Max and Bernard Gutmann


Our exhibit includes a photograph of Max (age 12) and his brother Bernie (age 14) with a pair of oxen, plowing the family fields in prewar Germany. The Gutmanns raised cattle and grew hay, grain, fruit and potatoes. Bernard Gutmann emigrated to the United States in the spring of 1937, sponsored by a great uncle in Cincinnati. Max, his sister Ilse and their parents were still in Germany at the time of Kristallnacht. At the end of 1938, when violent persecution of Jews had begun, the family was forced to sell their farm for 15,000 German marks and then was taxed 14,000 marks for the transaction. Max’s father was arrested on Kristallnacht and spent a few months in Dachau. Max and his parents went to Shanghai, China in 1939 after the father’s release from Dachau. Ilse was sent to England via the Kindertransport. Max served three years in U.S. Army Intelligence and came to Dayton in 1948. He went into the retail business and eventually became CEO of the Elder-Beerman Stores Corporation. Bernie served in Patton’s Third Army on the European front during the Normandy campaign and later became prominent in the shoe industry. The two brothers and their wives still live in Dayton.

The Kindertransport helped trainloads of Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia reach the safety of Great Britain where they were taken into English homes. About 10,000 children, all forced to leave their parents and families behind, escaped Nazi-controlled territory between November 1938 and September 1939 when war broke out in Europe. Noel Baker, English House of Commons Labor Party member, made an impassioned plea for the rescue of Jewish children in German-occupied lands. It sparked a speedy collection of money by British Jews, with help from church groups, especially the Quakers and Methodists. The Kindertransport was one of the largest children’s rescue efforts in history. However, another million and a half Jewish children did not survive the Holocaust.

Many of the Jews who escaped the Nazi terror ended up emigrating to the United States. Some came here in a very roundabout way: sometimes across Siberia to China or Japan, sometimes via South America or Africa.