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Sylvia Ruth Gutmann

A Life Rebuilt: The Remarkable Transformation of a War Orphan

Co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.

Born in Belgium in 1939 to Jewish parents who had been forced to flee their beloved home in Berlin six months earlier, Sylvia Ruth Gutmann spent the first three years of her life in hiding with her family in the south of France. In the summer of 1942, three-year-old Sylvia, her two older sisters, and her young mother were arrested by the Vichy police and shipped to the French internment camp in Rivesaltes. Shortly thereafter, her mother was deported to Auschwitz, leaving her three children behind. Six months later, Sylvia’s bedridden father was also deported to Auschwitz. Sylvia and her sisters would never see their parents again.

A Life Rebuilt: The Remarkable Transformation of a War Orphan chronicles an odyssey that spans sixty years, three countries, and thousands of miles. In America, Sylvia began to share the story of her family’s fate with German students, senior citizens, and even neo-Nazi groups. By doing so, she reconciled with the people she had feared and loathed, and resurrected the lives of the parents she cannot remember, and cannot forget. Heartbreaking and ultimately inspiring, this memoir of loss, love, resilience, belonging, identity, and authenticity has a surprising resolution, told in an intimate voice with candor, substance, and heart.