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Death of Holocaust-survivor and anti-fascist Henry Guterman

Lancaster UAF | 02.06.2007 23:37 | Anti-racism | Repression | Social Struggles | Liverpool

Report on the death and burial of Henry Guterman following a stroke

One of Manchester Jewry's greatest communal activists has died

Henry Guterman, 82, who continued his manifold communal engagements until just before he was admitted to Wythenshawe Hospital with a severe stroke two weeks ago, left Berlin for Manchester with his family after Kristallnacht.

Mr Guterman's father Berthold Guterman had been a great Anglophile since he spent some time in London as an apprentice before World War I. Even though Berthold was interned as an enemy alien for some time in Britain, his grandson and Henry's cousin David Goodman recalled: "He thought England was a bastion of moderation and liberal democracy."

So when the Nazi threat began to loom, Berthold, a soap manufacturer, cultivated his relationship with the owner of the Cussons soap factory in Kersal, Salford.

Even though the large extended Guterman family was well established in Berlin, from its spacious home in a central area of the city, it was able to witness the rise of Nazism as Hitler paraded through nearby streets. After Kristallnacht, during which time 12-year-old Henry was in hospital for a routine operation and when many of their relatives disappeared, Berthold decided to move his family to Manchester where he became a managing director. Having already invented the first floating soap, in Kersal Berthold was responsible for the production of the famous Imperial Leather brand.

The Gutermans set up home in West Didsbury from where Henry celebrated his barmitzvah at South Manchester Synagogue. The family later moved to the White House, Northenden, which David described as a "virtual Berlin where there was high tea with German cakes and German books on the shelves. It was like a recreation of life in Germany".

But, like his father, Henry was a great admirer of Britain. His son Mark said: "He always felt he had to give something back to the country which had accepted him as an immigrant."

The sight at his funeral last Friday of bishops, side by side with Hindus and Muslims wearing yarmulkes, bears full testimony to the fact that he certainly repaid his debt more than in full.

New Manchester Jewish Representative Council president Barbara Goldstone said: "I will have to find more than five people to do what Henry did."

The list of Mr Guterman's communal positions within and without the community fills a third of a page in the Jewish Year Book. Besides being a former Manchester Jewish Rep Council president and chairman of the Board of Deputies defence and public relations committee, Mr Guterman was extremely active in South Manchester Synagogue, the Zionist Central Council, the North Manchester Jewish Youth Project, Morris Feinmann Homes, Heathlands and Outreach.

He was at the helm of most of Manchester's interfaith groups, including the Muslim Jewish Forum and Indian Jewish Association and Council of Christians and Jews, as well as having been instrumental in founding the Black Jewish Forum. He represented the Jewish community on the Manchester and Trafford Standing Advisory Councils for Religious Education, as well as on the Manchester Council of Community Relations, the North Manchester Crime Prevention Committee and Disabled Living.

Having dedicated his life to making sure the Holocaust never recurs, in recent years Mr Guterman, who received an MBE for his communal endeavours, was particularly active in fighting the BNP through Unite Against Fascism for which he toured the country on speaking engagements. He also fought Israel's corner in his relations with Christian and Muslim organisations.

Son Mark said of his father, who was a retired raincoat and handbag manufacturer: "He was never motivated by money but by what he could give. I remember that in the 1970s, he deliberately employed a black man in order to make a stand against racism."

And Henry was never afraid to make a stand, whether in support of Far Eastern asylum seekers in danger of deportation or his public support for controversial London Mayor Ken Livingstone. But although Henry was a passionate advocate for peace he was not afraid to fight Israel's corner in his relations with the Muslim Council of Britain and pro-Palestinian Christians.

He is survived by his children Mark, Robert of London and Emma Morris and seven grandchildren.

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Display the following 4 comments

  1. Unite Against Fascism morns a the passing of a Fascist??? — TRUE Anti-Fascist!!!!
  2. Blaming the oppressed for their own oppression — ftp
  3. R.I.P — Eyes Higher
  4. Honour desrved — Charles Pottins