Marcus Gutwein

Birth: October 5, 1908 in Nowy Sącz, Miasto Nowy Sącz, Małopolskie, Poland

Death: September 21, 1986 (age 77) in Victoria, B.C.

Rabbi Victor Hillel Reinstein gave the following eulogy at his funeral:

In the last weeks of his life, Marcus Gutwein was able to say of the death he knew was near, “Je l’accept.” And now his days are complete – and he is at peace. Mr. Gutwein, which seemed to be a title as much as a name, was a man who was clothed with dignity, in death as in life. He always put on a tie and even in his illness he was always dressed, receiving his visitors both graciously and gratefully. He died peacefully, having talked and even joked on the day before he died. And hat, his last full day, was Shabbos. Marcus Gutwein stood tall and proud and yet was a most humble and gently unassuming man. He was a quiet hero.

Mr. Gutwein was born in 1908 in Poland, in the town of Nowy Sacz (Nov Sanch), the seat of the Sanzer Rebbe and center of Sanzer chassidism. His own family were Belzer Chasidim. That was the world into which Mr. Gutwein was born and in which he spent his early years. Out of this early background, Mr. Gutwein gained deep knowledge and love of Jewish learning that remained with him throughout his life. His father was the head of a Yeshiva. He realized, however, that he did not want the Yeshiva life and when he was 17 years old, his father sent him to his uncle’s in Belgium. This move saw him become the only one of his family to survive the Holocaust. In Belgium, he met Huguette who became Mrs. Gutwein, and there they lived until the early 1980’s. They saw their daughter Diana born and grow up in Belgium, and then marry Simon Riumy. Their granddaughter Evelyn (Chava) was born in Belgium and they all came together to Canada. After a visit to Victoria only about two years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Gutwein moved here from Montreal and quickly made Victoria their home.

Mr. Gutwein was not a religious man, as he said, but he was deeply rooted in the Jewish people. During the war he was taken to a Labour Camp in Normandy. He escaped from there and became a Belgian underground freedom fighter and for that he was later decorated by the Belgian government. He was active in the World Jewish Congress and made many trips to Israel. In Victoria he spoke at our annual Yom Hashoa memorial gathering last spring. His words were symbolically moving, for he spoke in Yiddish, the language of those whose memory he very simply asked us not to forget.

In the Gutwein home there is a memorabilia corner where there are on the walls decorations and documents and photographs. They tell of the story that was this man’s life and they tell of his pride in having been of service to others. Once can see there the Legion de L’Honore from the Belgian governments. There are pictures of Belgian partisans in those dark days, and also at later memorial gatherings and pictures of Mr. Gutwein then and at those gatherings of remembrance. There is a picture of him with the Prince of Belgium when he was honored for his contribution to the diamond trade. It was in the Belgian diamond trade that he made his living. Among the citations on the wall is one simple one for bravery. It is not for his days in the resistance, but for an act of courage in day to day life, for rescuing a drowning body in 1963.

In Victoria Mr. Gutwein came to shul quite regularly. This seemed to surprise himself as well as his family. he had not been a shul-goer and yet he enjoyed coming. He would stand behind the last row of benches and would not take an aliya, as though hovering between two worlds. In a mildly self-deprecating way he spoke of himself as an ‘apikoris‘ a non believer. When we spoke about it once, I suggested to him that his affirmation of life made him a believer in his own way. I think that he realized that, and it made him smile his satisfied gentle smile. Anyway, he had a wonderful sense of humor and he loved to tell Yiddish jokes (as well as prayer?) Mr. Gutwein lived to talk to people and when neither Yiddish nor French could be reciprocated by the other as communication, then the twinkle in his eye would transcend the spoken word and he was happy.

This is the month of Elul, the month before the Days of Awe a time for seeking harmony and wholeness. In this week’s Torah portion Moses upon facing his own death, urges the people to “choose life” and encourages them to “Be strong and of good courage.” In the manner of his living and his dying this too might well be the hope and message of Marcus Gutwein, husband, father, grandfather to you Huguette and Diana and Simon and Evelyn, and to all of us who knew him.

He often cited the verse “Who is rich? One who delights in his own portion.” So may we learn to delight in our portion and thus be strong and of good courage. So shall his memory be for a blessing.

Gravesite Details: Row G – Plot 6

פּ״נ (Here lies)
Born Nowy Sącz Poland
An Honored Fighter ???
Underground During the Second
World War

Chawa Biegelisen

Dieu Huguette

Diana Gutwein Riumy

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