Eliasz (Eliyahu) Gutkowski (14 June 1900, Kalwaria – 1943,Warsaw – during the ghetto uprising) – teacher, social and political activist; member of the leadership and second secretary of the “Oneg Shabbat” group
He was the son of Rabbi Jacob and Sarah-Lea (née Witenberg). From 1907, he lived with his parents and siblings: sister Rajzel (b. 1893) and brother Abram (b. 1898) at 44 Średnia Street in Łódź[1.1]. There, from 1914 to 1921, he studied at the Male Jewish Gymnasium of the Society of Jewish Middle Schools. Referring to what happened after completing it, he wrote in his biography on 22 October 1941, “In 1921 I began my teaching work in public education, and over the following years I was improving my scientific and professional knowledge through constant self-development”[1.2].
Initially, he was employed as a temporary teacher of the seven-grade municipal common school No. 150 at 2 Młynarska Street in Łódź. On 16 June 1925, he externally graduated from the State Seminary for Teachers of the Mosaic Religion in Warsaw, which entitled him to teach the Mosaic religion in public schools. In the years that followed, he worked as a teacher at, among others, Public Common School No. 128 and at the seven-grade Community Common School No. 32 “Jesode Hatora” No. 1 at the Association of “Orthodox Jews” in Łódź. His work was highly appreciated by his superiors, as evidenced by the opinion of the Headmaster of the Female Gymnasium Eugenia Jaszuńska-Zeligmanowa in Łódź: “Mr E. Gutkowski works conscientiously and fulfils his task well. I find the work of Mr Eliyahu Gutkowski fruitful”[1.3]. He did not take his matriculation exam until 26 October 1934.
In 1937, he completed his studies at the Free Polish University in Warsaw at the Faculty of Humanities and received a Master of Philosophy degree in history. His master’s thesis was entitled “Memoriał Witolda z roku 1390 w świetle źródeł i krytyki historycznej” (“Vytautas’ Memorial of 1390 in the light of sources and historical criticism”). Until 11 December 1939, he taught at the Maria Hochstein Private Female Gymnasium in Łódź.
Until the outbreak of the Second World War, in addition to his work as an educator, he was involved in scientific research, including as an associate of the Łódź branch of the Institute for Jewish Research (YIVO). He was politically active and belonged to Poale Zion-Right, as well as Jewish charities.
After the outbreak of the Second World War – in December 1939, Eliyahu Gutowski, together with his wife Luba Dyna and their one-year-old son Gabriel Zeew (born around 1938), ended up in Warsaw. Initially, they were registered in a house at 67/25 Ogrodowa Street. By the end of 1940 they were living in the ghetto at 7/9 m. 5 Muranowska Street, and then at 31/31 Nowolipki Street. Gutkowski worked as an instructor at the Coordination Commission of Social and Welfare Organisations “TOZ”, “CENTOS” and others, as well as at the Jewish Self-Help, where he met Dr Emanuel Ringelblum, and also as a collector at the Judenrat. He was one of the founders of the “Oneg Shabbat” group and its second secretary after Hersh Wasser. He was one of Ringelblum’s closest associates. In “Oneg Shabbat” he used his skills as a historian in his daily work. He carried out record-keeping work, copied documents, wrote down accounts (including those of escapees from the extermination centres at Chełmno nad Nerem, Sobibor and Treblinka II), compiled Oneg Shabbat press bulletins, and together with Ringelblum and Hersh Wasser worked on preparing research plans, outlines and questionnaires.
He wrote, i.a., a work on the black market in the ghetto and the trade in foreign currency[1.4]. Not only did he acquire materials, but he also recruited people to cooperate with “Oneg Shabbat” – such as Perec Opoczyński and Yitzhak Katzenelson. Through him, many notes from Yitzhak “Antek” Zuckerman, with whom he was friends, found their way into the Archive.
His commitment to his work is evidenced by Zuckerman’s words:
“I was always honest with Gutkowski. And he always passed on to me the information he received, and he knew a lot, more than Ringelblum because Ringelblum didn’t meet many people and didn’t collect reports from them; he got most of his material from Gutkowski.”[1.5]”
Gutkowski deposited in the Archives personal documents, including school certificates, job applications, and information about awarding national medals, as well as documents from his time in the Warsaw Ghetto. During the war, he wrote a diary, of which fragments written between 27 June and 21 July 1942 have survived. It is now in the Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute and in the “Hersh Wasser Collection” (Hersh Wasser Collection, 1939–1946) at the YIVO Institute in New York.
In addition to his gainful employment and work for “Oneg Shabbat”, Gutkowski continued to work as an educator, giving lessons at the underground Hechaluc-Dror Gymnasium, to which he was recruited by Zuckerman. He probably taught subjects related to the history of the Zionist movement. Together they compiled an anthology of the history of Jewish martyrdom entitled Pajn un gwure fun jidiszn owar in licht fun der kegnwart (Yiddish for: Martyrdom and Heroism in the Jewish Past in Light of the Present). It was published in the summer of 1940 in 400 copies. It was taught to young people – students of the Gymnasium.
As a political activist, he continued to engage in the underground committee of Poale Zion-Left, including writing articles for the party’s ghetto periodicals for “Bafrajung” and editing “Undzer Weg”. He collaborated with a youth group, the Dror, for which he edited the press. He donated copies of newspapers published by the Dror to the Archives.
People who had contacts with Gutkowski, such as Yitzhak Zuckerman and Rachela Auerbach, stressed that “he was a wonderful man, a warm friend”[1.6]. Although he himself struggled to support himself and his family in the ghetto, dining at the people’s kitchen where Rachel Auerbach worked, he tried to help others. His good-naturedness was mentioned by Zuckerman:
“Of all the ‘Oneg Shabbat’ activists, Eliyahu Gutkowski was the closest to me. In difficult moments I could find shelter with him. He was not afraid to hide me, even when I was like a leper and many respectable people were afraid to meet me. In those dark days I used to spend the night at his place”[1.7].
During the Grossaktion deportation operation in the summer of 1942, Gutkowski found shelter in a carpentry shed of the Ostdeutsche Bautischlerei-Werkstaetten GmbH, which was managed by Dr Lejb Landau at 30 Gęsia Street. In the summer of 1942, he sought shelter for his son on the “Aryan side” and Gabriel found himself in Czerniaków. We do not know when he returned to the ghetto.
When Gutkowski was taken to the Umschlagplatz in September 1942 and found himself on a train taking Warsaw’s Jewish residents to Treblinka II, he managed to jump off the train and return to the ghetto.
All the time, he was working for the “Oneg Shabbat”. According to “Antek”, Gutkowski died together with his wife and son during the 1943 ghetto uprising, when they tried to escape through the sewers to the “Aryan side”.
Dr. Martyna Rusiniak-Karwat
- Archiwum Państwowe w Łodzi (National Archives in Łódź), Akta miasta Łodzi (City of Łódź Records) [Spis ludności Łodzi (Census of Łódź)], ref. 39/221/0/4.12/24642, p. 80.
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Getto warszawskie lipiec 1942 – styczeń 1943, comp. R. Sakowska, Warsaw 1980.
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 7: Spuścizny, comp. K. Person, Warszawa 2012 (Part IV. Materiały Eliasza Gutkowskiego).
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 17: Prasa getta warszawskiego: Poalej Syjon Prawica i Poalej Syjon Lewica, comp. E. Bergman, T. Epsztein, M. Wójcicki, Warsaw 2016.
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 19: Prasa getta warszawskiego: Hechaluc-Dror i Gordonia, comp. P. Laskowski, S. Matuszewski, Warsaw 2015.
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 23: Dzienniki z getta warszawskiego, comp. K. Person, Z. Trębacz, M. Trębacz, Warsaw 2015.
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 29: Pisma Emanuela Ringelbluma z getta, comp. J. Nalewajko-Kulikov, Warsaw 2018.
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 29a: Pisma Emanuela Ringelbluma z bunkra, comp. E. Bergman, T. Epsztein, M. Siek, Warsaw 2018.
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 34: Getto warszawskie, part II, ed. T. Epstein, Warsaw 2016.
- Rachela Aurebach, Warszewer cawoes. Bagegeniszn, aktiwitetn, gojroles. 1933–1943, Tel Aviv 1974.
- Icchak “Antek” Cukierman, Nadmiar pamięci. Siedem owych lat. Wspomnienia 1939–1946, Warsaw 2020.
- D. Kassow, Kto napisze naszą historię? Ukryte Archiwum Emanuela Ringelbluma, Warsaw 2017.
- Sakowska, Konspiracyjne seminarium Hechaluc-Dror w Warszawie (16 grudnia 1941–26 stycznia 1942). Notatki Icchaka Cukiermana, “Kwartalnik Historii Żydów” 2003, no 2 (206), pp. 209–214.
- [1.1] From 1920, the name of the street was changed to Pomorska, hence on Gutkowski’s later documents 44 Pomorska Street is given as the address. He and his wife lived at 57 11 Listopada Street
- [1.2] Part IV. Materiały Eliasza Gutkowskiego, [in:] Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 7: Spuścizny, comp. K. Person, Warsaw 2012, p. 395.
- [1.3] Part IV. Materiały Eliasza Gutkowskiego, [in:] Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 7: Spuścizny, comp. K. Person, Warsaw 2012, p. 369.
- [1.4] See A. Ben-Jaakow [Eliasz Gutkowski], Study entitled “Czarna giełda”, [in:] Archiwum Ringelbluma. Konspiracyjne Archiwum Getta Warszawy, vol. 34: Getto warszawskie, part II, ed. T. Epstein, Warsaw 2016, pp. 131–142.
- [1.5] Cukierman I., Nadmiar pamięci. Siedem owych lat. Wspomnienia 1939–1946, Warsaw 2020, p. 119.
- [1.6] Auerbach R., Warszewer cawoes. Bagegeniszn, aktiwitetn, gojroles. 1933–1943, Tel Aviv 1974, p. 182.
- [1.7] Cukierman I., Nadmiar pamięci. Siedem owych lat. Wspomnienia 1939–1946, Warsaw 2020, p. 88.