War orphan Sylvia Ruth Gutmann to speak at Martinez library

A woman who became a war orphan after her parents were killed at Auschwitz is telling her story at Contra Costa County libraries that includes a talk Tuesday at Martinez Library.

Sylvia Ruth Gutmann has written her memoir, “A Life Rebuilt: The Remarkable Transformation of a War Orphan,” about her experiences, according to an announcement by Serenity Dean, adult and teen services librarian.

Born in 1939 in Belgium, Gutmann was orphaned at 3 when her parents were killed at Auschwitz. She and her two older sisters escaped Belgium, first going to Switzerland before arriving in New York at the age of 7.

Gutmann was taken in by an uncle and aunt. The former she has described as well-meaning, but the aunt, she said, was cruel. They advised her not to speak of the past events, telling her to put them behind her and to move on.

Now 62, she has spent 50 years trying to understand a past that has been hard to remember, the announcement said.

In “A Life Rebuilt: The Remarkable Transformation of a War Orphan,” she chronicles 60 years spent in three countries and the travels of thousands of miles, as well as the relationship she developed with a man 40 years younger, who encouraged her to move to Germany to be with him.

She has shared her family’s story and her parents’ fate with German students, older citizens, and even neo-Nazi groups, the announcement said.

Those talks have helped Gutmann reconcile with people she had come to fear and loathe. She also has described the lives of her lost parents.

Her book has been described as heartbreaking and inspiring, told with candor, substance and heart, the announcement said.

“I needed five decades to heal from the trauma of being brutally separated from my parents when I was a child,” Gutmann has said. “It’s horrifyingly ironic that the current zero-tolerance immigration policy of separating young children from their parents, has made my story even more relevant today.”

Gutmann is a former spokesperson on behalf of the United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York City. She annually shares her story at numerous Holocaust remembrance and Wounded Warrior ceremonies organized by the U.S. military.

She also has also spoken extensively throughout Europe, and she has been granted honorary German citizenship in 2002 for her peace activism. Her website is at https://sylviaruthgutmann.com/.

Her first Contra Costa County Library talk will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the San Ramon Library, 100 Montgomery St., San Ramon.

She will speak at the Martinez Library, 740 Court St., at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Other appearances will be at 1 p.m. Feb. 11 at Orinda Library, 26 Orinda Way, Orinda; and 6 p.m. Feb. 11 at Walnut Creek Library, 1644 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek.

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