It was with great sadness that I learned yesterday of the passing of my Uncle Ben Guyer. I send my condolences to his family and friends.
When Uncle Ben and Aunt Annette came to Detroit after the war they stayed for a time at our house on Taylor Street. It was a two family flat and they lived downstairs with our grandfather, Shmuel Guyer. Upstairs lived my father, Sidney, my mother, Pearl, my sisters, Mae and Joyce and I. My earliest recollections of them are vivid. Uncle Ben was alive with vital energy, a big heart and a wonderful story-teller with a zeal and passion for life. Aunt Annette was warm-hearted, gentle and strikingly beautiful. Their presence in our house filled me with wonder, I loved being around them, it remains beyond my understanding that they could be so warm and kind and filled with life after the horrors they had endured. Uncle Ben was always present at the Gombiner Society meetings that were held in Detroit in those early days. He was always had a positive, magnetic energy, it was wonderful to be around him and Annette. Although I was only eight years old when they arrived in Detroit, I can vividly recall with great pleasure Uncle Ben’s face, and hear his voice. I treasure these memories as I am sure do all who knew Benjamin Guyer.
What sad news. Ben was a very dear friend of my father. I’ve corresponded with him some years ago and he helped me a lot with details about my mother’s family, which I didn’t know at all. His brother Josek Chaja was married to Cirel Sanicki, my mother’s first cousin and they had a little daughter: Hana. Josek sent to my aunt Rachel in Kibbutz Ein Hachores Palestine at the time, a farewell letter, through the Red Cross. I sent a copy to Ben Guyer and he was thrilled, telling us he never new about the existence of this letter.
All perished in the Holocaust.
This is a very difficult day today, Holocaust Day. Day of remembrance, day of pain and sadness, of questions without answers, Why? How? Where was the civilized world? Who will continue to remember after the last survivor die? What lesson(s)?
The appalling testimony of Ben Guyer is always posted in JewishGen web site since year 2000, in their Yizkor Books database.
I attach his photograph, after his arrival to America, right after the war, published in the “Daily Mirror, 21 May 1946 – Ben and Anna Guyer first meet the sister Rywcia who lives in America. Title was “Life Begins Again for 867 Victims of Oppression”. This is a photograph which expresses more than anything the hope, the revival of the survivors, and their way back to new life and new hope in the new country.
I also attach a paragraph from my father’s memoirs about Ben Guyer, in the chapter “My Good Friends in America”, translated from Hebrew.
May he rest in peace and blessed be his memory.
Ben Guyer (Benjamin Chaja)
Written by Meir Holcman, 1998 and published in Hebrew in the book “Meir Holtzman”, private publication, Tel Aviv 1999.
This is Benjamin, my old good friend who lives today in Florida. I knew him since childhood. I used to visit their home and his sister Ester of blessed memory was my first girlfriend at school and in Hashomer Hatzair. Benjamin had 3 brothers: Abraham, Josef and Moshe; and two sisters: Ester the eldest one and Rywcia (today “Rae”) who lives in Detroit. We had a very pleasant meeting when I visited Detroit with Lotka in the early 80s. Benjamin’s brother was Josef Chaja who was married to Cirel Sanicki, first cousin of my late wife Rywcia nee’ Gostinski. He sent us to the Kibbutz two last departing letters during the war. The letters were transferred through the Red Cross and they are the last traces of Rywcia’s family, before liquidation. Josef Chaja and his family all perished in the Holocaust. Abraham Chaja was our “Madrich” (teacher and guide in the Youth Movement Hashomer Hatzair) and he used to accompany us tot he summer camps. Usually our parents objected the trip but finally they agreed. I remember my brothers came to say good bye before one of those trips to Sochopien. One of them, Yosef Lajb secretly gave me some zloty… Let it be… We traveled in the ship (“statek” in Polish) on the Vistula River and the noise of the ship’s machines was unbearable. We went to sleep on the deck in the evening. I secretly sneaked away and ordered a bottle of cold mint orangeade, which I extremely liked. Than all of a sudden appeared Abram Chaja… I was badly reprimanded by him and he later gathered us all and preached about the principle of “Shituf” – sharing everything, the value which later materialized in the shape of the Kibbutz in Eretz Israel… Thus were these days… Mosze Chaja was a very good Yiddish Theater actor and he was the star in the plays of the Bund movement in Gombin.
While I visited America with Lotka in year 1980, Benjamin Guyer (Chaja) arranged for me a most moving and unforgettable Gombiner’s gathering in New Jersey. I phoned him up there, where he resided at the time. I shall never forget this meeting and I cry even today, recalling it. Natan Weiss (Wojdeslawski) was present and his dear sister Czlova Beila who didn’t stop crying to re-meet her “Madrich “ from Hashomer Hatzair in Gombin. Also her husband Boll from the nearby town of Ilow. Luszinski also from Ilow was also present. After lunch developed a most interesting conversation. Everybody talked about his bitter and awful experiences in the Holocaust, and I talked about Israel and its problems after the rise of the right wing party “Halikud” to power. I heard some strange advises from the people present, mainly supporting Menachem begin z”l. In the end I said that if they have criticism about Israel, the Histadrut (the Union) and other institutions, better they make Aliya (immigration to Israel) and contribute themselves to the improvement of the society and change of the situation. The debate was in a very friendly and good spirit. It was one of the most fascinating conversations in my life. I than, by the way, asked them why after the liberation from the concentration camps didn’t they immigrate to Eretz Israel and not America. They answered me a very sincere reply: “We were shadows, not human beings. We were destroyed, dismantled of all mental powers. We couldn’t have done anything with the lost ideals and dreams of Hashomer Hatzair. We centered only in re-building our families and homes. I would add that now, 18 years later, tears come in to my eyes when I remember the Gombiners re-union of Ben Guyer. I felt shamed when confronting those dear friends of mine who suffered that hell during the Holocaust. When we flew back in the same very night, instead of joy due to the end of the trip I felt that may be we shall never know and understand what happened and that we owe the survivors so much and give them so much of our love which might help in curing the scars of the soul, so burning and painful.