Guttman was born in 1915 in Zloczow, Poland, which is located in the Bukovina area about 60 miles from Tarnopol. Although the town was located within the Polish borders, the surrounding population was Ukrainian. His parents owned a creamery and were in both the wholesale and retail business. He was the oldest of six siblings, with three sisters and two brothers. His home village had a predominately Jewish population.
Following the outbreak of World War II, his village was occupied by Russian forces. After Germany attacked Russia in 1941, persecution of Jews started right away. His mother and sisters were murdered by Germans in their own home, while he and his father ran out the back door. Many Jews were lined up in front of a ditch and shot by the SS. For three days, the Germans gave free reign to the ethnic Ukrainians, which resulted in many more deaths, including those of his two brothers.
A ghetto was created in his village and his father was sent to a nearby labor camp, but Guttman avoided being picked up. He also avoided the deportations when the ghetto was liquidated by hiding in an attic. Subsequently, he voluntarily entered the labor camp to be with his father and to be protected from further round-ups and killings. After both Guttman and his father contracted typhus they were sent back to their village to a hospital. He ran away and never saw his father again.
Guttman lived for a while in a forest about 35 miles from his home and then was given sanctuary by a Christian woman in a Polish village. He tells of numerous close encounters and escapes with local people and police. The home he found sanctuary in, as well as the entire village, was raided by Ukrainians and everyone was killed and everything was burned. Guttman escaped back into the forest while being shot at.
Guttman then joined an underground Russian unit operating in the forest. He stayed with them until they joined up with the Russian army. When his unit was to be sent into Germany, he left them and found his way to Tarnopol, where he was able to get a job. After the end of the war he stayed in Poland for a short period and then went via Czechoslovakia to Germany, where he entered a displaced persons camp.
In the DP camp he met and married his wife and they had one child. With the help of his aunt who lived in the United States he came to New York in 1949. He moved to Detroit and worked first as a tool and die maker’s apprentice and then became a restauranteur. He and his wife eventually had two more children.
Guttman stated that based on his personal experiences he has only good things to say about the Poles in his home region, but the Ukrainian people behaved very badly and committed atrocious crimes. Nevertheless, because of the overall behavior of the Poles he would never return to Poland even for a visit.
Date: April 25, 1995
Length: 2 hours 15 minutes
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Format: Video recording