute, someone is calling me. I’ll be right back. You wait here in this room.” I knew I was too weak to fight him off and he was so gullible that he believed me. I came out of that room pale as a sheet and I don’t know how I got out of there. God gave me this idea to tell him that because if I would have had to right him off, I would have never had a prayer. It was at the other end of the hospital and nobody was around. I went to the office and told them what almost happened to me. I was crying and hysterical, and at first they couldn’t understand me. They said, “Calm down, calm down,” and the head nurse made me sit down. Finally I was able to explain to her what had happened. She asked if I knew who the man was and I told her, “Yes, I’ll never forget him.” His face is still before me. He was a tall, big bear of a guy. Then the nurse said, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it.” They called him in to the main office and I don’t know what they told him, but he knew that I had told on him, and he told some other people that he was going to get even with me by beating my eyes out. In Russian – it doesn’t sound as good in English – and I was really scared. So I went to the office again and told them that if he was going to be around, I was scared he would do something to me again. Someone in the office told me not to worry about him because he was being shipped home. He was well and had no business staying in the hospital. But, to this day, I don’t know if they reprimanded him for it or what.
And you know what they did – I had to go to a doctor and they examined me, and I was still a virgin. They examined me to see if I was really telling the truth. They thought at first that I was afraid to tell them that he didn’t rape me – he didn’t. So they examined me and I don’t know for what other reason they did that. They were worried about other nurses and things. The Russian girls were very free and they wanted to know – maybe they thought I had some illness or something. I don’t know the reason, but I know I had to go and a gynecologist had to examine me.
PRINCE: You HAD to go?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, they made me go.
PRINCE: Did you say, “No, I don’t want to?”
GUTTERMAN: I couldn’t say that because if I did, they wouldn’t let me work there. You had to do what they told you. Meanwhile, I knew this girl who worked in the kitchen. She was my friend and she had a roommate, another girl, who was also in the camp, and I got to know her. I used to go over to see her and her roommate knew some man she met after the war and he was already in Germany. He was liberated in Germany. His brother came there and he was getting people out of Poland through the borders to Germany, to the American zone. I met him when he came over and he was going to take my friend’s roommate because his brother told him he wanted to get her out. They just didn’t trust what was going on, with the Russians there, and I guess he was in love with her and wanted to get her out. So, this girl introduced me to him, this man who was going to take his brother’s girl out of Poland. He didn’t just take her. He came back – he had a sister and a brother-in-law who lived through the war and he wanted to take them out. He went back and forth over the border getting people out of Poland. He was about my age – or maybe a couple of years older.
PRINCE: These were Jews.
GUTTERMAN: Yes. When this girl introduced me to him, I had already put on a little weight and had some “threads” on my back, clothes, and he asked me if I wanted to go to a movie. At first I was scared. I just didn’t trust anybody because even some soldiers were trying to get to the surviving girls and I was really chicken. (LAUGHTER) That’s the word for it because I never had any previous experience with men or anything, and I was just scared. I had been brought up in a very moral family and I was afraid to be with men. So at first, I said, “No, I really don’t have time.” But he kept on asking me and finally I went out with him to a show. After that, I saw him a few times, but most of the time I saw him when he came to visit his brother’s girlfriend.
So one day he asked me, “Do you have a family?” I said, “No, I have no one.” He said, “Well, what are you planning to do?” I replied that I didn’t know because I had nobody and didn’t know what I was going to do once the Russians were gone. I told him, “I have no money, I have nothing.” He said, “Well, would you consider getting a group together and going to Germany to the American sector?” I told him I didn’t know and asked him where that was. I had no idea. He said, “You shouldn’t say anything to anyone but it’s not that good to stay here and that’s why I’m getting people out.” I told him I didn’t know that and I thought I was going back home to see if any of my family survived. He asked me what my hometown was and then told me that some people had gone back and were killed. I told him I didn’t know that. He really explained my situation and made me realize how little I knew about what had happened. He said, “I’d advise you not to go back there.” I asked why not because I wanted to go. He then asked me if I knew some certain people – you know, he was so informed. I asked him to tell me their names and he told me. It turned out that I knew those people and he said those people had gone home and gotten killed in your hometown. I said, “No, I didn’t.” So that’s when I decided I would not go back home but would try to get information through writing or something. But at that time, the mail still didn’t go through – it wasn’t that dependable, so I couldn’t.
My friend – the one I worked in the kitchen with – said, “You know what, if I were you, I would leave. I would not stay here. What do you have here? The Russians don’t pay you no money, they give you some bread and when they get through, they might tell you to leave.” She was so right. I asked what I would have to do, whether I would be asked to pay money because I had no money to pay. She told me he didn’t charge anyone, that he had come back to get his friends out – his brother’s girl and his sister and brother-in-law.
PRINCE: How old was he?
GUTTERMAN: He was two years older than me, would you believe it?
PRINCE: Had he been in a camp?
GUTTERMAN: Oh, in a lot of them. I think he was in eight camps. I found out later that he ran away from the camp shortly before the war ended and he was in a forest with the underground. He was caught a few times at the border, he was returned, but he didn’t give up and continued taking people over the border.
See, the Russians did not give you passports to leave even then and later on they closed the border and you couldn’t get out. I was still the lucky one, but you needed money…
PRINCE: Was that before October, 1945?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, it’s still going on. I didn’t have any money to pay someone to get a passport, but his sister and brother had some money. I don’t know how. Don’t ask me. I recall that they could get a passport for themselves. But I didn’t have any money and he didn’t have any money. He said he had an idea. By then it was like a – they called it Gemeinde, like Federation, in German. For Jews they started giving out some extra bread and things.
PRINCE: What was the group?
GUTTERMAN: Well, some Jews tried to help.
PRINCE: Oh, they formed a…
GUTTERMAN: …like a little group to…
PRINCE: —– ——- to put things in order.
GUTTERMAN: Yes. So I had a – it wasn’t a driver’s license, it was like an…
PRINCE: An ausweiss?
GUTTERMAN: Yes, that’s the word for it. In English, it would be called identification. I had to have my picture on it and it looked like a little passport but everything was in Polish. It was for the Polish government.
So, he said, “I have an idea. There’s French, English and Russians at the border.” He was well informed and knew exactly what was going on. It must have been that the English and French didn’t know how to read Polish, and probably the Russians didn’t either. So he said, “Just show this when they ask for your passport. We’ll try that, and the worst thing they can do, they can turn you back.” So, I didn’t have no choice and said I would try. Then I asked if I was obligated to you in any way and he said, “No. I like you very much, but you are in no way obligated at any way at all.” I said, “Fine.” I had wanted to make sure because I wanted to keep that distance from a man to me. I was scared.
Before we went, he had another group, so he went with them and said the next group he came back, I should be ready. The other girl, my friend, is in Israel now. She told us all to be ready when he returned.
A couple of weeks later, he came back and said we were going to try to go. His sister had some money and he sewed it into his cap. She also had some food. I remember to this day that she had a big salami and some bread. I didn’t have anything. I was just living day to day and had meals where I worked. I couldn’t buy any food. I have a reason for telling you this. They shared with me when we went and crossed the border. Before we crossed the border, they searched everyone and I didn’t have nothing they could take from me. But they did take his cap. There were two border guards in a short distance.
PRINCE: How many were in your group?
GUTTERMAN: There must have been about twenty-two people. There were some men and women I hadn’t never knew from before. He crossed one place and we crossed and were walking – it was like up a hill. I thought I was dying from a heart attack because I couldn’t breathe. He said if we had gone the other way, he knew we would be caught. There was another crossing where we were supposed to take and it would have been safer to climb somewhere but one lady wasn’t feeling well and said she would never make it. So he decided we just gonna take a chance and cross. That’s when they took his money away. But they let us go.

Tape 5 - Side 1

PRINCE: Okay, you’re at the _____ and you’re crossing the…
GUTTERMAN: Yeah, we saw before the main crossing, we saw this. Oh, and he was prepared, he knew the Russians, he had a bottle of vodka, you know, and there was a… a few trucks, military trucks, going that way. And he put – you wouldn’t believe it – I knew a little, you know, how to speak Russian, but he – he didn’t and he took the vodka and just put it in the – on the road. And they saw him do it and they stopped, they took the bottle of vodka. (LAUGHTER – CLEARS THROAT) Excuse me. And, they – they let us in the back. It was a closed-in truck and it was, it was, um, not cans, but barrels of – I don’t know if it was gasoline or some kind of oil. And it was so smelly I couldn’t breathe, you know I was choking. And he said, “You be very quiet, all of you, and when I get stopped by a checkpoint don’t say anything. Be quiet.” And that’s how it was. They took us to the border. Then, we had to go to overcome one more obstacle, the main checkpoint. All the, you know, French, English, and American and Russian were standing before the German border.
Oh, by the way, before we went I recall, before we went to this, you know, area, there was in Czechoslovakia, there was one Jewish man. We had to stay one night there –
PRINCE: You went from Poland to Czechoslovakia, then into Germany?
GUTTERMAN: Yeah, there was one Jewish man, that he owned a lot of hotels before the war, you know the hotels were still standing. So he let, he was so good; he let all the survivors, all the displaced persons, not only Jews, anybody, anyplace, what help. You could sleep for the night, okay? And you didn’t have to pay him. So that was really nice; everybody was very impressed, you know. I, to this day, I feel _____, I really don’t. I – I was, it was so much excitement, and so much going on, that I failed to write down, I should have, you know, uh –
PRINCE: Dizzy to make a (OVERTALK) –
GUTTERMAN: – write down, everything, every paper… yeah, I just didn’t.
PRINCE: It sounds as though you were, almost in a, a dream – a dream trance.
GUTTERMAN: Yeah, right, right. Just – I still was in a trance, what was happening to me, you know. And, just thinking back, it was just like on some – we’re on a dream journey, you know, going, not knowing who – where am I gonna end up, what am I going to do, what’s gonna happen to me, what is my fate? You know, I didn’t know. So when we came to the border, everybody stopped us, you know, and there was a train going into Germany, okay? I was shaking in my boots because – so, everybody showed passports, okay? My sister-in-law, that was later, my sister-in-law, yeah –
PRINCE: Yeah (LAUGHTER) I – I…didn’t want to ask.
GUTTERMAN: Yeah, you know, this man’s sister, she shows them their passports, they gone through, but they weren’t passports, they were fakes. I showed this. They didn’t know the difference. They looked at it, my picture was on it. That was a passport. They let me go. Oh, I was relieved. We went on that…
PRINCE: So you passed through all four… of these…?
GUTTERMAN: Yeah, we passed through all the points so far, you know. Because one, the very critical, was the Russians, helped us, okay? Just for the bottle, would you believe it? And I think it was hard to get maybe that time, or something.
PRINCE: Oh sure.
GUTTERMAN: And they –
PRINCE: Probably stole it, after the war – (OVERTALK) Stolen from the Russians and give it back to the…? (LAUGHTER, OVERTALK)
GUTTERMAN: Probably, probably, I don’t know, I don’t what he did, how he got it. But anyway, I guess he knew, because he went back and forth and back so many times to get people out. Okay, so on the train, I didn’t know Czechoslovakian, but I knew Polish and Russian and there was nice ladies. You know, by that time, we were presentable. We were cleaned up, so they didn’t know, there wasn’t…but I guess they sensed it, you know, people sensed it. So one lady came up –
PRINCE: Do you think they sensed it, Toby, or do you think they were just busy trying to survive themselves, because they too…
GUTTERMAN: Maybe, but I don’t know. I don’t think survival was with the cake, because that’s the first time since when I went to camp ‘till, you know, after the war, that I-I tasted a piece of cake. This one lady, a nice lady, took out, and she offered me a piece of cake. Can you imagine, that after so many years, I mean, my gosh. (LAUGHTER) I – you know, and I thanked her. And I knew the word in Czechoslovakian, thank you, then. (LONG PAUSE)
Yes, and we went finally to Germany and I found, I found out that I have no place to go, nowhere to live, no money. So, at first the man who took us through the border, his sister said, “Well, he got an apartment,” and she says, “You want to stay with us until you find something?” And I said, “Oh, how nice. That’s just wonderful.” And she let me stay with her, okay? So I said, “But I don’t have any money, what are you going, you know, I cannot share the rent with you or anything.” She says, “I know, my brother told me.” So, I said, “Okay, because I don’t want to mislead you. If you need someone to help you pay, I can’t, okay?” So she didn’t have much either, but her brother knew a lot of farmers and he was bringing, you wouldn’t believe it. He, he knew farmers, He could, he used to buy – he lived somewhere else, okay, in an apartment – he used to buy like, half a cow from a farmer, sold part of the meat, had the money and our meat around which – his sister, his sister was the cook for the whole family. In her house, you know, her brother and her other brother, who brought the girlfriend for – everybody was eating at his sister’s house. She was the cook. He brought, you know, her younger brother who took the people over the border, he brought food – he brought meat, one time he brought a goose, and everything. He went to the, what do you call it – to the officials, German officials. He registered us, all of us, to – as a survivor. He gave us special passes. And we were entitled to get rations, you see.
PRINCE: What part of Germany were you in?
GUTTERMAN: I was in Bamberg, Germany, that was Bavaria called in German.
PRINCE: Do you know how to spell it…Bamberg?
GUTTERMAN: Yeah, B A M B E R G. Bamberg, Germany. And he, uh, you know, he gave us those passes and we got a lot of – he knew people, they called it in German, beamte, you know, where the special officers were, and he got extra rations and things. And it was just unbelievable. Now her sister – his sister was lucky because her – she survived and her husband survived. She was married before the war. So, you know, they both survived. So he got a lot of things for his brother and sister and everybody, you know. So he was very helpful and that’s how I got through the first part of, you know. And then he started; he kept on asking me out. And his sister, when that was happening, didn’t like it too much.
Oh, I forgot. Also, you have to remember, I have a bad – I had a bad arm, you know, from the, I can recall that beastly, when I started telling you, no, when I started telling you when we were crossing, I’m going back a little bit. When I came to Germany, my arm was in a mess. It was hurting. It was full of pus. I had, you know, I had to go to a doctor to get, you know, I had surgery, okay. I don’t recall if I told you, I had surgery also in Poland after the war. A Russian doctor did surgery on me, but yet my arm didn’t get better when I went to Germany, because I didn’t have any medical care right after it happened. So it really got infected, okay? So what happened when I came to Germany, and his sister, this man’s sister saw that he’s interested in me, she didn’t like it. She – he told me that. And she said, “Why you wanna – she’s a nice girl, but you don’t know that much about her, and she’s sick. She’s got a bad arm. What if she never can use this arm? Who’s gonna cook for you?” You know, European people. “Who’s gonna do anything for you? Why you want – there’s so many pretty girls.” And you know, he was pretty good-looking. “Why you wanna, you know, get involved with this girl?” And he came and told me that. Would you believe it?
Well, one thing led on to the other, and he started getting serious with me. And he was very nice to me. All through the time, he didn’t take advantage of me. And that’s what I liked about him. I said, “Well I don’t know, I-” and his brother had his girlfriend, and he wanted to get married before his brother and his brother was older than him. He was the youngest. I said, “Why don’t you wait ’til your brother get married?” You know, his sister was married already. I said, “I wanna wait, because I don’t even know you that well. I know you’re nice, but I wanna wait.” So I didn’t want to get married right away. I was scared, you know, because I didn’t know him. And then I found out that his sister didn’t want him to be involved with me, so I just thought, “I’d better take my time.” You know, and then I found out his brother was trying to fix him up with another girl too, a very pretty girl, and she didn’t have no problems.
PRINCE: She had a good arm?
GUTTERMAN: Yeah, yeah. So, but, he stuck to me, you know, so, after his brother got married the following year, I think it was in July, but, uh, then we got married later.
PRINCE: Now let’s give him a name, Toby, because we’ve never given him…
GUTTERMAN: (LAUGHTER) Yeah,that was my first husband.
PRINCE: And his name was…
GUTTERMAN: His name was Murry – M U R R Y – and his last name was Cymber – C Y M B E R. He had a longer name, but he shortened it. That came later. When we came to the United States…
PRINCE: Do you know, I know a little of your background and I know about you, and I know you were married before you were married to Morris, and –
GUTTERMAN: And he’s the father of my children.
PRINCE: Right, and I knew, just knowing you, as soon as you started talking about this man, that that’s who it was.
GUTTERMAN: Oh, really?
PRINCE: Yes, ’cause I could tell –
GUTTERMAN: At first I didn’t know…
PRINCE: I could tell by the expression on your face. I just didn’t…
GUTTERMAN: And that’s why I slipped out my sister-in-law. Because she still might…
PRINCE: But they already, they already said…(INAUDIBLE) So you really never dated anybody else?
GUTTERMAN: No, I really didn’t. Well, someone else was interested in me. But I don’t know, I didn’t care for him, you know. And he wanted to – he was too pushy – he wanted to get married right away and I hardly knew him. And that’s already he was talking about, “Oh, I’m sure you a good cook,” and, you know, I had the impression he wants a good cook, or something. See, but my husband to be didn’t do that, you see. I felt like he was my protector. And if it wouldn’t be for him, I wouldn’t be in Germany. And when I look, when I look back then he, I tell myself, “Oh my gosh, I’m so lucky. How would I ever get out of Poland?” Because when I wanted to get a letter or something that I worked in a hospital, you know, maybe not in a professional position, but just in case if I wanted to work in Germany. But when the Russians heard that I’m going to the American sector of Germany, they just despised me! I mean, they didn’t want to have nothing to do. And they, they called me a capitalist, you’re going to a capitalist thing. I said, “Oh my God. Am I lucky that I came,” because really after that, shortly after that, no one, but no one could get out of Germany. I mean, I’m sorry, of Poland.
PRINCE: (OVERTALK)…it would have been the Hungarian…
GUTTERMAN: Yes, right, into Germany. You know, but…
PRINCE: And we wouldn’t be sitting here.
GUTTERMAN: Right, and I realized…
PRINCE: And we’re in 194 – 48…
GUTTERMAN: That’s’46, well, I was married in 1946.
PRINCE: 1946?
GUTTERMAN: Right, a year later. Yeah.
PRINCE: A year later. So we’re in 1946, in Bavaria…
GUTTERMAN: Right, and I was married in Germany, his – my husband’s sister, she’d, we – I’ll never forget it. Usually when you were married after the war, you didn’t have much of a wedding, okay. He rented a hall in a German place. He had an orchestra. We had, um, people in – a lot of people invited – he had a lot of friends, Jews and non-Jews, we had a nice meal there. His sister did all – she’s a good cook. She did all the baking, as far as pastries concerned.
PRINCE: She began to…
GUTTERMAN: Yeah, yeah. She couldn’t – I think a lot of it she, she hated for him to get married because he, he practically supported her.
PRINCE: I don’t think she was jealous…
GUTTERMAN: He brought everything to her home, food and other things, and he, you know, and he worked part-time, and he brought money to her ’cause she did the cooking, she was, you know, so she didn’t like him. She knew, once he get married, he’s not gonna bring as much, you know, support, the material things to her.
PRINCE: What did you wear?
GUTTERMAN: Well, I rented a white gown. Would you believe it? I rented a gown and you’re not gonna believe it. We didn’t have no cars, none of us, okay. And when we went from our apartment, my apartment, to – right around, I had an apartment, I didn’t live with his sister. Because when I found out she didn’t like me, I didn’t live with his sister. Now I was getting help from the government then to – with rations and to help me pay the rent.
PRINCE: I see. Could you – you could call that reparations?
GUTTERMAN: Yeah, well a little – somewhat. Not for long, but then, in the beginning. So I could get my own and I lived with a German lady, and she gave me a beautiful room. It had a piano, and she says, “If you want to, I’ll teach you how to play piano.” It was a beautiful room. And the German people, after the war, they were – they needed, you know, some extra money ’cause their men were killed in the war, or something. Her husband was gone, was killed. So I was there, you know, living there with this lady. And my own room and I – I used, you know, her kitchen, but I just was like a boarder, a boarder.
PRINCE: When the Germans – did the fact that what had happened and been done to the Jews, was that just not talked about? Was it just a vacuum?
GUTTERMAN: Um, after the war they were very, very pleasant, the Germans. But they, they wanted you to live like this because, first of all, if a Jew lived in a German home, they weren’t as suspicious that they found something, you know. And maybe they didn’t, they didn’t do it ’cause the lady was very nice…
PRINCE: But there was not totally distressed…(OVERTALK)…like it parachuted in from heaven or something…
GUTTERMAN: No, no, really we didn’t, we didn’t. No, we were pleasant to each other. To my lady, and you know…
PRINCE: But like you come from Pittsburgh or something…
GUTTERMAN: Yeah, yeah.
GUTTERMAN: That’s just like that. And, I’ll tell you, that time, we didn’t get a lot of gifts, maybe a little scarf or something, you know, flowers. Everybody sent flowers. I mean the room was filled with – from ceiling to bottom with flowers, you know. (CHUCKLES) And, uh, a rabbi married us, you know, and like I said, it was –
PRINCE: A survivor rabbi?
GUTTERMAN: A survivor, but he’s dead. I don’t know, he had surgery. I think his wife is still alive. He had surgery one time and what happened, they gave him to drink some juice or something and the can – it was from a can and it was contaminated. It was a big – oh, it was a big scandal. And he died from it. (PAUSE) After that we lived in Germany until 1949. We waited until we were going to be registered to go to Israel or United States, whichever comes first. And we got a call from, a letter from the United States Government that we can go, so in 1949 we immigrated to the United States.
PRINCE: Toby, thank you very much for all the work and effort and time that you gave to us.

Return to Life Interview: Tape 1 - Side 1

(DECEMBER 4, 1988)
PRINCE: Toby, you said to me that returning to life was difficult.
TOBY: Yes, it was very difficult because when I got free, which I was praying for to be free, I was really scared. First of all, everything was so new to me. I didn’t have anyone, not even friends, ‘cause some of the friends that I cultivated in the concentration camp died and I survived. I didn’t know anyone. The family I was hoping for was not around and I was very naïve because you have to remember that when I went to camp, I was very young and I didn’t have too much education. So my first thought was education too, but the first thing I had to do is get cleaned up. I had to delouse myself. I was full of lice, dirty, no clothes. I felt so low that – lower than any human being can be. I don’t know, I even felt at times worse on the outside when I was on the inside because I could see people neatly dressed, shopping and doing things just like in the normal world, and me – didn’t have anybody, didn’t have no money. First, didn’t know where I was going, what I was going to do to support myself, and all of a sudden I felt like a ton of bricks hit me. I had so much – so many decisions to make and there was no one I could ask. SO that was a really hard time and I still was hungry. Of course, I was lucky that this couple took me in after I, you know, was liberated. And I helped clean her house and she let me stay there. So that was, you know, a plus for me. But, the other thing was that I felt so conscious just go out in the street. I didn’t have any clothes. I still was wearing shoes, with the wooden – you know, the wooden shoes.
PRINCE: Clogs?
TOBY: Well, it was not like clogs, like the Holland, but it had wooden soles and was made out of canvass, the tops. It was high up to the ankle.
PRINCE: So they were shoes from the camp.
TOBY: Yeah, right.
PRINCE: So if somebody saw you, they would know —
TOBY: Right, right, right away.
PRINCE: Did that bother you?
TOBY: It bothered me. They were uncomfortable.
PRINCE: No, did it bother you that people would know?
TOBY: No, not only that they would know, but it bothered me that I looked different. I mean, I looked pitiful. First of all, my hair was shaved. I just didn’t feel like a whole person, and that bothered me a lot. And, like I was so naïve and so honest. Some people after liberation, a lot of people just went to the stores and the owners were not there, and they looted and they got some stuff for themselves. They say, “What the heck”. But I was just scared and I thought it was dishonest, and I was scared to go. I just didn’t even get out. First of all, I was so – it was so unpleasant everywhere you went. It was in the winter. There were dead people still around and it was very, very, distressing to me. I mean, and the camp was bad, but I got so used to it; people telling me what to do and what not to do. I was conditioned just to do this way, and all of a sudden, after quite a few years, I’m on my own, and that’s very scary. And I had to do something, so somebody told me that they hire people. And there was a lot of wounded people from the Russian army because that’s why I was liberated by them, and they needed people to work in the hospitals. So I started working there and they didn’t pay you any money. That was a minus too. They paid you – they gave you like marmalade and bread. And there was a shortage of everything, that’s true. So I didn’t need it that much, so what I did, I sold this and with the money I bought me a pair of shoes. So that’s the first thing that made me feel good. Then I went out to the pharmacy, got some stuff too, you know, get rid of the lice. I didn’t have other clothes, so I had to take my clothes and boil it. Oh, this lady gave me something old to wear while I was doing this.
PRINCE: Do you remember the color?
TOBY: It was some kind of blue print or something, almost like a housecoat. But I had to boil it in hot water. I remember I had a white blouse with long sleeves and I put in bleach and boiled it so to disinfect the whole thing. I didn’t have any, other clothes. So, little by little, whenever I got the rations, I sold it and I got me some underwear and all that. But, I don’t know, it was very hard on me. You know, I was – I felt like I’m just somewhere – like I’m carrying a big house on my shoulders. That’s how it was hard on me, and —
PRINCE: What was in the house?
TOBY: Well, it’s just a big load, you know. Whatever the contents is in the house. I’m just carrying it on my shoulders and another thing, there were people, especially a lot of – I had to deal with a lot of men, and everybody went, you know, kind of pressured you to things and I didn’t have that in the camp. I just followed and obeyed the Germans. And I guess after a while I was just so conditioned to it that I just did it. It was hard on me, but I don’t know, when I got out it was much harder on me.
PRINCE: Was it harder to be put in the camps and to be conditioned in that way than it was to get rid of the conditioning?
TOBY: Well it was – the first time when I was taken into the camp, I think it was the bigger shock because it was all so new to me. And it was hard too because I didn’t have no food. Now, after the war, when I was liberated, that was one good thing that went for me that I had food, which I didn’t have to go around hungry. But I think my upbringing kind of – I think God was with me because – to make the right decisions, not to get in trouble. Because a lot of young people, after they got out concentration camps got into trouble, and different kind of problems and all that. And I kind of – you know, maybe it was a plus for me, being scared. I didn’t get hurt like some people did. You know what I’m saying?
PRINCE: What are we really saying?
TOBY: Well, what I’m saying, a lot of people, a lot of people got hurt, especially young girls. We were very vulnerable.
PRINCE: You mean that they had relations or that they were raped?
TOBY: They were raped. They were places where they weren’t supposed to be and because I was chicken to go places, I was safe from that. ‘Cause one time – I think I spoke about it previously – I almost was raped too. But, see my instinct, I don’t know why, saved me from it because – I don’t know as well as you remember, when I was working in the hospital and a soldier came, and he got me into this room and I said, “Someone is calling me, they need me. I’ll be back.” That saved me too. Now, why did I do that? You think I was smart or something? It just came – a thought came to me to do this. So, when I think back, I really, I was lucky this way that I didn’t get in situations where some other people, especially young girls, got themselves in. I was doing good this way, but it took me a long time to get my self-esteem back.
PRINCE: It took more than a pair of shoes.
TOBY: Yes. Yes. Definitely. I mean, even if I had the shoes, I mean, when I think – oh a lot of girls just went with guys and they bought them stuff and everything. See, I didn’t. So that was a minus for me too. I didn’t have it. So, some girls, right after the war, they were really nicely dressed, they didn’t work. A lot of them went and lived with guys. They didn’t think of any responsibility and they just did it because they needed to and they did it the easy way. Now, I did it the hard way and maybe that’s why I was very unhappy. And, you know, when I think about it, at the time when I got out of Poland, I didn’t even – I thought so low of me that I didn’t even want to get out of Poland. I was so scared of the unknown. I said, “Maybe I should stay.” And they say, “What are you gonna do? Pretty soon, you know”—People kept on telling me, “If you get a chance, go. I mean, don’t think what’s gonna happen. Just take day by day.” So I’m lucky, that I listened to them. I was talked into leave Poland.
PRINCE: When you say you thought so low of you, you didn’t want to go?
TOBY: You know, sometimes when you, I was, I was hoping for so little. I mean, I was content, God, that I have enough to eat, right? So I don’t have much clothes, ok? So I don’t have no family. But I was very, very scared of the unknown. I was just – I don’t know. I didn’t believe. I didn’t have enough – I wasn’t optimistic, let’s say. I was very pessimistic.
PRINCE: You didn’t think you deserved it?
TOBY: In a way, yes, yes, because I felt, “My God, no one is alive. What am I doing, you know, still alive? I felt like guilt and I just, you know, I was content with very little, which I shouldn’t have been, because when I think about it and I saw other people going places, getting things the easy way, and me, I just – I worked day in and day out. Not days, nights I worked very hard in the hospital and after a while I was afraid to go from where I stayed with couple to work, so the administrator at the hospital gave me and another girl a room at the hospital. They had extra rooms where patients weren’t, but no one had to know. And I stayed there because it was very dangerous to walk at night and that’s where we walked home after work. And there were a lot of – it was like martial law. You weren’t even supposed to be out.
PRINCE: Toby, when you got out of the camp, was it surprising to you to see the world as it was, that people were going about their business, that they were busy. I know that the war left, as you said, dead bodies, and that things changed so much, but when you were in the camp, and I don’t know if you thought about what people were doing outside or what was going on, or if you were just so self-contained but – could you talk about that a little for me?
TOBY: Yes. I was wondering how it was out on the outside, you know. I was often thinking, “What’s going on? What are people doing? What’s happening out there? ‘Cause no news or anything. I tell you one thing, I listened to the news and things after the war, I did. And I was so, you know, I wanted to know everything what’s going on, and that I really enjoyed. And I felt so much better that I’m not in the dark. Of course, in Poland I didn’t have no problem with the language or writing or reading. It’s after I left Poland that I had to go to school.
PRINCE: We’ll get into that. But the fact that when you got out and then there you were living with those people and then you’d go in and you’d see people walking in and out of shops and going about their daily life. How did you feel? They’d been going about their daily life all the time.
TOBY: Yeah, like nothing would happen. Everybody just did their own thing. And I couldn’t understand. I was dying to know, “How do they feel?” I mean, what’s going on in their heads, because my head was full like a, my head was buzzing like a beehive. I was constantly thinking about different things and to this day, I’m a people watcher. I wanted to see what people are like, what makes them tick and what they’re thinking, how they act. I was really, I mean I really wanted to know. And I really wanted to make friends. I had a few friends but at this time you couldn’t. You didn’t know who you making friends with because it was just people from everywhere. I mean, you didn’t know what type of people they were or how do they – if they’re nice or not. Even with women, you took a chance. So that was against me too. And I felt so deeply about not having anyone that it bothered me constantly. I think that was my biggest thing about coming out. If I only could have – of course I had this girl that I worked with. We sort of became close friends. She went to Israel. So I don’t know, I couldn’t find her. I was trying to find where she lives, but I never could for some reason. She must have gotten married and changed her name. No one could find her for me. But other than that, I felt, I don’t know – I felt so alone. I think I felt more alone than when I was in camp. You know why? Because in camp, I was in the same barrack with so many people, and out of the camp, it was a different story. It was a normal life, and you just can’t go out on the street and recruit your friends and just start talking to people, and just say, “Well, you want to be my friend?” And that was really hard on me because I was so naïve and still so young. Maybe nowadays, I would act different, when I got out. I should have been more mature. Thinking back, I don’t think I was. I was very naïve. And most of the time – on one hand I was very suspicious of people. On the other hand, I believed people. So, at times I was very suspicious when I wasn’t supposed to, and on the other hand, I believed people a lot.
PRINCE: Can you explain that?
TOBY: It was really – I was an odd ball, you know?
TOBY: When I think back. How could I be suspicious sometimes of people and sometimes I just believed in what they said? I mean I went back and forth. And after a while, I said, “What am I doing?”
PRINCE: Why do you suppose you did that?
TOBY: I don’t know. I just – I tell you, people like me, when they got out, we were thinking different. I mean, my whole thinking was like, “Well, should I trust people or shouldn’t I?” Most of the time I didn’t trust people. That was true too. But there were times when I – what I want to say – when I believed everybody, and when I got away from them, I said, “Why did I believe this person everything?” Maybe I shouldn’t have. I was kinda apprehensive about it. The word is, “I was very cautious to everything, everywhere I went and to everyone I talked to, and with everyone I was. I was just cautious, and this is not normal. But, at the time I believed it was normal.
PRINCE: Well, you had some rough treatment, Toby.
TOBY: Yeah, yeah.
PRINCE: You were how old when you went in?
TOBY: Well, let’s see – 1939 – oh, to camp when I went in? Let’s see, I was in ’26, so I must have been when I went into camp – It was ’42, so I was, let’s see – four and nine is thirteen. I was 15 years old, okay. And when I came out, in ’45, I was 18 years old. So 18 years old, I should be more grown up, more sure of myself, and I wasn’t.
PRINCE: Would you say that in your maturing, a particular part of your life stopped?
TOBY: Yeah, in one way I stopped maturing. And you know, I felt that a chunk of my life was missing. I knew I missed so much. I missed school, part of going to school. I missed, you know, family. I missed the normal life, the normal things that everyone is doing, I was deprived of it. So I think part of my life, was missing and I felt like I’m lacking something to my own person and I felt guilt.
PRINCE: Talk about the guilt.
TOBY: I felt angry about the guilt. Well, why did everybody die and I didn’t? I felt angry, very much angry at the Germans. I felt angry at myself, like – I would have – why did I pray to be alive, and I said, “Well, what I going to do? Why do I have to go through more stress, more agony? Isn’t it enough, you know, that I went through the war?” Well, I visualized when I get out, you know, I get out and the war will be over, well I’ll return to my family and I’ll have people take care of me like they were, and I’ll have somebody to love and somebody will love me, and it will be a wonderful world. Here I came out and I had to face so many tough days and so many tough decisions, you know, I felt so alone. I felt at first, the first few weeks like, “Oh, it didn’t happen to no one else but to me. Why did it happen to me?” But then, after a while, I said, “What am I saying? I mean, what am I thinking? A lot of other people are in the same boat that I am. Why am I complaining so much?” Then I started really kind of getting more – I came down more, you know, I come down, like, “Well, I should count my blessings. Maybe I’ll get over all it.” And I tried to kind of blend in with other people and at first I shouldn’t, and act like other people that, you know just go around like it would be a normal world. But for me it was not a normal world. For me it was a different chapter of my life. Only it wasn’t normal.
PRINCE: The camp seemed more normal?
TOBY: No, I wouldn’t say the camp seemed more normal. It was a little easy in a way. Although, I had a lot of problems, and I was tortured and things, but I mean I didn’t have to make decisions and think so much. So that goes to show you what a human being can turn in, and now I believe, you know, soldiers and things when they kept prisoners, like they get brainwashed and things. When I think back, it probably happened to me like that. And I believe, like a lot of prisoners, they committed crimes and when they get out to be free, you know, I still think, I said, “I know what he means when he doesn’t know how to function in the free world,” because its very, very hard. You have to face so many things that you did not have to, when I was locked up. And it’s very, very difficult. Maybe because – I think that older people, that when they went to the camps – older people than me and that were in concentration camps, I’ll betcha they did much better than me. First of all, they weren’t naïve. They knew more about life when they got out. You know, like my sister-in-law. She was married before the war in ’39. She’s much older than me, and she, she was a grown person when she went in and she had more sense. She wasn’t naïve like I was. And that’s why she had an easier time than I did, and people like her. For me, it was hard. It was very difficult.
PRINCE: Tell me about the food.
TOBY: Oh, that was something else. I tell you, talking about food. When I first came out, I sort of pigged out. I didn’t, the first few weeks, no. But after I started, like when I already lived in an apartment, you would not believe it. When I think back, I cannot believe it that I ate all that. We used to pray to have a loaf of bread and just eat how much we wanted. Well, let me tell you, in Germany and even Poland, they had little like loaves of bread, you know, like little ones. And I could sit down and take butter – when I felt good already, at first I didn’t because my stomach was so, you know, it was so little. It kinda shrink that I could not eat. The first few months I couldn’t. But after that, I just started stuffing my face and I started gaining weight, and then when I looked at myself I said, “Oh my God, what am I doing to myself?” I don’t know, my will to eat was so overwhelming, you wouldn’t believe it that I kept on eating. I just could make a meal just on bread and butter.
PRINCE: Did you eat all the time? Did you think about food all the time?
TOBY: I thought a lot about food. I wouldn’t say all the time, but I thought a lot about food.
PRINCE: Did you ever take some and put it in your pocket?
TOBY: Yeah, that’s another thing, and I feel guilty until this day. Even after the war, you know, I was so conscious about food when I was working in the hospital, and a lot of patients did not eat their bread. It could have been full of germs or something. I tell you, I don’t know how I didn’t get sick. I took – if they didn’t eat their bread, I took their bread, took it home, you know, because otherwise we would throw it out, and I ate it at home. I was so afraid I will not have any food. That was another hang-up I had. I was worried I won’t have enough to eat at that time. So, can you imagine that I was working in the hospital, taking patient’s bread when they were too sick to eat, and taking the bread?

Return to Life Interview: Tape 1 - Side 2

TOBY: I was so worried about not having enough to eat at times that, you know, to the point that I was kinda saving (laughing) stuff. You know, like a squirrel saving nuts to make sure that I will have enough food.
PRINCE: When did you begin to feel like you did have enough food?
TOBY: Well, that was later on when I came – I really didn’t feel I had enough food until I came to the United States, if you want to know the truth (laughing).
PRINCE: I do want to know the truth.
TOBY: Yes. Yes. Until I came to the United States.
PRINCE: And what made that different?
TOBY: Well, it made me feel – oh, then I had problems too – (laughing)
PRINCE: Go ahead.
TOBY: — because when I first came, we were staying at relative’s house ‘cause they sponsored my husband and me, and, you know, his aunt lived upstairs and her daughter, his cousin, lives downstairs, and I was trying to, out of appreciation, I was trying to help them. I used to iron her clothes and I used to clean upstairs. Well, the aunt upstairs didn’t know I ate downstairs (laughing). You know, the cousin downstairs didn’t know I ate upstairs, and I was ashamed to say, and a lot of times, I went hungry. And later on – you see, that’s how naïve I was – I could have told them, you know. I mean, they would have let me take some food, but nobody thought about asking me because they assumed that I ate at the other person’s apartment.
PRINCE: Oh, I misunderstood, I thought you were saying that you ate upstairs and then you ate downstairs.
TOBY: No, no, no. No, I didn’t, and I went hungry.
TOBY: So in that instance, I was very naïve. I mean, I could have said something. You know what I’m saying? But I was so bashful. I used to be so bashful, you would not believe it. I mean, now I’m not. But I used to be very bashful and I didn’t say nothing, and so – that’s another bout with food I had, you know.
PRINCE: Uh-huh.
TOBY: But anyway, after I gained weight, little by little, I still was eating, but I ate things, you know, that wouldn’t make me gain weight. Or maybe I drank liquids, maybe kinda blew me up, but I felt fat the time. (Laughing) But it didn’t stop me from eating, I tell you, ‘cause what I call “fat”, maybe another person doesn’t think so, but I did. When I came out, you could count my ribs. I was really skinny.
PRINCE: Well, you’re a small person; you’re a tiny —
TOBY: Well, I’m not tall.
PRINCE: No, you’re tiny, you’re small boned. What did your weight get down to when you came out?
TOBY: Oh, I think I was 60 pounds, something like that, or 58 pounds. I was skin and bones, I really was. And I remember anything I put on, it was just hanging on me. I was like flat chested then, and I was so skinny, you know, when I undressed myself, you could count every rib.
PRINCE: You probably, going into the camps at 15, you may not have developed —
TOBY: That’s true.
PRINCE: So you really didn’t know —
TOBY: It could have stopped me from growing too. That’s why maybe I’m so short. I’m not kidding because that was my growing years, you know.
PRINCE: But you really didn’t know what kind of figure or, what you were going to turn into as you developed.
TOBY: No, not at all. And I didn’t have no idea. I hated to look myself in the mirror. I just didn’t like it. I didn’t like myself the way I look, and that’s why maybe I didn’t think – I felt so low. In other words, I didn’t have much confidence in myself. On one hand, when I think back, I was doing good, but at the time I did not think so, that I was doing good. I thought, “Gosh”, “How am I gonna survive? What am I gonna do?” And it all the time nagged at me, you know? And that wasn’t normal. I mean, psychologically – at my age, it wasn’t normal. I should be thinking about, “Go easy”, just like young people think about things, but I didn’t. I thought like, “Oh God, like I would be a hundred years old.”
PRINCE: Did you realize what you’d been through? What I’m hearing from you now is that you should have been doing this and you should have been doing this, and you had just come out of hell.
TOBY: Yeah, but you see, the normal things to do when you come out even of hell – okay, you should start to live life and get to the point where’s there a normal life for you. That’s why I was freed. But yet I didn’t do it, you see. I mean, according to my thinking, I’m not a psychologist or anything, I thought I acted more like very serious, very serious. I didn’t laugh much, you know. I couldn’t laugh, like – and if I did laugh once in a while, it wasn’t from deep down. It wasn’t that happy laugh that you get from the inside. So that wasn’t normal. On the other hand, maybe it was, what I went through hell. It must have been normal. But at the time, I thought I’m acting like I would be an old lady. But that’s the way I felt and I just couldn’t, try to – the reason I’m saying this is that when I saw people my age, I mean, they were goin’ around. They went to drink and they were livin’ it up. And I said, “Look at me”.
PRINCE: So you felt different —
TOBY: Yeah, I felt different.
PRINCE: — even than them. You felt different because you came out of the camp and you felt different from other people that came out of the camp.
TOBY: Yeah. I felt different even from the people that came out of the camp. You know what I’m sayin’?
TOBY: Because they did – maybe they felt like they did things just to better themselves. While I didn’t. I wanted to better myself, but not the way they went about it, see. So in that instance, you know, they had an easier life than I did.
PRINCE: Did you act after the camp similar to the way you acted before you went into the camp, like in school or with your friends? You seem to be very much your own person even though you were trying to find what that person was. You still weren’t a follower. Was that like you were before?
TOBY: No, I was never like before. I don’t think I was. I – but you know what else? I was not follower either after I got out too. The reason I’m saying that, I was too cautious about being a follower.
PRINCE: You weren’t a follower. That’s what I’m saying, you weren’t a follower.
TOBY: No, I was my own person.
PRINCE: That’s what I’m saying. Even though you were looking for that person, you didn’t follow people. That’s what I was saying. What were you like before as a young person?
TOBY: Oh, I was just happy go lucky, you know. I was just like a regular teenager, thought about homework, or about, you know.
PRINCE: Did you go your own way or did you follow, or — ?
TOBY: No, I was my own person too. I think I was also somewhat my own person than my sisters were, you know. I always was, come to think of it. If I wanted to do something, I did. If I didn’t want to, I didn’t, you know. And I still am my own person.
PRINCE: So then some of your what you call being naïve was instinct and —
TOBY: Yes, yes. I just followed my own feelings, my own instincts, you know, and “What am I gonna do, what am I not?” Because, you see, no one told – even if I wanted to follow somebody, most people didn’t tell me, you see. So I had to be my own person.
PRINCE: And you talked a lot about having no one and feeling the need. Did you ever get so desperate that you took some of these thoughts and feelings to someone at that time?
TOBY: Well, the only time when I started talking to is to this girl that I worked with. That was the start. She was telling me what she felt like, and I was telling her how I felt. So, then I had another girl that I knew. You know she worked on a different shift, but I knew her very well, and we became friends and we were talking to each other about our families and what it would have been like, and why we are like that and – what is it in store for us. We were talking over how it was, how it is now.
PRINCE: Uh-uh-hmm.
TOBY: That was in a way a relief for me because outside of that, I carried like a big burden. And for my age and from my background, it was just overwhelming. It was too, I just felt like I want to get rid of all – it was like a big burden to me when I was at first. I was happy about it, but it was just so tremendous, so overwhelming. Here’s the whole world open to me, yet it is not, you see. And maybe I was thinking like at my age, like I was still thinking I was like 12, 13 14, or whatever, and I needed still the nourishment and the love and the, you know, the instinct of a mother and a father. I think I missed that probably because I was – I mean I had my mother, I only was with her –what is it – twelve, thirteen years or whatever, when the war started? And that was it. That was a short time being with your parents. And I think I missed this and that’s why I was so overwhelmed and scared and wondering what to do, what not to do. It was just too much, what was happening to me.
PRINCE: How did people treat you, Toby?
TOBY: Well, I don’t know. Where I worked, people didn’t treat me that good at all. First of all, there were Russians around me. They lived in Russia and had a different life, you know. So that, I couldn’t share even with my co-workers or with the people I worked for anything. So that didn’t help me either, you see. I was in the surroundings where I don’t think anything helped me. It was just like, you know, at times I felt like I was locked up like, lets say in a doghouse, and then they take this dog and take you out somewhere in the country and then let you go. And then you have to decide where are you going, what are you gonna do? Is anybody gonna hurt you? See, you have to remember I was afraid of that too because I was hurt so much. And as time went on, I was thinking that, “Well, I don’t want to get hurt anymore, so what am I gonna do about it?” You see. And all those things went on in my head constantly, and at night I was thinking, “Well, what am I gonna do tomorrow to better myself? Or is it gonna be the same day?” It was a very difficult time. I had to make so many adjustments, at each stage of my life. It was unbelievable. Of course, I made it, but it was very, very hard. I mean, I didn’t even know, like when I went to buy something, I took a long time to decide. “Well, am I doing the right thing?” Because when I was young, my mother always said, “You always should do the right thing. When you do the right thing, you never can be wrong.” (Laughing) And when I’m thinking about it now, and I followed this thing. So everything I did took me so long to decide. And you know, to this day, some things take me a long time to decide.
PRINCE: The trivia or the important?
TOBY: No, some important things. Things that I don’t want to deal with that bother me, I keep on putting it off, and I shouldn’t because sometimes it’s important I get them done now. But different things, it takes me a long time to decide, and it’s wrong, I know it is. But I just can’t help myself. I keep on putting it off. So, that’s what I did. It took me so long to decide on anything.
PRINCE: You talked about laughter, laughing before, and it just didn’t come from way down deep.
TOBY: No, it didn’t.
PRINCE: Did you laugh because you thought it was appropriate to laugh or because it was funny?
TOBY: No, because somebody said something and you should be laughing, but for some reason, I laughed because people —
PRINCE: Expected you to?
TOBY: Yeah, yeah. But I didn’t laugh with all my heart. I just couldn’t. For a long time I didn’t laugh, really laugh, which is very healthy to do, but I couldn’t. I was just so full of pain and full of uncertainties and full of doubts and wondering.
PRINCE: What were the doubts, Toby?
TOBY: Well, the doubts were whatever I did, “Am I doing the right thing?” See, the reason, I felt this way, ‘cause I didn’t have anyone older than me just to talk to, even the same age, to really, you know, kinda talk it over. And that’s why I was always doubtful, “Well, am I doing the right thing?” I was always wondering. I tell you, I think thinking all that, it makes me feel like I’m a basket case (laughing). ‘Cause I looked at other people. They were so easy go lucky, like nothing would bother them. And I was so serious all the time.
PRINCE: How do you think they did that?
TOBY: I don’t know. I still wonder how they did that. You know, at times I think that they were not – when I think back – I thought I wasn’t mature, but I think I was more mature than them. You know why? Because it was a serious thing that was happening to me. And they sort of took it like what they call now “scatterbrains”. They just didn’t worry about anything. They just lived day by day which I had to do, but I was too serious about everything. So, that was the feeling I had. It was very, very – at times I was happy I was out, and at times it was painful. “But what am I doing out?” So, it was a very difficult time in my life when I think back.
PRINCE: When did you begin to look in the mirror and feel a little bit better – maybe not down deep, but at least on the surface?
TOBY: Oh, that must have been – let’s see – I think in ’46, I started becoming a little bit like they say, “a mensch”. A little bit more relaxed. Because I used to be very tense. You have to know that my pain did not go away even when I got freed. I had a lot of anger and pain in me, so that wasn’t a healthy thing either. But after about a year I started feeling a little bit different. I started trying to do, you know – what I thought was the right thing. I was trying to start going to school, something important to do with my life instead of just, thinking of surviving. And I was telling myself, “Well, I survived now. Now what? I have to go on in doing something instead of using up my energy of doubting and being angry and wondering.” So I started to do something more positive, you know, more things for myself. And I knew the first thing I have to do is go to school and at least finish, you know, up to high school because my education was interrupted. So I concentrated on this and I started learning a little bit English, right before I went to the United States. I wasn’t good when I came here, but at least I had a little bit. And then when I came here, I went to school too. I went to night school.
PRINCE: How about what you saw in other people’s eyes. You came from a loving home so you always saw love and caring in people, and then you were in the camps and you were the object of a lot of unpleasantness. When you got out, and you were around and did different things, when were you conscious of somebody looking at you and smiling and accepting you as human being?
TOBY: Well, I started feeling better. I started feeling like a human being, while before I knew I was a human being, but I didn’t feel like I was. That was the difference, you see. I just felt like I didn’t act right, I didn’t do right. The bottom line is I really needed a mother or a father.
PRINCE: Did you talk to them even though they weren’t there?
TOBY: Yes, I conversed with myself and I talked, you know, with my mother and my father. Of course, he died earlier but, I mean, I lived in a very loving family and I missed it so much. I missed it more even when I was free. I knew it was coming to me. Do you know what I’m saying? When I was free, I deserved it and in camp I knew, well, I was in camp. It was easier for me, you know, about parents and family because I was hoping I will see them. But after I couldn’t see them, I was very disappointed. It was a big disappointment, and I cried a lot about it. I needed them so badly. At this stage of my life, I really needed someone, even an older sister, a younger sister, somebody, an aunt, an uncle. I needed desperately someone, and I didn’t have it at first. So that was really hard on me.
PRINCE: Who was the first person that you did have?
TOBY: Well, you mean right after I got married or before?
PRINCE: Whatever. I just mean generally. It can be before, during, after, whenever. But who was the first person that filled some need for you?
TOBY: Well, of course, my husband when I got married. But outside of him, my first person was – my aunt found out that I was alive, my father’s sister, and she came to see me in Germany. She found out where I was and she came to see me. I felt – I don’t know, I can’t explain what kind of feeling I had. It was such a warm feeling that something, somebody from my past is touching me, and it was so, you know – it touched me so deeply, that somebody cared to come from somewhere else, to come to me, to see me. She was not in a concentration camp. She was in Russia during the war. They went through a lot too, and it touched me really deeply. I mean, someone from my past, someone from my family came to see me, wanted to be close to me. So that was very, very important. That was my first, you know, I could talk about. See, because from my husband’s side, they didn’t know me even if I talked about people. They didn’t know who I was talking about. But they knew, and we had so much – I could relate to them more, and we had so much more in common.
PRINCE: That was an uncle on your dad’s side?
TOBY: Yeah, her husband. And she had a little girl who was my cousin.
PRINCE: How long were you with them?
TOBY: Well, no she had to go back ‘cause she lived in another city. But since then, we were close. We were writing each other and seeing each other. And that helped me a lot. And then I found out – I didn’t remember that my father had a brother here in the United States that I didn’t remember having. He came here when he was like 18 or 16 years old, a long time ago. So I was happy about that too.
PRINCE: Did that help you get over here?
TOBY: No, my husband’s family helped us, not him, but he helped me a lot when I came. That was nice too. So, it was a very touching part of my life when I found out that they were looking for me, and that they were alive too because at first I thought I didn’t have anyone from my past or my family. So that helped. It helped a lot.
PRINCE: And you helped them too?
TOBY: Oh yes, we helped each other, that’s for sure. It was amazing. And she was, you know, older than me and she had survived, and I thought to myself, “My gosh.” I kind of related to her like my mom. She had so much wisdom, and she – I thought she was so much wiser than me, and she – oh, gosh – ‘cause at first I was afraid to – when I was married. I was married like over two years and I was afraid to even have children ‘cause I told myself, “Oh, I’ll probably never have a healthy child, what I went through, and probably never will.” So I was afraid. And then I didn’t want to have any children in Europe. I thought it was a bad place to have children, a family. So, my aunt, when she heard that, she said, “You’re married over two years, and you don’t have any children, and you should.” So after that, my husband heard that. That’s why, you know, my oldest was born in Germany, but I was planning to have her in the United States.
PRINCE: What did your husband say after he heard that?
TOBY: When he heard that, he says, “Well, we have to talk about family, if that’s the case.” I said, “Well, I don’t know if I’m healthy enough, you know, after what I went through.” So I went to a doctor and he said, “Of course you can start a family. You’re okay now.” But I doubted if I could have a healthy child.
PRINCE: Do you think many people worried about that?
TOBY: I don’t know. Some people didn’t. They had children right – you know, a year later or so after they got married.

Return to Life Interview: Tape 2 - Side 1

TOBY: So I was planning to have a child, and I thought, “Well, we were planning – we knew already when we got to the United States – and I’ll have one in the United States.” So at first, in the beginning, the doctor wouldn’t let me travel until I was three months pregnant or so. And then later it was too late in the pregnancy. He thought I should be there. So I had to wait until she was a few months old until, I brought her here. So that would make me unhappy because I did not want her to be born in Europe. And it was very hard on me because my husband worked in a different city and by train it took him six hours. She was almost over a day old when he came back, when I had the baby. It was very hard. So, later I moved over to where he was working because he got off Saturday and Sunday and that’s all he did was travel back and forth.
PRINCE: Why didn’t you want her born in Europe?
TOBY: Because at the time I hated Europe and I knew in the United States is a better country for my child to grow up. And I didn’t want her to be born in Europe. As a matter of fact, when I came I started working right away on citizenship papers. I went to special classes to learn about history and things, and she would automatically become a citizen when I became one, but I still didn’t want her to have a German birth certificate. So I did hers too. I made out papers and she went through citizenship too, so she’s got her own, birth certificate from the United States.
PRINCE: Were you concerned about being a mother?
TOBY: Yes, I didn’t know much about being a mother, believe it or not. My sister-in-law helped me a lot with that ‘cause she had a little girl already, and she helped me. But I was very concerned because I felt like a kid myself, you know. And I didn’t know much, but you know, I learned, I tried to. And I started learning about nutrition that I did not know absolutely in Poland. I was too young to know about anything. And I started learning how to cook, which I didn’t know either. So I started to become more of a person with a little bit more knowledge, and I felt like I, — that’s why I was so hungry to go to classes and to learn about it, and I appreciate a lot that I had this chance to do that when I couldn’t before. That meant a lot to me.
PRINCE: How did marriage change things for you?
TOBY: Oh, it made me more secure because I had someone, you know, to talk to and to love and to be close. I wasn’t alone anymore. So, maybe it would be different circumstances, I probably wouldn’t get married that early in my life. You know what I’m saying?
PRINCE: Uh-hmm.
TOBY: Because I needed – I would have probably gotten more education and so on, but then when I had a child, a couple years later, I couldn’t. And I still could have had time to get married. But, see, I was so alone that I thought, “Well, what am I going to accomplish being by myself?” And I felt it was such a big world, that I was in – I kept on comparing in a small world where I was before. I was freed, and all of a sudden, the whole world opened up to me and was so big that I was just, like I said, overwhelmed. And being alone you feel really small in a big world. So it meant a lot to me when I got married because then I started more acquiring knowledge and I wanted to get Americanized so bad, you know. I didn’t even – I spoke different languages and you know I’m forgetting them, but I sacrificed it because I didn’t want to talk to the children nothing but English. So, of course, I still have an accent, but I tried really hard, first of all, to read a lot. It made me feel very good, ‘cause with reading I knew more about what’s going on and I wasn’t that much in the dark. And a lot of people from the survivors kept criticizing me, “Why don’t you talk to your children Polish or Jewish or whatever? It’s good for them to know another language.” But I sacrificed that and I said, “No, I don’t want my kids to” – Well, maybe I’m a little bit selfish because I wanted to learn the language, and if I would speak different language, another language, I would not. So that was important to me.
PRINCE: What year did you come?
TOBY: Here? ’49.
PRINCE: ’49? Oh, that was soon.
TOBY: Yeah, yeah, sure.
PRINCE: Oh Toby.
TOBY: And that was another chapter of my life, you see. I’ve had too many, and I’ve been knocked down so many times – you know, when I look back, how did I survive all that? I came to the conclusion that having a lot of heartache and having a lot of troubles and things, for some reason, you get stronger. I mean, I know it made me stronger, a stronger person. Maybe some people didn’t, but in my case, because when I look back how many times I was knocked down with different things, even after the war was over, and I came out without being sick and – mentally, I mean, and I’m mentally okay. It tells me that maybe I became stronger. I think I did. And I’m more secure myself because I still can see I have friends, survivors, mentally they are basket cases, believe me. They’re so insecure, and the way some of them are acting, I think I’m better off than them, even though I lost, you know —
PRINCE: Two husbands.
TOBY: Two husbands.
PRINCE: And two very fine husbands.
TOBY: Yes, yes. And, you know, I think I face things within my family when something comes up. I think I’m taking it the only way I can take it. I’m not – I don’t judge anyone in the family even though I don’t agree with what some of them are doing, and I try to get along with them, which I think brings me peace instead of arguing or disagreeing or getting hysterical about things. Sometimes it scares me. I’m so calm sometimes in some situations that it scares me.
TOBY: I don’t know. I’m too calm, ‘cause I have a friend now who lost her husband and, I’m telling you, if I would be like that, I would probably be dead. I mean, she needs a lot of psychiatric care. I’m not saying – maybe I need more too, (laughing) but I don’t feel I do. But at this stage of my life, you know, its not the happiest time, but I cope with things although always in the back of my head, it tells me, “You know, you have to keep going.” And I learned one thing, that you can’t stand still and just let time pass you by. Once in a while I feel still guilt, you know.
PRINCE: Guilt?
TOBY: Yeah. But feeling guilty takes up so much of your energy, you would not believe it.
PRINCE: What do you feel guilty about?
TOBY: Well, that, you know, that I did not – that I was the only person surviving and the other people didn’t.
PRINCE: And Morris and everybody?
TOBY: Yeah, and that makes me feel sad too. And sometimes, I said, “My God, why did I have – “Why did that happen to me to lose two husbands,” you know. I took the step marrying the second time five years after I lost my first one, and it happened to me again. And sometimes you feel like you’re jinxed or something, you know. ‘Cause it happens to some people, but not always. But then again, I start thinking. I learned one thing in my life, that sometimes things come out and I take it so seriously, and I say, “Oh my goodness, what is going to happen? What am I going to do about it?” You see, my kids, my family, they like me to make decisions. Like if I ask them, most of the time, unless they see I make something really wrong, they say, “You should make your own decisions. It concerns you”, which is a very good thing. But sometimes I wish they would just give me a nod or a push.
PRINCE: So they wanted you to make —
TOBY: Yes, my own decisions, and I still think things over before I make a decision. I, most of the time, I hardly ever make a hasty decision. I have to think it over. So I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it is – that’s the way I am. I don’t know. Some things that happened to me took a lot out of me, and I’m more different than I ever was. After that last episode, my Morris died; I became more different in a lot of ways.
PRINCE: How, Toby?
TOBY: I don’t know. I am much more mature. For a while, before I married him, I didn’t have so much sadness in me, and now I do. I’m more agreeable with things because I’m thinking, “Yeah this is the time of my life that at my age I should just spend my life having more friends, enjoying more friends and just the best way I can.
TOBY: What?
PRINCE: Well, what you were just saying. Your feelings are deeper than the English words that you can express them, and it’s too bad because I feel it would be easier for the survivors to have been able to express their feelings.
TOBY: Because the feelings are so deep, that I wish I would, have words to express more. But, like I said, my vocabulary is very limited.
PRINCE: But would it be a Polish word or a Yiddish word?
TOBY: Well, not only that, I wish – there are English words that I could, —
PRINCE: Yes, but if you could have done it in the other language – would you use Yiddish or Polish?
TOBY: It would probably be Yiddish. It makes a difference what words you use that because the feelings go deep but yet there’s so little I can say.
PRINCE: The word just doesn’t go as deep as the feeling.
TOBY: Right, right. You’re so right.
PRINCE: Is there a better word for sadness in Yiddish?
TOBY: Oh, sadness, but there’s other words, I mean, to the whole thing that – no, don’t take me wrong. I don’t care if I speak – I’m just saying there are. So many times, during that whole time when I was talking to you, I could have used words that would be more —
PRINCE: Feeling?
TOBY: — that would express my feelings, but yet I had to just use (laughing) the small old words that I say.
PRINCE: I understand, and I sympathize with that.

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