Interview date: November 29, 1987
Interview #: 21
Playing time: App. 50 min.
(Counter time is approximate)
Reviewer: Christa L. Robison
Born: “Grudziadz”?, Poland
May 1, 1921
Abe Schwartz is willing to forgive, but does not want anyone to forget.
01:35 September 1, 1939, Germany invades Poland.
01:50 Mr. Schwartz’s hometown had the population of about 15,000. Of those 1,500 to 1,700 were Jewish.
02:12 Mr. Schwartz speaks of many reasons to live in a Jewish community, but he felt strongest about the people being able to defend themselves.
03:00 Even though Abe attended a mix school, he was still called out for his Jewish identity and forced to wear the star starting in 1939.
03:45 Rumors of the Soviet borders closing made young Abe run away from home. He ran to the Soviet side of Poland, along the “Bug” river (which is polish for “God River”); The Soviet received part of Poland as a piece of a pack with Germany.
04:50 Even though he had to sign not to speak against the government, he and a few friends knew they needed to tell their parents and warn the little town of what the Germans were doing.
06:25 His father wanted to die were he was born on his own land, but gave Abe and his siblings (two brothers and one sister) his blessings to leave. His father had lost one of his arm during W.W. I. His father and grandfather had been taken away together and never seen again.
06:45 1940, Abe Schwartz was captured and did forced labor on the “Auto bahn”. He tells us he was moved from camp to camp often. He was fed just enough to survive.
09:00 1941, His letters, to and from his mother and sister, stopped.
09:35 Abe tells us about his younger brother being part of the uprising at Auschwitz; he was killed after being found out working for the underground.
10:00 In the latter part of 1943, He meets up with his older brother at Auschwitz. All the people were put into cattle cars. Abe’s memories, tell us it was very hot and when they open the doors at “Bergen”, half the people fell out of the cattle car dead. He also mentions there was about 60 left and they were then divided, the group that went to the left went on to another work camp, while the group that went right disappeared.
11:30 January 1945, Mr. Schwartz was in Auschwitz still. The Russians were coming. They were forced to walk a considerable distance, were they would be put on more cattle cars. The people, who could not keep walking, were shot. Many jumped from the cattle cars and still more were shot. Abe used dead bodies to help keep him warm (the temperature was 20 degrees Fahrenheit).
13:50 If you could not stand up in the line for food, you did not get any.
14:05 The war ended, Abe returned to his home, only to find a ghost town. People of the remaining society could only say they were sorry, because most of his family had been cremated. His father had seven family members, while his mother had 10 family members and he had 100 cousins, which is why he was still amazed that only four cousins survived this ordeal.
15:50 He remembers saying good-bye to his father, he was being arrested and it was the only time his father hugged and kissed him. His father also told him he had a mission. He had to survive…to let the world know. He was not after revenge or to be hostile. You needed to be determined to survive or you just gave up and died.
17:30 He wonders why there has to be any differences, he reflects on the idea that the Jews shared schools and were good citizen.
18:15 Many non-Jewish friends said they were afraid to help. Wherever Jewish people are, all seem to fight us.
19:50 Mr. Schwartz is willing to forgive, but not forget. He wants people to learn from the past. He also believes we should do more to teach our children.
21:32 “Bonn” was where the chemical producing factory was, it had property with thirty (30) miles of fencing around it. Getting up at dawn and doing heavy labor until dark was a normal workday. He did get an eight month break from the heavy labor, due to installing glass in the labor camp (Arbeitslager) and doing maintenance.
24:10 He remembers having to wait to be counted, before returning to camp, the longest wait was about thirty-six hours (due to escapees having to be found, captured, and hung, all while the others watched).
27:25 Mr. Schwartz was tattooed the number 144404.
27:45 Once liberated, he did not know whether to laugh or cry.
30:15 He was forced to help clean out the bodies from the ruble. Abe and a few friends did not want this job, so they crawled amongst the ruble and hide in the woods and sewer pipes as they crossed the Alps. During their journey, they found German gun and used them to exchange their prison clothes for civilian attire.
35:50 “Brothers and sisters get out, you are free”. In the Jewish language, this message was being broadcasted from a tank.
36:50 Polish residents in the annexed portion to Russia became Russian citizens. There was a lot of confusion of what to do.
38:15 Many who gave their children away for safety tried to get them back. They tried to get children to the Czechoslovakian border.
39:50 120 men and two women returned to his hometown out of 15 – 17 hundred.
40:45 Abe wanted to go to Israel.
40:57 Abe had been married. His wife had an uncle in New York and a brother in Columbus; she wanted to come to America to be with them. Her desire came true December of 1949.
41:30 He is grateful for a good life here and a son.
43:00 1980, Mr. Schwartz joins Rabbi Rubisien on a trip to Israel.
43:50 While in Cairo, Abe witnessed an Egyptian child gave flowers to a Jewish child. This situation touched Abe. He wants to teach the generations to love not hate one another.
45:30 He believes in freedom of speech and religion, as long as it dose not oppress the ability, for yourself or others, to live a full life.
46:00 He dose not know if he will ever return.
48:00 Tape ends.