NATICK, Mass. (May 6, 2019) -- The people of the Natick Soldier Systems Center, World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors came together for a Holocaust Days of Remembrance observance last week to honor the victims of the Holocaust and recognize the stories of those who survived.
During the observance, which was hosted by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Soldiers, veterans and survivors lit seven candles in the dark Hunter Auditorium to represent the 6 million Jews, and 11 million people total, who died in the Holocaust.
"On the darkest nights, we know that a single candle can dispel all of the darkness and bring light where once there was none," said Sr. Rabbi Danny Burkeman, while leading the candle-lighting ceremony.
Sylvia Ruth Gutmann, a Holocaust survivor, speaker and author of "A Life Rebuilt: The Remarkable Transformation of a War Orphan," spoke to the people of NSSC about the horrors she experienced and her tale of resilience as a child of two Jewish parents who were killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Gutmann was born in Belgium in 1939 to Jewish parents who had been forced to flee their home in Berlin six months earlier. When she was three, she, her mother and two sisters were arrested by Vichy police and shipped to a French internment camp in Rivesaltes. Her mother and her bedridden father were deported to Auschwitz. The three girls never saw their parents again.
At age seven, Gutmann immigrated with her sisters to New York City, where their uncle and aunt took them in. She was deeply traumatized by what the Holocaust had done to her family. Yet, the messages she received in America were to put the past behind her and move on. She struggled for the past five decades to put the pieces of her life back together and understand a past she was too young to remember.
She eventually published a memoir of her experiences. Since then, she has traveled extensively throughout Europe and the U.S. to share her story with numerous audiences, including Holocaust remembrance and Wounded Warrior ceremonies organized by the U.S. Military.
"I made a promise that I would never let anyone silence me ever again, that I would honor my mother's sacrifice, that I didn't have to earn a life, that I would live big, that I would tell my story wherever and whenever I can," Gutmann said.
"I am so thrilled and touched to see so many veterans here because now I have an opportunity to tell all of you in uniform that because they came with their ships, and their planes, and their tanks and their guns, I'm here. Thank you for what you do."
Col. Sean O'Neil, commander of USARIEM, expressed his admiration of Gutmann's courage and resilience, and he thanked her for sharing her story.
"We hold these events as an Army and as a nation, so we never let ourselves or future generations forget," O'Neil said. "We must always remember what Simon Wiesenthal, who was another survivor and author, said: 'For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.' And we pledge that the United States and our international partners will never again allow such evil to take hold.
"Just like the greatest generation did before us, we will protect future generations from the horrors of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity."