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Gitman, Esther

Gitman, Esther

In 1999, at the peak of her business career as a successful entrepreneur, Dr. Esther Gitman decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Jewish history--embarking on a personal quest to understand the circumstances surrounding her own rescue from Nazi and Ustashe (Croatian fascists) occupied Sarajevo. In 1941, as a toddler, Dr. Gitman and her mother escaped to the Italian occupied territories with the help of neighbors and acquaintances. (Her father died when she was four months old). In 1943, after the capitulation of Italy aided by the Croatian partisans and Allied Forces, they reached the safety of Santa Maria di Bagnio in southern Italy and remain there till the end of WWII. In May 1945 they returned to Sarajevo and in 1948 they left Communist Yugoslavia and settled in Israel. As a child, she struggled with new languages and cultures, as well as with her family's poverty.

In 1958 she entered the Israeli army, served in one of its most prestigious units, and later supported her family while her husband pursued his academic studies. After the Six-Day-War in 1967, she, her husband, and infant child moved to Montreal Canada where her husband earned his Ph.D. in Engineering and she received her B.A. in history and sociology. In 1972, they came to the United States, "a country that gave us a chance to rise as far as we could imagine," Dr. Gitman says. For Dr. Gitman, it was one of many calculated risks in a lifetime of obstacles that have been turned into opportunities with a singular commitment and desire for a better life.

As a Holocaust survivor she states: "Most people write about the atrocity. I wrote about the rescue." Her mission is to show that even in the darkest hours of human history, there is the light of human generosity-- without which she and many other Jews wouldn't be where they are today. Her Ph.D. and her current book When Courage Prevailed are only the beginning of her effort to tell this story of the desire of ordinary people to rescue and save.

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