Holocaust Escapee Gusta Fuhrmann Dies at 98

bove left: Gusta Fuhrmann
Gusta Fuhrmann |
Photo courtesy of Ann Benninger

Gusta Fuhrmann, whose family stayed out of concentration camps by making clothing for German officers and their wives, died Sept. 1. She was 98.
Fuhrmann was born in Czernowitz, Romania (now part of Ukraine), and became an apprentice to her father, who worked as a tailor. The family was moved to the Mogilev Ghetto in 1941, but Fuhrmann’s tailor father crafted clothing in exchange for being allowed to keep the family in the ghetto until Liberation in 1944.

After the war, Gusta Fuhrmann met her husband, Ady, and married in 1946.
They were smuggled into Poland, winding up in the Salzburg displaced person camps with no papers as Greek Jews. They stayed there from 1948 until 1951; when the camp closed, they immigrated to the United States.
They had a son, Bernie, who was born in an American camp in Salzburg, Austria. Her son died in 2002 and her husband died in 2005.

Gusta Fuhrmann, a Philadelphia resident, didn’t speak often about her experiences during the war or immediately thereafter, according to daughter-in-law Paula Fuhrmann.

“My husband told me all through his childhood that he didn’t know the story,” she said.

Gusta Fuhrmann instead was big on family, Paula Fuhrmann said.

“It was all about preparing a really great meal,” she said. “She wasn’t real talkative. She showed her love with the preparation of meals.”

Gusta Fuhrmann continued to assist her tailor father while in the United States, going to school to become a designer, younger brother Ari Fuhrmann, 96, said.

Paula Fuhrmann said her mother-in-law also worked for a furrier, cutting out patterns.

Her clothing background became handy when her brother, husband and actor Chayale Ash-Furman performed for Yiddish theater; Gusta Fuhrmann served as a business manager. The theater troupe traveled across the United States and Canada, with visits to South America, Europe and Israel.

“She would help us with costumes,” said Ari Fuhrmann.

In addition, Gusta Fuhrmann was active in the Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, nephew Stefan Fuma said. She was in charge of the organization’s mailing list.

Paula Fuhrmann said her other duties included arranging bus trips to Atlantic City and sending out bereavement cards when a member died.
When Ady Fuhrmann died, Gusta Fuhrmann fell into depression before being rescued by an unlikely source: books on CD. Aside from romance novels, she enjoyed — at the prodding of young relatives — the “Harry Potter” series.
“That kept her going for many years,” Paula Fuhrmann said.

Ari Fuhrmann said his sister’s long life was surprising considering a severe illness she had as a child; doctors told her parents she wouldn’t survive. His parents consulted a rabbi, who told them to change her name — she was then called Esther — to Esther Taube. The parents asked why.
“The rabbi told them the Angel of Death would be looking for Esther, not Esther Taube,” he said.

Ari Fuhrmann, who lives in Florida now, struggled for words while reminiscing about his sister.

“It’s very hard to describe a person that you love,” he said. “I used to call her every day.”

“She was the anchor of the family,” Fuma added.

Gusta Fuhrmann is survived by three grandchildren, brother Ari Fuhrmann, daughter-in-law Paula Fuhrmann, and several nieces and nephews.

agotlieb@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0797


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