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First Person: Holocaust survivor, ‘hate is vicious’

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Holocaust survivor and educator Pinchas Gutter.

During the Second World War, Pinchas Gutter, from Łódź, Poland, survived six Nazi concentration camps. Today he is a Holocaust educator, sharing his story in films and live events. As part of the 2022 remembrance events, Mr. Gutter recalls the traumatic events of his childhood, and calls for a world without discrimination or hate.

“My worst moment was when we were discovered in the Warsaw Ghetto when the uprising started [in April 1943], after hiding in a bunker for three weeks. I knew that we were going to die, because we knew that all the Jews in Warsaw Ghetto were going to be taken to Treblinka and murdered.

We were chased into train wagons, and my father, like an angel, pushed us to the little window surrounded by barbed wire, so we could breathe: they put so many people in the wagons, that some would die from suffocation. 

In the barracks [at the Majdanek camp in occupied Poland], we were told to undress naked. My father told me that I should say I’m six years older. I was eleven, and a head taller than my twin sister, but I looked 16. 

A man with a white coat pushed me into a place where there were shower heads, and I started saying my prayers, because we knew in the ghetto that the shower heads were false, that gas would come out and that we were going to die.

But instead, water came out and they gave us prison clothes, so I thought that my father must be alive, too. I started looking for him but I couldn’t find him. The next day I found out that my mother, my father and my sister were murdered by the Nazis. 

I turned almost into a nothing, I felt that my life had no meaning, that I had lost everything.

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For the next ten years I never, ever thought about the Holocaust. My brain did something that made me not think about anything. I didn’t think about my family. I lived in the moment.

But ten years later, I started suffering very badly, for years and years. My wife, Dorothy, saved me when I was screaming at night. We’ve been married now since 1957, and we still love each other as much as before, and it’s thanks to her that I actually survived and that my kids are OK.

The Holocaust is right inside you. You can’t run away from it. It’s part of you. And it’s going to be with you until the day you die. And if you have a soul and the soul goes to heaven or wherever it goes, that soul is going to remember the Holocaust.

I have a torch, which I want to give to the children and to the world.

My torch has more than one flame. It has many flames. And my torch has no racial discrimination, no religious discrimination, no homophobia, no xenophobia and above all, no hate.

Hate is vicious. Hate is pernicious. Hate creates vengeance. Hate is something that should disappear from the world. This is the flame. These are the torches with all these different flames, which I hand over to the world, which I hand over to you.

Please take those flames and make the world a better place. It’s getting better, but very slowly. We are suffering at the moment and I would like the suffering to stop. The only way to do it is if everybody gets together to make the world shine bright, and spread goodwill.”

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