Select Page

Lily Schwarzschild

image of Lily Schwarzschild
Nationality: British
Location: Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp • Berlin • England • Germany • Kaunitz • London • Missouri • St. Louis • United States of America
Experience During Holocaust: Aided Jewish Refugees • Hometown was Bombed • Survived Air Raids • Worked for a Jewish Organization

Mapping Lily's Life

Click on the location markers to learn more about Lily. Use the timeline below the map or the left and right keys on your keyboard to explore chronologically. In some cases the dates below were estimated based on the oral histories.

“When we first went to Germany, for the first three months or so, it was a world that was completely incomprehensible. How could this happen? This can’t be! Here it is in front of your eyes. You didn’t sleep very much at night because a million things rolled around in your head, and there was no way of putting them in perspective because there was no precedent, and you didn’t really know how to deal with it.” - Lily Schwarzschild

Read Lily's Oral History Transcripts

Read the transcripts by clicking the red plus signs below.

Tape 1 - Side 1 (Popkin)

POPKIN: I wanted to interview you because I knew that you had gone to work in Germany after the war. Was it Germany that you went to after the war?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, yes it was.
POPKIN: What made you decide to go there?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, after meeting, before the end of the war as a matter of fact, I heard of a group of people that were looking for volunteers to go into Germany and Greece and France and Rotterdam (inaudible) and they wanted volunteers for six months to go into the displaced persons’ camps to work.
POPKIN: What year was that?
SCHWARTZCHILD: I went at the beginning of 1946; early in 1946. The arrangements started then after the war in 1945. The war ended, as you know, in ’45 and then I volunteered and we went through a period of training. And then in March of 1946, I went off to Germany where I was assigned to a camp, a displaced persons’ camp, or a DP camp as they were known.
POPKIN: What had led you to do this? What kind of work were you doing before, and how long were you there at the time?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, I was youngish, but I had decided that—I was working at that time in a merchandising firm in London where—which kept certain key people in various jobs.
POPKIN: Was it a private firm?
SCHWARTZCHILD: It was a private firm but as people know very well, it was a big—like Marks and Spencer has stores throughout England—but I was working in the buying offices at that time as a merchandiser, a so-called merchandiser. I was very young, but I was a so-called merchandiser, and we were considered key people at that time, so that I was never called up into military services during the war, and if I had been, I think I would have volunteered, preferably, for the land army where you get to work on farms, but I wasn’t called up. So when this volunteering came about, I decided that since I hadn’t had to go into munitions factories or into the military services, I felt that I really wanted to do something and the question of working for Jewish people and for the Jewish victims presented itself to me, and I volunteered immediately. And they wanted volunteers for six months. But my six months got stretched out to four and a half years in Germany at a pay I might say of what was then, in those days, one pound a week which was four dollars a week.
POPKIN: You certainly weren’t doing it for the money.
POPKIN: Had you felt all along during the war that you really wanted to do something more than you were doing, or were you so occupied that you didn’t have the time?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, what I had been doing, other than working during the day, I did belong to a Jewish club, the Montague Club in London, and so I had always been dealing with people and at that point I was also teaching dancing and exercises, and during the war, the latter days of the war anyway, when so many mothers, so many women had gone into the munitions factories and there were so many young people wandering around that it was felt by the various councils, County Council and all organizations in England, that one really ought to have some activities to keep the young people off the streets and out of mischief. So I went to train as a physical education teacher because it was a natural with my dancing. And so I taught at evening schools for young people, and I used to do various other little volunteer jobs, not really social—well, it wasn’t really social work as such except that during the war time you did what you could.
POPKIN: You felt working with young people was really important.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And I felt that working with young people was very important at that time. So I did that for a while. And then when somebody told me of this organization, The Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad, which was looking for volunteers to work in the camps, it started out being a rather peculiar thing. They thought that people that had been in concentration camps for so long and systematically starved, and then in such bad physical condition, that it would be a good idea if I went out to the camps and worked with young people physically, getting them back into physical shape. So that I went down in the first place with this in mind, but it didn’t really work out that way.
POPKIN: That’s not what you ended up doing.
SHCWARTZCHILD: It’s simply not what I ended up doing because the young people, those that were there, were simply not interested in taking courses of exercises. This was not their first thought. The first thought of most of the people was to find out if any relatives had survived.
POPKIN: I can understand that.
SCHWARTZCHILD: So our immediate task—well now, I better go back a little bit if I may.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Shall I tell it to you the way it happened to me, as it were?
POPKIN: Before you do that, I want to ask you one question. What was your own Jewish background? Were you raised religiously in any way?
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, my own Jewish background was that when my father was alive, it was a normal, so-called Orthodox background because my parents had come from Poland, and this is how it was.
POPKIN: Where in Poland did they come from?
SCHWARTZCHILD: My mother came from a little town called Memanak. I never really heard of it. And my father, I don’t know where he came from because I never really did know my father. My father died when I was about a year and a half old, so that I didn’t really know him. When I was growing up, I had started with a Jewish club, with the Montague Club when I was a little girl. And the Honorable Lily Montague, who really started the club, also started the –or was very active in–the liberal synagogue.
POPKIN: Would that be the equivalent of the conservative?
SCHWARTZCHILD: That would be the equivalent of the conservative, no–
POPKIN: Of the reform?
SCHWARTZCHILD: The reform. The liberal synagogue in England would be the reform synagogue here. So that when I went to the club, it was just a natural—we had services at the club on Saturday afternoons, liberal services, so I went to the liberal services on Saturdays. I would like to say in quotes, “religious”, but I was working all the time and dancing all the time, and doing all my activities all the time within the Jewish milieu.
POPKIN: Did you learn Yiddish as well?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Unfortunately, I didn’t. My parents were, of course, Yiddish-speaking, and everybody in the family spoke Yiddish with the exception of me. I didn’t learn it because by the time—when my father died—then English was the normal language in the family. And I was very sorry because it would have helped a great deal when I finally went to Germany, but who was to know that we were going to have anything like the Hitler period when I was growing up—that Yiddish would have been a very good idea–because I found that with the Polish Jews, I couldn’t speak Polish. They had learned German, but since I really couldn’t converse with them in a very good Yiddish, I learned a bad German, so we conversed. We managed very well that way, but Yiddish would have been a very great help if I had learned it. I mean, I knew lots of words and phrases, and I understood a lot of it, but I really couldn’t speak it very fluently.
POPKIN: So you really didn’t have any special training when you went over there.
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, but before we went over, those of us that were accepted by the organization, had to go through a training period, and for a couple of months I was assigned to a charitable organization in the slums of London doing social welfare work, and I was doing case work.
POPKIN: I see, so you did have some training.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Each of us had some sort of training, and I found that very, very interesting and a great eye-opener. One can be very smug, you know, when you’re living comfortably yourself even though poorly because I was living where nobody had any money where I was living, and we were all in the same boat. But we did have enough to eat, and we did have (inaudible) candles around. And then when I went to this charitable organization where you were dealing with a completely different side of life from anything that I had been used to, it was very much an eye-opener. But I will say that even charitable work, or the social work that anybody has had experience with, did not help really in Germany or in any of those places because it wasn’t anything like—you couldn’t go by any book. You had to go by—my brother-in-law in London would say, “You had to work by the seat-of-your-pants, so it felt right”, because there was no place you could look up what you do in such-and-such circumstance. There had never been such circumstances. So it was a whole new ballgame. You had to work with a Hitler period and not with social problems—no work, no money, graves, family problems, lack of jobs, lack of funds, lack of housing and lack of heating—you didn’t have any of those things to deal with. You had to deal with many more psychological problems of what people had gone through in the camps, their experiences in the camps. People had gone through those things.
POPKIN: Nobody knew what they were going to face.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Nobody really knew what you were going to face, so you had to deal with every situation as it arose without any precedent, without any predetermination of what you could do under given circumstances because you had never had those given circumstances.
POPKIN: Did you have—how much knowledge at all did you have about the past during World War II when you worked in London? Did you have any idea?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, you had a vague idea but not very much because as—possibly a little more than people normally would have here in America which was 3,000 miles away because we were much closer to it there. And there were many transports of children that were permitted—had come to London, so that one had a feel for it. But there was no way, even then because people were still not really believing what was going on. So that you heard about it—there wouldn’t be survivors because this was still in war time—but you heard about it from hearsay, and you read a little bit about it because they were trying to persuade the government to open the doors of England to allow more people to come in. But as with this country, the doors were closed and nobody was permitted to come in. Thousands more could have been saved.
POPKIN: As a matter of fact, many of the German refugees were put into camps. The men were put into camps, weren’t they?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes. They were put into internment, that’s right, because they had come from Germany and—
POPKIN: They were treated as German nationals in a way.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, you see, you didn’t have that many that came over because they weren’t permitted to come out of Germany, and the only people that really were permitted to come out of Germany were certain children’s transports—the ones that they would arrange, you see. So that the Germans, among the Germans that were put into these so-called internment camps, were people of German nationality, Germans who had been in England before, you see. But you didn’t have any new people coming out because the gates of Germany for grown-ups had been closed, and you just couldn’t get them out. So you just learned a little bit if you were interested enough in it. But at that time, particularly during the war with the bombing going on, people were so concerned with their own lives that, you know, that they didn’t pay perhaps enough attention to the refugees.
POPKIN: Like the—
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well another thing, you see, was people always think in terms of the Hitler period, you know, the war period, 1939-1945, but of course it was 1933, but between 1933 and 1939 people just—something as vast and barbaric as that, people just pushed it on one side or didn’t believe it. And so much more could have been done if people had really been able to visualize the enormity of what was going on. During those years when people could get out, and some did, then some would be permitted to come to relatives there, but certainly not enough, not enough.
POPKIN: It was only a patchy picture.
SCHWARTZCHILD: It was a patchy picture, and I was young. And it’s very easy not to be concerned with things like that. But of course, during the course of the war as children came over, and we learned more and more of what had been going on, that I felt, well, I felt grateful in a way that the opportunity arose that enabled me to do what I could.
POPKIN: Where did you go first?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, my experiences were with a small camp. Normally the camps were very large; the displaced persons’ camps, the DP camps, were rather large places which were camps as such that had been set up. The camp at Belsen was really the barracks of the SS men, and all the Germans who had manned the concentration camps.
POPKIN: The officials of the camp, right?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes. And what had happened when the Americans who had gone through into the Belsen area first, fire-bombed everything because there was typhoid and typhus there, so the concentration camp was razed to the ground, but the barracks of all the people who worked in the camp were still there. And those barracks became the Belsen DP camp.
POPKIN: I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: The camp I went to was a different type of camp. There’s an interesting story and if you like, I’ll tell you how it came to be.
POPKIN: Let’s just stop one second and make sure that we’re getting all this. You were going to tell me about the camp that you worked in.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, I worked in a camp called “Kaunitz” [she spells it out] I would say, which was in Westphalia in Germany. And Kaunitz was just a little farming village. And how it became a DP camp was an interesting story. The Hungarians, as you probably know, were put into the concentration camps late in the war.
POPKIN: How late was it–1944?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Nineteen forty-four when it was late but very devastating. But many of the Hungarian women were put into munitions factories in Germany. Well then, when it was getting late in the war and the Allied forces were sort of racing across Germany at that time, the officials of many of these munitions factories decided that what they had better do was to get a lot of these people into trucks and get them to the camps wherever there were gas chambers and get rid of them. And a lot of the Hungarian women that had been in the munitions factories had been put into sealed trucks and started going across Germany to get into Belsen, to the Belsen concentration camp. The Allied forces were catching up to them rather rapidly, and as these trucks carrying lots of Hungarian women came through the countryside, it turned out that they were going through the countryside of Kaunitz, this little farming village, and the German administrators—SS—I don’t know if they were SS or just the administrators of the camp, whoever was taking these trucks to Belsen, ran them into the woods, left them there still sealed and then ran away or escaped or tried to escape and did escape mostly themselves. And when the American soldiers came through this little village of Kaunitz, they saw many trucks, sealed trucks in the woods and decided that they would go and open them up and see what was in there. And when they opened up these trucks, they were filled like sardines with hundreds of naked, shaven women—
POPKIN: Oh, my.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –some dead, some alive.
POPKIN: Was there any air coming in?
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, no air, no food, no water.
POPKIN: How long had they been there?
SCHWARTZCHILD: That’s a good question. I really don’t know. I really don’t know because there would be no way that the soldiers would know. There they were; there the trucks were. They were packed so closely in these trucks that if anybody did die, there was no way they could fall down anyway. So it was only when the trucks were opened and all these women tumbled out—
POPKIN: Oh, my.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –that they discovered who was alive and who was dead. And the American soldiers said, “Well, this is where you’ve been liberated; this is where you’ll be housed.” And so we had the one and only village, or the one and only type of camp which wasn’t a camp as such. And the soldiers went to each farmhouse which was just—they were just dispersed farm houses—and they said, “You will give up this room, this room and this room. And you will give up this room, this room and this room.” And they put the Jewish people, the Hungarian women, into these rooms. And so it was the only camp of that kind, the only camp ever during that time where we had the peculiar situation of people just out of concentration camps being housed in farm houses with Germans.
POPKIN: That’s really extraordinary.
SCHWARTZCHILD: It was a very extraordinary situation because, of course, obviously there was a lot of antagonism and enmity, obviously, because you don’t think that the Germans didn’t want anyone living in their farmhouses, and the Jewish people certainly didn’t want to have any contact as such with the Germans. But it worked out that way and then I was sent there with one other young lady, just two of us. Normally in the camps, and it was a large camp like Belsen, for example, you would have the Quakers with groups of social workers there, the American Joint Distribution Committee with dozens of workers there, the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad out of England with dozens of workers there, and various other social organizations with teams. But here, there were just two of us, and we were sent to this village. And we had no accommodations, and we were told, “Requisition a house.”
POPKIN: Were you in uniform?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, we went out in uniform. We had officer status because it was felt that obviously a civilian people, the Germans, we would never have any authority with the German authorities there.
POPKIN: Do you remember roughly what the date was when you arrived there?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, I arrived there about the twentieth of March of 1946, around the twentieth of March.
POPKIN: Then these women had been there for some time?
SCHWARTZCHILD: They had been there without any kind of teams of workers there. They had been in these farm houses, and they had formed their own committee. They even had elections, and they elected their own administrators among themselves. And some of the organizations, like the Quakers or the Joint or the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad, they would send somebody out every so often to find out how things were going and what they could do. But at that point, they had no team of workers there or any workers of any description, so that this other girl, Selma—Selma and I were told to go out to Kaunitz, requisition a house, and get to work.
POPKIN: That’s really amazing! You had to be on your toes.
SCHWARTZCHILD: So we went there, and we were given a little—what we called a “PU”—a pick-up truck with a driver that was given to us on a temporary basis until we had gotten ourselves organized. And as we drove through this little village at that time—whereas it started being a camp of Hungarian women, since the Jewish people who had come out of the concentration camps were just wandering across the face of Europe looking for relatives—by the time I got to Kaunitz—
POPKIN: Were there some families by then?
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, well, they were families, but they weren’t all women, and they weren’t all Hungarians. So, by this time, it was a mixed camp of men and women, and we had Hungarians and Poles and a couple of other stray nationalities, but mostly Hungarians and Poles.
POPKIN: How many people were involved?
SCHWARTZCHILD: There were about 370 people. Whereas say, in Belsen, there were perhaps 15,000, so this was a smallish camp. But of course as it was just in private houses, in private homes, it couldn’t be a big thing. It was only a little tiny village. So we had about 370 people, Hungarians and Poles, men and women, and a few children—very few of course because very few children survived.
POPKIN: Had any been born along the way?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, in the time I was there, in the year also that I was at Kaunitz, twenty-five babies were born, which was really very nice. It was very exciting. And there’s a little tale about that if we still have time–
POPKIN: Oh, we have all the time you want.
SCHWARTZCHILD: I’ll tell you a little more about it. Anyway, we met a lot of the DP’s as we were driving through this village, and of course they were absolutely delighted to know that some official workers were going to be attached to them. And as with one voice they said, “Well, get the policeman’s house! Get the policeman’s house because he was an active Nazi!” etc. and so forth. Well, our concern was to get a house that had a telephone in it to start with because we would need to contact our headquarters.
POPKIN: And phones were not easy to get then.
SCHWARTZCHILD: That’s right. Very few of the farm houses had phones. Well, we went along, of course, to see the policeman’s house, and it did indeed have a telephone there, and we thought, well, that was as good a house as any to requisition, so we gave the policeman and his wife, we gave them twenty-four hours to vacate the house, and though that night Selma and I slept in a barn until we could get into the policeman’s house. Well, when the twenty-four hours had gone by, they had not vacated the house thinking they only had a couple of women to deal with, and they weren’t going to take any dictation from a couple of women. So we had to take recourse to the British Military Police which had a unit about fifteen miles away. We went to the British Military Police to see if we could get some help there, and they sent some British people along—a couple of military policemen along—that gave the policeman four hours to get out, not the twenty-four hours that we had given them. And so, of course, they did vacate, and they went to live with some other people in another farm, so they stayed in the village. They had a lot of fruit and vegetable trees around their house, and I give them permission to harvest their crops, and I was told off, of course, by the various DP’s, saying that nobody was that kind to the Jews, and why should I have let them take their crops. But I said that I wasn’t planning on continuing the type of treatment that had been meted out by the Germans by doing the same thing to them, so I did give them permission to come and gather their fruit and vegetables, and we settled down in this house and made it into our home and our office and started administrating.
POPKIN: Was it a fairly good-sized house?
SCHWARTZCHILD: It had two bedrooms upstairs and a living room, sort of a living room-cum dining room, and a little front room which we made into our office. It was certainly sufficient for the two of us. The whole thing—there was no running water. There was a pump at the back, and the stove was a wood-burning stove.
POPKIN: I suppose you had a WC outside.
SCHWARTZCHILD: It was an outside WC; it was an outhouse, oh, yes, it was. And the stove was a wood-burning stove, so all heating and cooking was done on this stove. Well then, we came across—this is, if I may digress on just some of the physical things that had to be done before we even were able to start out work. With the peculiar bureaucracy of the army, we came under the aegis of UNRRA, which was the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association, and the British Army, so that any so-called officers’ mess got its food and its fuel from the army. And since we went out in uniform and had officers’ status, this was a so-called “officers’ mess”.
POPKIN: Then they brought your wood for you?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, they had something called “briquettes”, but according to the rules of the British Army Book, each officer had so many briquettes assigned to him, so that if you had an officers’ mess say of fifty officers, then you had fifty lots of briquettes for your fire. But since we were only two, we only had two lots of briquettes for our fire.
POPKIN: Not a rational way–
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, I tried to point out to them that the fire didn’t care if there were two of us or fifty of us there, they still needed something to burn, so that we discovered that the fuel that we got from the army lasted exactly one hour in the morning and then we were left without any heat or means of cooking.
POPKIN: Oh, my.
SCHWARTZCHILD: So back I went to my friends in the military police, and they were very, very kind. And every second day they sent a corporal with a jeep full of wood logs so that we could keep our fires, our heating, going. The fact that two Hungarian sisters came to the house the very first day we were there, and they said that they would be our housekeepers and cooks, which was really very nice. They would come in every single morning at 7:00 to get the fires going–
POPKIN: Oh, how wonderful!
SCHWARTZCHILD: –and cook for us. And they were very popular because they could make strudel and goulash, and the soldiers in the jeep with the wood would string it out, and they would take an awfully long time to unpack this load because they would get a marvelous meal, you see, they were very happy to come along to Kaunitz and deliver wood to us, and this was the only way we really could keep our heating and our food going. And it was also a very interesting thing because these two girls, Ilona and Irena were their names. Since it was an outhouse with a pump, obviously there was no bathroom in the house, but they had managed from one of the farmhouses to find an old zinc tub, you know, just a zinc tub. And they put it in a corner of the kitchen, and they strung up an army blanket. And every morning at 7:30 they would knock at my bedroom door, and they’d say, “Miss Lily, your bath is ready.”
POPKIN: Oh, boy, you really lived it up then—good style.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And they had to pump this water, get the fires going, heating the stove to heat it up. Now, when it was very cold, as it was during that time, the pump froze. So they then had to go to other farm houses where they could get some water, drag it across the village of Kaunitz, but we never missed a bath in the morning in about five inches of warm water that they had heated up. And they cooked for us and took care of us, which was, of course, very useful because then we could be free to do our work.
POPKIN: Were they in pretty good shape then by the time you arrived in Kaunitz? Had the DP’s recovered a lot of their weight and their health?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, yes, those that were in the camp—most of them were fat because when they started eating again and there was a lot of starchy foods that were given to them usually because there were potatoes that were locally grown. The food came from the army at that time. Only later did we get it off the German economy.
POPKIN: Oh, this was from the British Army.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, although Kaunitz itself had been liberated by the American Army at the end of the war. When the quadripartite divisions had come about, Kaunitz became the British zone of occupation so that the food would come from the British Army, and so we had a lot of starchy things and very little meat. And we did have a—since a lot of the wards were Polish Jews, and of course in Poland they was only Orthodoxy, so therefore, they always had a shochet to do the slaughtering. A lot of the people there were still Orthodox and wouldn’t eat the meat that we were able to get because it wasn’t kosher.
POPKIN: Were the Hungarians less religious?
SCHWARTZCHILD: The Hungarians were less. They always had been much more assimilated than the Polish Jews, and of course, at that time, you ate what you could get. The Joint Distribution Committee also sent food in and every so often, every month or so, we would get an allocation of food which was very good. There was a lot of canned stuff, canned fish and things like that. And then there was an exchange with the Germans because in the village where we were which was a farming village, the farmers had eggs, butter, milk. We had sardines, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, for example.
POPKIN: You probably had Spam.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –some coffee and things like that, so there was an exchange that went on, and we were able to get some eggs, butter, milk from the Germans in exchange for various canned goods that we had on our ration. And we managed that way. It wasn’t a great deal. We really weren’t in calories in those days, and I must confess that today everybody is very conscious of calories, but in those days one really wasn’t. It was a new thing, and I went out armed with dozens and dozens of packages of vitamin pills and little capsules, and nobody would take them. This simply would not take the place of a meal on its own. The kids played with them as though they were marbles and not vitamin pills (laughing). Things like that, you know, just the wrong things. Now England was not able to send any food out because-
POPKIN: They didn’t have enough for themselves.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –they didn’t have enough for themselves. Food was rationed, and so it was against the law to send food out, so we did have, you know, clothing, blankets, bedding sent out. But the Joint Distribution Committee were able to send out foodstuffs and, as I say, about every month we would get an allocation of food. But then it became—you know, you didn’t have enough of the variety of things that some would like. I remember, for some reason or another, we always had lots of marmalade. I don’t know why. I suppose because it would come in cans and was easy to transport. So that if we had any special celebrations within the camp, we tried to make all sorts of things—the birth of a new baby, a celebration; the fact that somebody had located a relative alive was a celebration. So that we would sort of dole out a ration of marmalade so they could perhaps make a cake or something that was just a little bit extra, so that marmalade became a luxury and a real treat to have at that time. So we went; we had our elections, and we had the DP’s themselves as a committee, and the two of us sort of doing the overseeing.
POPKIN: Did they set up a religious community, too? Was there a Rabbi or–?
SCHWARTZCHILD: We had no Rabbi in our camp. There were lots of Rabbis in Belsen and in the big camps and in a lot of the camps that were in the American zone of occupation. Down in Munich, for instance, there were Rabbis there. We didn’t have a Rabbi, and we came across another problem there because if a couple fell in love and wanted to be married, they weren’t going to any German organization or German office or German bureau to be married, and we had no Rabbi there at Kaunitz, so we would perhaps arrange for them to get to Belsen and be married at Belsen by a Rabbi. You see, as is the way today in America, nobody takes any notice of it; people live together. You know, they form their own marriages.
POPKIN: And they did.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, they did, and the children were born of these marriages.
POPKIN: Until they managed to get a formal wedding—
SCHWARTZCHILD: If they were able to get a formal wedding. Sometimes if I knew that I could get hold of a Chaplain, an army Chaplain or an Air Force Chaplain, then I would have them come in, and we had a few marriages in Kaunitz that way. And among all the rubbishy, tattered clothing that we did have sent to us—an awful lot of rubbish was sent to us, I have to confess. There was one wedding dress, and so what we did—it was a large size wedding dress, and so we hemmed in the sides when it was a skinny girl, and we took out the hem for a fat girl (laughing),– so that we used this wedding dress for several weddings in Kaunitz. But it was very nice. And some of the Hungarian girls were very good at dressmaking, so they made all the accoutrements like fancy little bonnets to go on and veiling, and so we had “a” wedding dress in Kaunitz, and we had little wedding celebrations. One of the other things—I zoom in on Kaunitz because to me it was the first camp I worked in in Germany and, of course, it was my first experience in that sort of work and obviously it left a very, very deep impression on me, so that I was very, very close to everybody there, and it was small enough that you go to know everybody. We did have lots of people that were in the hospital, and we had a hospital which was manned by German doctors and nurses but which came under the umbrella of UNRRA. It was a UNRRA hospital. And the hospital was about twenty kilometers away from our camp, and the little truck that I had assigned to us had broken down, and we had no spare parts for it. And unless I was able to visit the people in the hospital, they really felt as though they were being completely isolated and forgotten. And there was a question of how was I going to get to the hospital. We did have—we had from the army twice a week—a three-ton truck that came around with an army driver. It was called our “Red Cross Truck”, and this was to take sick people from Kaunitz that needed medical attention. We had a so-called—what we called “The Ambulance”—which was a first-aid station which we had set up within Kaunitz, and a Hungarian woman who had been a nurse, was the nurse, so that for things like cuts and bruises and colds and sniffles we were able to deal with this locally, but if anything more serious came about, then we had to get the people to the hospital, and this truck was loaned to us twice a week in order to take the people to the hospital and bring them home. But that didn’t solve my problem of how I was going to get to the hospital, so I went to my military police outfit who gave to me a folding bicycle which had been one of the bicycles dropped by helicopter when the British troops first went into Germany. And it was a little folding bicycle with just a metal seat and no proper pedals, and every single day on this bicycle, I cycled sixteen or eighteen kilometers to the hospital and back in order to see the patients—
POPKIN: It must have kept you very fit.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –in the hospital (laughing). We had been taught how to drive in England before we went out there so that we could drive if we had any kind of transportation, but when we got to Germany there were so many potholes, and the roads were in such bad conditions because of the tanks going across them during the course of the war, that the women weren’t permitted to drive because the roads were too dangerous for driving anyway, so that I went for weeks and weeks. I cycled on this very uncomfortable bicycle to the camp. But we did have many people there. One girl in particular died. She had TB. She had contracted TB in the concentration camp, and all her family had disappeared, but she proved one brother had survived, and he had indeed survived, but he was in Austria somewhere, and through the—there was an amazing grapevine because people were moving across the face of Europe looking for relatives—and her brother heard about her and came across or walked across Europe or hitchhiked across Europe and came to see her. And he was going off to Israel, and he said that as soon as she got well she would go to Israel, too. There was no legal way, of course, of going to Israel in those times because at that time—that was before 1948, before the State of Israel had been established—but as you know, there were all sorts of illegal transportations to Palestine in those days. Unfortunately, she died, and that was the first death we had in our camp.
POPKIN: Oh, really. Everyone else seemed to make a pretty good recovery.
SCHWARTZCHILD: They had made a physical recovery. There were lots of problems psychologically, of course.
POPKIN: Was there a great deal of talk about their experiences during the war?
SCHWARTZCHILD: They spoke of their experiences in the camps because it sort of fell out of them, you know.
POPKIN: It was always there.
SCHWARTZCHILD: It was always there. There was no way ever of getting rid of it. It wasn’t anything you could just shunt to one side at all. But, going back to Ilonka. Ilonka was the girl who died. But this was a very special sort of a death because all the deaths that they had seen were just deaths in the concentration camps, and you just died where you fell until you were bulldozed into a mass grave after the war. And so the big thing of Ilonka’s death was that the ladies of the camp made a shroud, brought her to the camp, stayed with the body overnight, and she had a decent funeral. She was so sure that she was going to get well and go to Israel, and, of course, we knew not that it wouldn’t happen, but it was important for everybody concerned in the camp that she be buried with dignity, and she was.
POPKIN: Yes, and I suppose a few years later, she might have been treated with penicillin and might have recovered.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, I think that by that time, all sorts of things had gone wrong with her body, and she was beyond redemption. But a very interesting—one other and much happier case came up there. There was another girl in the same hospital who was on a plaster bed. She was lying in a plaster shape that was just shaped all around her body, and she had been so systematically beaten on the back of her neck with a rubber truncheon that she had contracted TB of the spine.
POPKIN: Oh, my.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And she had been put onto this plaster bed after the war by army doctors, and they put her into this camp, but nobody ever expected that she would walk again—
POPKIN: Oh, really.

Tape 1 - Side 2 (Popkin)

SCHWARTZCHILD: –or ever get out; that she would be completely immobilized for the rest of her life. A very lovely young girl, Franya. So, of course, I would go and see her every day, and we had a marvelous relationship. We just sort of hit it off very beautifully together, and Franya had a sister in the camp, Marilla. And Marilla had lost her fiancé in the concentration camp, but another young man who met her in the displaced persons’ camp after the war fell in love with her and wanted to marry her, but she said that she wasn’t going to marry anybody because she had a sick sister, and she had to look after her sister, and he said he would take care of her. And then he was in a camp near Munich, which was in the American zone of occupation, and we were in the British zone, but he would keep—I don’t know how he got from Munich to Westphalia, but he would come every so often to woo her, and eventually they did get married. And it was really very nice. And then he said that down in Munich, or near Munich, there was a hospital that was run by nuns, and he wanted Franya moved down to there because then he and Marilla, his wife, would live down there and Franya would be in the hospital, and she would be able to have proper care. And I got a truck, and I had a friend who had been in the Polish army, a Jewish man who had been in the Polish army, but then worked with our organization as a driver and transport officer. I got a truck from the army. We built a bed in this truck and put the plaster bed on top of the bed and drove—I got the services of a doctor from the UNRRA hospital where she had been all this time, and we drove down to Munich. And the roads were so bad, you couldn’t travel more than about five to ten miles an hour, and we drove for twenty-three hours—
POPKIN: Oh, my, that’s extraordinary.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –in this truck with Franya. And the doctor, every three or four hours, had to give her shots of painkiller because the shaking of the truck on the potholed roads was very difficult on her. And she needed to hold my hand, and so I leaned across–I couldn’t sit down in the back there–I leaned across her cot holding her hand for twenty-three hours.
POPKIN: You must have been stiff as a board.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And when I got to Munich, I couldn’t stand up straight (laughing). They had to sort of lift me out of this truck and put me into bed where I had to stay for three days before I could unwind myself, but I’m happy to say she did get good treatment. She did walk again.
POPKIN: She recovered?
SCHWARTZCHILD: She recovered; she walked again. The three of them came to this country. They still live in this country. She married.
POPKIN: Oh, isn’t that wonderful!
SCHWARTZCHILD: And although I haven’t seen Franya, who was the girl that was sick, I have seen Marilla and David who live in New York, and any occasion I have for being in New York, I always visit with them.
POPKIN: They’re doing well?
SCHWARTZCHILD: They’re doing very well. Neither of them are in good health, but they’re doing very well, and they have their own children. They have a son who is married and has his children, and a daughter who is at school, college, right now. And it’s one of those very nice stories which ended up very well. One thing I omitted to tell you–which I think was one of the most important things when we first went to Germany—as I mentioned, everybody was wandering, looking for relatives, and the very first thing we did in all the camps, all the workers in all the camps, made lists of everybody that came through. And we made the lists of their names, where they came from, who their families were, then the names of their families, whom they were looking for. And these lists were distributed throughout the camps all across Europe, so that if anybody at any camp had heard this name, they just had to look down these lists, and these lists are still today used by the Jewish organizations.
POPKIN: Where have they kept them? With the International Tracing Service do you think?
SCHWARTZCHILD: They’re part of the International Tracing Service and all the Jewish tracing services. Lists were, you know, they were mimeographed, and they were sent to all tracing services, and to this day they are still used. All these various organizations, they still scan these lists, and you’ll also see in some Jewish papers, for instance, The Jewish Chronicle in London used to have, and still does now, but not so much, a whole listing of people who are looking for people.
POPKIN: I want to do that myself. I’m still looking for family.
SCHWARTZCHILD: So there are such lists, and these were started right there.
POPKIN: How long were you there?
SCHWARTZCHILD: I was in Kaunitz for over a year.
POPKIN: You must have been very attached to all those people.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And I was very attached to all those people. And I was only taken away from Kaunitz when it was decided—many of the Hungarians went home. We were able to arrange transport for them to back to Hungary.
POPKIN: Oh, they did go home.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And many of them did. Most of the Poles didn’t. The Poles had absolutely nothing to go back to.
POPKIN: Right.
SCHWARTZCHILD: What we did then, if they had relatives in various other parts of the world, we would try and trace them, and if they could be given some sort of guarantee that they wouldn’t be a burden on any state, for instance. If anybody had relatives in America, if one could absolutely bring proof that they wouldn’t be a burden on the American economy, then they could have permits to come to this country or to any of the other countries. Many people went to Shanghai because Shanghai turned out to be a country that took lots and lots of people, so many Jews went to Shanghai. Many of the Jews left there afterwards, but many of the Jews in Shanghai today are there because that was a country that would take them in after the war. Very few of them were permitted to come to this country. The only time it started to open up was in 1948 when there was something called “The Truman Act”, when Truman said that it could be opened up. And then we had the situation where we had, for example, in one camp alone, in Belsen, there were 15,000 people, and there were many camps dotted all over Germany. But we had 150 permits per month for people to come to this country.
POPKIN: Just a trickle.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Which was just a trickle, and then you had to decide who was going to get those permits and wherever we could get them. Many people wanted to go to South Africa. They had long-lost relatives there, or if South Africa would take them, or any countries that would take them. England was taking very few. Unfortunately, they didn’t do as much as we would have liked them to have done, and everybody knows, of course, American didn’t do as much as it could have done, but we had these 150 certificates under the Truman Act so that resettling was a very big thing. We had all thought, you know, after the war, well the camps would be there for six months or a year, and everybody would then be dispersed either back to their homelands or would be taken in by other countries. Nobody anticipated that five years after the war there would still be camps there. So that when I left—I left in 1950 which was just before, just about the time when all the camps were being liquidated, and people were being rehoused somewhere, resettled somewhere. But at that time it was really very difficult.
POPKIN: I know. I know from my reading that the Americans were totally unprepared for the fact that people couldn’t go home, and there was no place to go.
SCHWARTZCHILD: That’s right, that’s right, that’s true. And after I had left Kaunitz I kept close contact with them, obviously, because they were wonderful friends of mine, all of them by that time. I worked for a little while in our headquarters, but then after that—
POPKIN: Where was headquarters?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Our headquarters was in a little place called Werfel in Westphalia. Westphalia was in a little town near Bunda, just again a small, villagey, tiny little town. And I worked there for a few months, but then I went to work in Belsen.
POPKIN: Oh, then you went to Belsen.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Then I was in Belsen.
POPKIN: How long were you in Belsen?
SCHWARTZCHILD: I worked in Belsen for about a year, and then from Belsen I went to Berlin, and I worked in Berlin for two years, 1948-1950, for over two years until I left and came to this country. We were in Berlin, as a matter of fact, all during the Russian blockade.
POPKIN: You married Steven during that period?
SCHWARTZCHILD: I met Steve, yes, he had come out to Berlin. We had about 10,000 Jews in Berlin and no Rabbi. And Lily Montague, who I mentioned earlier, who also was the head of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, came to the—said somebody to the Hebrew Union College, as a matter of fact, because they wanted a volunteer Rabbi who would go out to Berlin for two years as a volunteer. And obviously it would have to be somebody who could speak German, and since Steven had originally come from Germany and he had been ordained that year, just then, he volunteered and he came out to Berlin for two years, and since our work took us to the same people, I met him in Berlin.
POPKIN: What year was that?
SCHWARTZCHILD: That was in 1948 in the middle of the Russian blockade where you rarely fly in and out of Berlin because no ally was—
POPKIN: It must have been like living on an island.
SCHWARTZCHILD: It was, you see, because Berlin itself was in the middle of the Russian zone of occupation although Berlin itself was cut into four parts. Part of it was French, part American, part Russian and part British, you see. So that it was an island, a quadripartite island in the middle of the Russian zone. So any time the Russians wanted to close the Autobahn, you couldn’t get in or out of Berlin, and that’s what happened during the blockade. So the only way we could get in or out of Berlin was to fly in or out of Berlin.
POPKIN: When you went to Belsen, there was a slow trickle out of Belsen by then?
SCHWARTZCHILD: There was a slow trickle out of Belsen by then. People would go to various countries where they could get to, or would have them, or where they had relatives. Many people also went down to the American Zone of Occupation, particularly into Munich and settled in Germany, so many of the displaced persons, other than German Jews, settled in Germany themselves. But Belsen, of course, was one of the last camps to be torn down because there were such large numbers of them there. But that was run, since there were so many–in the total picture of Jewry, of course, it wasn’t so many–but as a camp, you had ten or fifteen thousand people, which was like a city, so it was run on proper lines. We had a police force there. Now a friend of mine who came out from England, who had been a sergeant in the British Army, he was about 6’7, I think, David Kalmitsky, was the police chief. So he started—he got the police force going in Belsen which was manned by displaced persons who became part of the police force.
POPKIN: Were there industries going on in Belsen? How did people live? Was it still all donations at that point?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, there were workshops going on. Now normally when camps were first opened, obviously nobody was going on to the German economy, and nobody could go to work because they weren’t permitted to so that everybody had to rely on handouts from whichever country would give them handouts. In a place like Kaunitz, where I was, where the first camp where there were so few of us, I did try to get—we had a lot of people, Palestinians who had been in the International Brigade who came over there to try and get the people to learn to do farming—so we requisitioned a few fields in Kaunitz, for instance, and we tried to get them to teach them all—
POPKIN: Oh, these were Palestinian Jews who had lived in Palestine and worked in communities–
SCHWARTZCHILD: –and who had got into the army.
POPKIN: I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –you see, and then came in a Brigade.
POPKIN: And they came—
SCHWARTZCHILD: And they came. They went down to all the camps and started training people as farmer, but this didn’t last very long because it didn’t work that way at all. People who were not farmers were not interested in farming. They wanted to get resettled somewhere; they wanted to find their families, and they wanted to have some kind of retribution. And they didn’t want to work on the fields. That meant hard labor. They needed extra calories for that. The extra calories were not available, so that if they were putting in that many more hours of real hard labor, there wasn’t enough food to give to them. So that they found their own ways of—
POPKIN: Making a living.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Making a living. And I, for instance, started what we called in England “Make do or Mend”. If you got a whole load of clothing, second-hand clothing, or any new clothing, well then—
POPKIN: Okay, Lily, you were talking about clothing.
SXHWARTZCHILD: Oh, yes, there’s one particular instance that I could tell you about with the clothing. I had mentioned earlier that although England, for instance, couldn’t send foodstuffs to Germany because they were very heavily rationed, and there were no permits to send food out of the country, but clothing was permitted. And so many organizations, women’s organizations and all sorts of peopled filled the boats, and I was very resentful of this I must confess. They filled the boats with so much junk when foodstuffs could have been sent, that even in a small camp like Kaunitz where we used to have these parcels that came from various organizations throughout the world. I might say that the best stuff came from the ladies of South Africa. Everything they sent could be used.
POPKIN: Was that because they were such a wealthy community?
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, I don’t think so. I think that they just had an innate knowledge that if you send stuff to poor people, you’ve got to send wearable stuff, clean stuff whereas in many of the packages that we used to get from various parts of the world and also from England, unfortunately, where underwear wasn’t even washed.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Okay. We had so much rubbish that was really unusable stuff, that I piled it all in a barn and filled the barn from ceiling to floor with clothing that simply could not be used, or even as I had mentioned before, I started a workshop with “Make Do or Mend”. You couldn’t even use the stuff for anything like that. So eventually, I looked in and around Kaunitz and made inquiries, particularly of my friend, the Burgermeister, who came for his weekly Scheiflage and found a firm that made material. And you know they were making it all out of sawdust which was ersatz stuff, so if you wanted a length of cloth, for instance, they were all little bits of wood shavings in it because the wood shavings that had been made into sawdust was also put in to make cloth.
POPKIN: Oh, I had no idea.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Oh, yes, so that you always were picking out little slivers. And I called—I got hold of the man who was the head of this organization that was making—a cloth mill, in other words, and he came down to see what we had because that they could shred up, and they didn’t have to put wood in it or shavings or sawdust. And I thought this would be a good thing. He could take this away to his factory, put it through all the shredders and reuse it, you see. Well, for this whole bunch of unusable clothing, I got four suit lengths.
POPKIN: That’s all?
SCHWARTZCHILD: That’s all. Four suit lengths. And we had about 200 men in the camp, or nearly 200 men, all of whom needed clothes, and who was going to have the four suit lengths? Who was going to have the four suit lengths? It was a very big problem, and our committee, the camp committee, wanted to tell me that this one needed it very badly; that one needed it very badly, and I said, “Well, if you do it that way, somebody else will say he needed it even more”. So the only way we could do it—we had a lottery. We pulled numbers out of a hat to decide who was to have these four suit lengths. And I said, “Then If anybody gets the suit length that really doesn’t need it, then he can give it away if he so chooses.” It wasn’t the only way to do it, but on the one hand, it seemed to be the fairest way. On the other hand, a lot of the people there were really resentful of that, but there was no way of choosing who needed it more. Everybody needed it except the younger people who worked, greater entrepreneurs, who had found ways and means of finding things. As I told you, they weren’t going to live in this sordid manner ad infinitum, and there seemed to be no closing down of the camps at that point, and we sat in them anyway because nobody seemed to want them. They weren’t going to live there for an indefinite future and still have to scrub around with rubbish they said, so many of them started various business ventures, and at this point I think it would be a good idea if we left Kaunitz.
POPKIN: All right.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Because I’ve spoken quite a lot about Kaunitz, but that just sort of puts me in mind of some of the other things—unless there are any questions you want to ask.
POPKIN: Let me just ask you, did you find that most of these people, after their hard experiences, were pretty optimistic about their future?
SXHWARTZCHILD: Well, that’s a very difficult question, Juliet, because “optimistic” is not a word that is operable, so you really couldn’t use the word “optimistic” in that sort of a way. The only thing that there was such a tremendous will to live. They had a tremendous will to have a future, that “optimism” really wasn’t—“determination” was more—
POPKIN: Determination, they were going to go forward.
SCHWARTZCHILD: They were going forward. They weren’t going to go back, and they weren’t going to have repeated what had happened to them, so it was a determination rather than an optimism. They wanted, they were willing, more or less willing for good things to happen in the future. They wanted to be resettled somewhere, and if they worked, if they couldn’t, and for the length of time that they worked they settled, as I mentioned before. Unfortunately, the camps went on for nearly five years, which is an awfully long time when we had hoped that within a year after the war we’d at least have them settled somewhere, but it just didn’t work out that way. So many of them, and this is why I’ll mention some of the things where they were determined to live as normal a life as possible, that given the abnormalities of displaced persons’ camps, they led what to them were normal lives.
POPKIN: Do you think that there was a higher level of cooperation among the survivors than there might have been in an ordinary community?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, but I think this is a very natural thing in the face of any common disaster because, just as an aside, I remember I was in London all during the bombing, and when so many hundreds of people just lived up in the subways to get away from the bombing, there was a tremendous closeness and helpfulness among everybody because everybody was in the same boat, and some children who were born down there, and they were five years old before they had ever could see the light of day. They were born and lived down under in the subway. At the moment things became fairly normal, I mean as normal as one would be after such a war. The people that had been so close and so helpful, neighbors again didn’t speak to each other. They went through their normal, personal, close manner and went about their own business, and all this tremendous closeness that went on in the face of common danger just sort of under the normal circumstances, doesn’t exist.
POPKIN: So you think the same thing might have happened in the DP camp, that people who might not have gotten on or wanted to be more private later in the normal community, still had a sense of shared destiny there. They had to cooperate with each other.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, they did. But then, strangely enough, and I’m sorry to have to say this in a sort of a way, that even in the camps groups were sort of fragmented, as it were. You know, the Poles didn’t like the Galitziner or the Galitziners didn’t like the Hungarians, and the Hungarians didn’t like the Germans. So that there were all these, you know, antagonisms that had gone on for hundreds and hundreds of years that were completely dissipated during the time of their incarceration—
POPKIN: That re-emerged.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –that sort of re-emerged, not perhaps to such a great degree. For instance, one of the girls that worked for me in Kaunitz, Irena, I told you. I had mentioned that the two sisters came to work for me, and one of them who was a very, very jolly girl, and many people in the camp wanted to marry her, you know, set up house together. She said, “No.” She wasn’t going to marry a Pole. I mean this was her immediate reaction, and then the funny thing was that I got Irena and Ilona—these were the two sisters—I got them to England where they were both working in somebody’s house, a “Lady Somebody’s” house as housekeepers and cooks. And they left there after a while when they’d been there for about a year and went on their own. And then she called me one day because she was going to marry. She was going to get married, and who did she finally marry? She married a non-Jewish Pole, somebody that had been in Ander’s army. And so, you know, how could you explain such a thing? And she wanted my help in getting them—they both wanted to go to Canada, but there was not enough—there was a Polish quota. She could have gone as a Jew, but he, you know, because they had to change the quotas. You know, the Polish quota which was half the trouble in getting people into other countries because certain countries said, “Well, we don’t have a Polish quota”, or “We don’t have a this quota.” And finally, it became such a silly thing, you know, when you had say thousands of Polish Jews that had been in a concentration camp, to say, “Well, we don’t have enough of a quota to send the Poles”, so that they made kind of a Jewish quota. So that this girl could have gone to Canada as a Jew, but her husband who was a non-Jewish Pole, couldn’t go. There was a waiting list of about twelve years, and I don’t know what finally happened to them, but it was such an ironic thing. I laughed at it at the time although it was a peculiar kind of a laughing, that she didn’t want to marry a Pole in the camp, but she did marry a Pole later.
POPKIN: And his army was the Polish Army in exile.
SCHWARTZCHILD: That’s right, that’s right. You see, so there were certain–not as deep as they had been, you know, because it was still early days. It was still early days after the war.
POPKIN: Why don’t you go on then because I know you had some things that you wanted to tell.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, yes, just a few things that may be of interest. I’ll start perhaps with Exodus. As you know that the so-called Exodus ships were taking people illegally to Israel and the boats were turned back.
POPKIN: Uh-huh.
SCHWARTZCHILD: They were turned back, and they came back to Hamburg. And when they came to Hamburg, many of the workers–those of us who went to Hamburg to rehouse them—and we were still in British Army uniform at that time.
POPKIN: I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: So when we got to the boats, we were booted out by the Jews.
POPKIN: Oh, really.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Because it was the British that had turned them back—
POPKIN: I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: —that wouldn’t let them land, and here we come in British Army uniforms to say we’re going to help them and rehouse them, and they just wouldn’t trust us. And so it took many long discussions on the boats with the Jews there at meetings to assure them that although, you know, we were in British Army uniforms because this is the only way we could work under the circumstances in Germany, that we were there as Jews, and we certainly wanted to help them even if we couldn’t get them back at that particular point on the Exodus ships to Israel, or Palestine then, we had no control over what was happening at the other end.
POPKIN: Right.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And so they were dispersed to various camps.
POPKIN: It must have been very difficult.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And it was disappointing, and then as soon as it was feasible, many of them went to Palestine again in the various ways that people got there. A lot of people got there—a lot of people didn’t try at that time—but a lot of people did go. A lot of these people were brought back to Belsen and this is a peculiar story. It always intrigued me that they had this group of people from the Exodus, and they had gone to two places, Emden and some other place where they had been dispersed. But when I was in Belsen this was where a lot of them were.
POPKIN: Let me stop for a second.
SCHWARTZCHILD: We had all these people in Belsen, as I mentioned, and there was the question of dispersing them again or sending them back to Palestine by way of Marseilles. They used to go to Marseilles and from Marseilles they would take boats; they would set sail from Marseilles. And I remember that in Belsen, of course, there was the British Army that was there, quite apart from all the various organizations, charitable and the organizations which helped a bit: the Red Cross, the Quakers, the Jewish Relief Unit, the Joint Distribution Committee. The Army was there and also a large group of people called “The Control Commission” who were the civilian workers from England. And there were large numbers of them because it was such a big camp, it had to be administered by, you know, like a whole city. And I remember, and I don’t know when and how the underground work went on. I don’t know, and I don’t choose to know, as a matter of fact. But I do know that it could only have been done with the help and the connivance and the great assistance of all parties, whether it would be the military, the Control Commission or anybody else that happened to be around in any sort of power. But overnight, those people from the Exodus, those that had come back to Belsen, disappeared, and they were no longer in Belsen, and it was an overnight thing.
POPKIN: I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: So that you can’t just have a load of people disappear from the camp.
POPKIN: It was a carefully organized conspiracy.
SCHWARTZCHILD: It was a very carefully organized conspiracy which was wonderful, of course, and restored your faith in all sorts of mankind, as it were. And I’m assuming they went back to Marseilles or various other points and dispersed to various places, possibly Israel, probably Israel. One setback wasn’t going to deter many people.
POPKIN: I wonder if they’ve ever had a reunion in Israel of all the Exodus people who came.
SCHWARTZCHILD: I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t know, I don’t know. But it was just a very interesting little vignette how, you know, something can happen overnight, and nothing was said. No conversations went on about it at all because it all obviously had to be kept somewhat quiet, otherwise, it might have gotten out to the bigger brass, or whoever might have tried to stop it.
POPKIN: Were people of all ages included in that trip?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Uh-huh. But another thing in Belsen—I go on a little bit about Belsen—you asked, I think, the last time we spoke, what people did; how they lived; what sort of—
POPKIN: –daily life.
SCHWARTZCHILD: The daily life they had. Well, in a place like Belsen, for example, where there were so many people that it really was a whole city, and a city with a police force. As I mentioned, too, David Kalnitsky had started to form the police force there. And, as with Israel now, where you find there are dozens of political parties and everybody tried to get the votes, that was exactly what went on in Belsen. There must have been twenty or thirty political groups vying—what do you call it when you, with this last election?
POPKIN: Campaigning.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Campaigning, and they had elections. And there must have been twenty or twenty-five different parties.
POPKIN: What kind of governing board did you have then?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, Yossel Rosenzaft kind of headed it up. And then it came under, you know, all the various—and they had all the Israeli, you know, the names of the Jewish organizations, you know, the Jewish names or the Hebrew names of all different parties. Like Mapam and Mapai [Mapam and Mapai were the Zionist political parties that later formed into the Labor and Likud political parties in Israel] and so on and so forth. Millions of—dozens of them. And then they had all this campaigning, and people would go around the camps with their campaign speeches. It was really—(laughing)
POPKIN: What was the total population then involved?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, when I was there, I suppose there was about fifteen to eighteen thousand.
POPKIN: Each party couldn’t have had too large a constituency.
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, but it was very, very active, very active. Anyway, that was the one thing that they did. But then some people became very—you know, they wanted to do something. Belsen was out in the country. It wasn’t, you know, smack on top of any kind of town where they could go and get a job. If they went out—people were permitted to go and live on the German economy if they wished, but many didn’t, and it also meant that they wouldn’t have had the protection or the “Protexia”, as the word goes, of the camps, you see, and all the organizations which administered and looked after the camps. If they went out in the German economy, they were on their own.
POPKIN: Would it have been easy or comfortable for them to go out in the German economy?
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, which is why a lot of them didn’t. Later on many did, for instance, down in Bavaria and Munich, many, many did, and they became very big business people down there.
POPKIN: I understand there are about 25,000 now.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, yes, well I guess so. I just don’t choose to speak too much about it. I know too many things about that group down there, and I don’t choose to discuss it. For me it’s a little painful.
POPKIN: Yes, I gather not the most distinguished group of people down there.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Quite. So that anybody who wants to talk about it can, but I don’t want to. But in Belsen what happened, I remember, and I always wondered how they managed it because Belsen is in the middle of a country, not near a coast.
POPKIN: Um-hmm.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, I was making some rounds to visit some friends, and they said, “Come here. I want to show you something. Do you need some fresh fish?”
I said, “Fresh fish. Where is anybody going to get fresh fish here in Belsen?”
Well, they had taken one of the rooms and somehow built a huge tank, lined it with some metal or something, and they had a fresh water tank about the size of this whole kitchen.
POPKIN: How extraordinary! Where did they get the fish?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, I wasn’t about to ask because people were always coming and going, and somehow they managed to cross the borders into—they went to Belgium; they went to Switzerland; they came back. They went to Austria—
POPKIN: The Netherlands?
SCHWARTZCHILD: They went to the Netherlands. Anyway, there was the fish! Fresh fish tanks and people would go in there and buy their fresh fish for their gefilte fish and what have you. And it was really quite extraordinary, in the middle of this camp, there was this fish market.
POPKIN: I’ve seen the word “organization, organizing” as a medic word.
SCHWARTZCHILD: “Organizeered, organizeered”, everything was “organizeered” there, too, you know. It said something for their determination to do for themselves. One didn’t question how they probably went to one of these other countries and brought, you know, whatever it is you bring back for starting a fish spawn or small fish or whatever it is. Anyway, they all came back with little buckets, you know, closed-in buckets of stuff, and in no time flat, we had a big fish market there. They also started a nightclub in Belsen because, you know, there was a lot of people with nothing very much to do in the evenings. So they started this nightclub, and they got it all—I don’t know where they got all these red lamps and all kinds of fixtures, glass chandeliers, and what not– And, of course, among all the people there, there were many musicians and a lot of the ladies became part of the cooks, you know, the kitchen. And you could go in there and have dancing and music and entertainment and a good meal and spend your evening at little cocktail tables. And it became a nightly event. And then the group of people who ran the nightclub also ran a restaurant in the daytime, and the funny thing was that this was completely–you know, according to the Army law, to the regulations, it was really not permitted. But who would go to stop such a thing, you know?
POPKIN: They needed it.
SCHWARTZCHILD: That’s right. And the very people that really should have stopped all this sort of thing–these were the soldiers and the Control Commission people—they went in there every day to buy their meals, to buy their sandwiches and their pieces of chicken because Army food wasn’t that great, and they were delighted to go in and buy some decent food (laughing).
POPKIN: Did you try to keep the whole camp kosher?
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, this wasn’t always possible. This was another point–I keep popping back to Kaunitz, it’s true, but since that was my main camp—what Belsen did, there were, you know, the Hungarians were not kosher, by and large. Most of the Poles were because in Poland you didn’t know anything else. You know, in Poland, in all the little ghettos, it always was—
POPKIN: But not in the cities. You know, my family’s from Poland.
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, not in the cities, but by and large, you know, there was no such thing as Reform Judaism there. It was all—you might have been a lapsed Orthodox, but nevertheless, the only sort of religion that there was, was Orthodox Judaism. There weren’t any other groupings there as there were in Germany, you see. What happened in Belsen, one of the very first things they did was to build a Mikvah. You see, that was the first thing. And then they had little religious groups, and they would have services, of course. But they did have a Mikvah there because many, many of the couples were very Orthodox, and this is where I hop back to Kaunitz because some of the Polish people there who were Orthodox, when couples got married, after their menstruation, they had to get to a Mikvah, and we didn’t have a Mikvah. And so I remember there were about three ladies in particular I know that were very, very Orthodox, and every month they had to get to Belsen to go to the Mikvah. But if you want to go somewhere a couple of hundred miles here, it isn’t such a big deal. But this would take perhaps two or three days, sos that after their menstruation, they’d take two or three days to get to Belsen; three or four days to stay in Belsen and get their Mikvah and get to know all their friends; two or three days to come back, and they would have a very short space of time in between when they could cohabit with their husbands, and then they would have to make arrangements once again to go back to Belsen. So their lives seemed to be going back and forth from the Mikvah.
POPKIN: Oh, my.
SCHWARTZCHILD: You see, this is how it was. And these people, where we got rations, finally we got foodstuffs through the Joint and through the Army, and then later a lot of the foodstuffs came from the German economy, and meat was included. They wouldn’t eat the meat because it was non-kosher meat. So what they would do would be to exchange it with some of the others that weren’t so kosher. They would exchange their meat for cans of sardines or salmon or any other fish or cheese or any dairy dishes. And there was a sort of exchange going on there until one day it was decided that perhaps we could make some arrangements with a local abattoir to slaughter our own cow—
POPKIN: I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –and of course this is where they called me in because they had found—we had gone to the Burgermeister who had gone to one of the slaughter houses, and they said, yes, every couple of weeks we could send the shochet there and kill a cow, and then we would have the fore part, and the back part would be left to the slaughterers to sell out on the German economy. But they wanted me to go and check out this whole thing.
POPKIN: Oh, I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And I remember I happened to get to the slaughterhouse at the time when, not the shochet, but the slaughterhouse itself had just killed a cow, and they were slicing it up. It was all trussed up; it was hung up from ropes or chains from the ceiling, but the legs were still moving around.
POPKIN: Oh, my.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And I came right outside, threw up, and said, “I’ll never eat meat again.” You know, it was a terrible sensation. I had never seen anything, you know, a slaughterhouse is not exactly the place to be. Of course, after a while, as with everything else, you forget it. But it took about six months before I could even look at a piece of meat after that (laughing).
POPKIN: I can understand that.
SCHWARTZCHILD: But we did, therefore, then—this was quite a while after liberation, of course—but we were able to arrange for some kosher meat. But before that, it was a question of exchange. And many, many people in Belsen, they had their own slaughterers, but until they did, until it was all set up, they just didn’t eat meat. They ate canned stuff, and the calories were brought in with beans, you know, dried beans and peas, you know—
POPKIN: They had dried eggs in Belsen.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –and stuff like that. Yes, as a matter of, you know, but not the meat. Most of them—many of them—or most of them got very, very fat because it was such a—
POPKIN: Starchy diet.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Such a starchy diet because it brought out the calories, but it wasn’t, you know, there wasn’t enough, you know—mostly starchy diet—potatoes you could get.
POPKIN: I understand that the American troops were sent sweet potatoes, and nobody would eat them.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, nobody knew what they were, you see, and they certainly weren’t going to eat sweet potatoes. But it’s just because of what you’re used to. You know, after a while, one gets used to all these things. Anyway, they had a fishery, they had a nightclub, and they had a restaurant. Now they had all sorts of other things, I’m sure. There was even one little street in Belsen or one little alleyway between the huts or between the houses, whatever one wanted to call them. They had names of streets so that you could know where you were and go around. And one of them was called “The Bourse”.
POPKIN: The Bourse.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And at that time there were a tremendous amount of—well, black market I’m afraid was right from the beginning. When you couldn’t get things, you wanted things, nobody was giving them to you, so that the black market was very big everywhere. And it—well as a little side thing–I’m not sure if I would want this to be used, but we’ll discuss it afterwards. I probably—no, one other girl, a friend of mine and I were probably the only two people that I know of–whether it was the Army or whether it was any of the organizations–that refused to have anything to do with the black market ourselves, I mean, personally. And if you have a demand, there is a supply, and there’s a tremendous demand for things, so the black market was very, very—
POPKIN: Down on The Bourse, were there financial transactions?
SCHWARTZCHILD: There were so many financial transactions on The Bourse, which is why they called it The Bourse, but as a matter of fact, it became such a big operation, that they affected Zurich. Now this is a part—I mean it’s on tape now, but I’m not sure that we would be wise to use it, but we’ll think about it.
SCHWARTZCHILD: It affected the whole monetary market of the world.
POPKIN: Really!
POPKIN: How were you able to deduce that?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, I didn’t. I had seen all these people just standing around as one does in these either diamond districts or financial districts. I didn’t know what they were. And my friend, Kalnitsky, who was the police chief, he said, “Well, don’t you know what that is?”
And I said, “No.”
And he said, “Well, that’s The Bourse.”
I said, “What are you talking about?” And he told me some things. He wasn’t going to tell me all the things that he knew because he had his reasons, I suppose, and he didn’t want to rock too many boats.
POPKIN: I suppose that may have been the start of the great diamond industry in Israel. Today The Bourse—
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, I know the diamond is the one business—
POPKIN: –is one of their biggest—
SCHWARTZCHILD: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Now, for instance, I mean nothing to do with diamonds or money, but many of the industries. For instance, Yossel Rosenzaft sent an entire shoe factory to Israel.
POPKIN: That he did?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, on boats. An entire shoe factory.
POPKIN: Every bit of equipment that they would need.
SXHWARTZCHILD: Every bit of equipment; all the building materials to even put up a factory.
POPKIN: He must have been a very good entrepreneur.
SCHWARTZCHILD: He was a very good entrepreneur, and he had a very good “in” with the British, with the British government, because, as you know, you can’t just send boats out at that time with equipment.
POPKIN: What year was it when he sent that? Do you know?
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, I don’t know, but it was probably around—it was after the State of Israel had been established, so it was probably 1949, and this was only one, one item, for instance.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, all sorts of industries were able to be started in Israel because of the possibilities that had gone on in various other places.
POPKIN: Of course, these were traditional Jewish businesses. It’s not surprising—
POPKIN: –after all, diamonds in Amsterdam—
SCHWARTZCHILD: Oh, absolutely not. I’m not saying that they were all done through some kind of illegality. It was a natural thing to go into the diamond industry and what they knew, shoe making, for instance.

Tape 2 - Side 1 (Popkin)

Many, many of the Poles had been shoemakers in Poland, you see, and that again was rather natural, so that all sorts of businesses went on. But I was always very intrigued because I didn’t know too much about it. With many of the things at that time you didn’t question too much. You were so concerned getting people resettled that if you were to pick up on every little detail—not that they were such little details—but when you knew that for twelve years people had been so systematically deprived, not only of their living, but of their lives and livelihood and families, that many things were forgiven. I think that the tragedy was that whereas it was perfectly understandable to forgive then, but unfortunately, it sets a pattern. It sets a pattern, and it’s very difficult to, you know, when you’ve been used to one way of life, then many young people that grew up in the camps, in a lot of the DP camps, so those that survived the concentration camps, all they had ever seen was that you stayed alive—
POPKIN: By your wits.
SCHWARTZCHILD: By hook or by crook. By your wits, and then you knew and know no other way of survival or of living.
POPKIN: I remember your referring a little earlier to “protexia”.
POPKIN: That’s originally a Russian word I believe. It’s used a great deal in Isreal.
(Both talking together and laughing).
SCHWARTZCHILD: Many things when they said, “Well, we all used to do it this way.” It was “organizeered”, which means that you went behind your face.
You did it this way; you put your hand behind your head and round and round the back of your head and everything was done sort of behind the scenes, as it were—
POPKIN: –so you didn’t know what was happening.
SCHWARTZCHILD: That’s right.
POPKIN: That’s very interesting that this is the way, a physical gesture—
SCHWARTZCHILD: Exactly. We “organizeered” it.
POPKIN: I wonder if that’s an Oriental heritage because I—(I’ll stop that).
SCHWARTZCHILD: I think I’ll go from there to perhaps a little bit of Berlin. I don’t know how much more taping you want to do. I could just go on chatting.
POPKIN: Why don’t you go on and, let’s see, what time is it now?
SCHWARTCHILD: It’s twenty after eleven.
POPKIN: So why don’t we go on ‘til a quarter of twelve?
SCHWARTZCHILD: All right. I could ad infinitum all the little stories that one thinks of. When I went to Berlin at the beginning of 1948, and in the middle of 1948 as you remember, the blockade, the Russian blockad–
SCHWARTZCHILD: –was on which meant that the only way you could get in or out of Berlin was by air because you couldn’t drive a car. Since Berlin itself was a little, as I mentioned before, a quadripartite island in the middle of the Russian zone.
POPKIN: Yes, did you have—how did you come to go to Berlin?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, before I went to Belsen. After Kaunitz, I went to work in our headquarters which was a place called Eilshausen, and I worked in our headquarters for about six months, and then they sent me to Belsen—to work in Belsen. After Belsen, they sent me to Berlin because the girl that had been in the office—we ran an office in Berlin because in Berlin there were two or three displaced persons’ camps, which meant that they were non-German Jews in the camps, but lots of the German Jews that had been liberated went back to live in Berlin if they came from Berlin.
POPKIN: I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: So that my work mostly took me with the German Jews in Berlin rather than the—because the camps were administered. So my work took me to the German Jews in Berlin, and the girl that had been working in Berlin was leaving to go back to England. And so it was felt that there were enough workers in Belsen because it was such a large place anyway. There were so many groups of workers that they really needed someone to go to Berlin. And so I ran an office in Berlin dealing with the problems of the German Jews. And then three afternoons a week I would have something called “Schlisstunde”, visiting hours, you see. And then various people–anybody could come to the office. And I had it in a building which had been taken over by the British Army for some of their administrative offices, and then I was given part of it for my office. And I had a German girl who worked as a secretary for me. And, again, we were trying to get restitutions started, for instance, still tracing relatives and dealing with all the sorts of things that a Jewish organization or a Jewish administration would want to deal with with Jews who didn’t want to go on to ask the Germans for things. We found jobs for them. We tried to get, you know, clothing, food, etc. and so forth, so that when the Russians decided to blockade Berlin–whereas we used to drive–from Berlin we’d drive right through the Autobahn to the west wherever you wanted to go—you couldn’t do it. No Allied car could go along the Autobahn. So the only way of getting in and out was to fly.
POPKIN: I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: The only planes available for us to fly at that time were what we called the old army kites which had little—you know, they had been used in wartime for the movement of troops. And they had just little canvas bucket seats on one side, you know, like this, sort of facing each other.
POPKIN: No cabin pressure.
Oh, no, not at all. And then the windows, as a matter of fact, there was a little round hole where normally during the war the guns had been pushed through, and they had just covered them over with something. And very often the covering would come off, so sometimes it was mighty cold up there when you traveled. (LAUGHING) So the only way we could get in and out of Berlin at that time was by plane. But then it was decided that, as you know, the American Air Force then had the famous airlift where they were bringing in supplies to Berlin because it was the only way of getting food and coal and stuff like that in there. And it was finally decided that since all food had to be brought in that way, that the thing to do was to close down the DP camps. In other words, the camps of the Jews not living on the German economy.
POPKIN: I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: The German Jews were back in their homes living as Germans, as German Jews. The others were still living in three camps there where they still lived in camp life.
POPKIN: What were the names of the camps.
SCHWARTZCHILD: I can’t remember. If I looked up my records, I’d get them back, but just off the top of my head, I can’t remember. So it was decided that the Jews in the camps would be sent out to the American zone of occupation, in other words, to Bavaria and mostly Munich and places like that.
POPKIN: So they would have to be airlifted.
SCHWARTZCHILD: They had to be airlifted, and this was the whole point. So what happened, the planes came in with flour, coal and foodstuffs, and then we—we meaning we workers—around five o’clock in the morning or so, would go out to the airport, clean out the planes of all the coal dust and stuff like that, and then, so that they didn’t go back to the West empty in order to bring more supplies in, we put people in them. And then they were flown out to other camps, to existing camps not in Berlin.
POPKIN: I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And so this was the way we—
POPKIN: And how did you decide who was to go?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Everybody in the camps.
POPKIN: Oh, everybody went.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Unless they wanted to stay and live on the German economy, you know, to live privately, as it were. But if they wanted to still be in camps, then they were airlifted out.
POPKIN: Do you have some idea of numbers?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, there must have been perhaps 5,000.
POPKIN: That’s quite an airlift.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, it was done each day. We’d send people out, and it went on for quite a long while.
POPKIN: How long were you in Berlin?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Two years; two and a half years; two and a half years. And the funny thing was—it’s not funny—it wasn’t funny to us at the time. (laughing) It’s odd that the Russians knew the utilities of the city. The gas and the electricity were in the Russian sector of Berlin. You see, when it was a unified city, so their utilities happened to be there. But that was the quarter of Berlin—
POPKIN: –that the Russians controlled.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –which the Russians controlled. And so the Russians controlled the gas and electricity of the entire city. Therefore, they shut it down for most of the day so that you were without gas or electricity, and they would put it on for three or four hours a day, but they never told you when. There were no set times when the gas and electricity was put on, so it means that perhaps in the middle of the night you suddenly found that your gas and electricity was on, and so people would scramble to cook (laughing), you see.
POPKIN: That’s an interesting thing.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Of course, in the winter time, it was mighty cold.
POPKIN: I can imagine.
SCHWARTZCHILD: It was very cold so when the gas suddenly came up, you’d light the gas stove. In order to get some heat, you’d leave the burners burning because there was no central heating and coal was very, very—they weren’t going to give us the coal. It had gone for the city, and it was very cold. And everybody—if somebody heard that the gas or the electricity was on, you’d get out of bed and get going in your kitchen. (laughing)
POPKIN: That’s an extraordinary life, isn’t it?
SCHWARTZCIHLD: Isn’t that an extraordinary life?
POPKIN: Human beings are so adaptable.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Absolutely adaptable. And I remember at that time, Steve and I were—soon after we were married, we had gone into married couple billets, and we had an apartment–as a matter of fact, an apartment just around the corner from where Steven grew up as a child.
POPKIN: That’s a coincidence, isn’t it?
SCHWARTZCHILD: And I remember that in the evening, or whenever this—the gas—came on, we would be wearing hats and coats and scarves and things, and then we would put all the four burners on the gas, and we would sit around the oven and open the oven door and just sit there and warm up (laughing). It was an interesting time, I can assure you. So then they cleared out the camps, and then the Germans were there. But there was an interesting young man—I mean there were lots of interesting people–but one particular one that we had met—this was a Pole who had been in the Warsaw ghetto, inside the Warsaw ghetto, and he decided that he wasn’t going to live in the camp. He was going to live normally, normally as one could, and so he lived as a private person in Berlin. Quite a lot the German Jewish people became very friendly with this personable young man. And I remember we were invited to dinner to some friends. And the funny thing was that Steven’s name is Schwartzchild, and we were invited by some people called Rothschild. I don’t know if they were any relatives of the famous Rothschild family, but I remember, you know, we passed a comment on the name. And this man, this young man was there, and he told us the following story:
He was telling us about the Warsaw ghetto and people that had been taken to the camps. And he said in those days, people tried to take with them to the camps some diamonds or some gold because they always felt—and it had been pretty traditional in today’s cities that you could always bribe your way out of the situations. So they thought that if they took some money or some gold and smuggled it with them, perhaps they would be able to survive by bribery, bribing the German guards. But of course, the German guards and the German people at that time were completely different from normal, you know, from any normal situation. And they weren’t to be bribed. And if they were, you would live one more day. That’s really all it meant. The following week, you were still killed off. This is the way people thought, that they would be able to bribe their way and pay their way through to life. And he said that he remembers very, very clearly. And when we met him, he said that if we hadn’t taken money or gold to bribe, what we should have had was guns. We should have taken revolvers with us.
POPKIN: Would you have been able to hide them?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, if you couldn’t hide them, so you’d kill somebody. You know, you’d kill a German. There’d be one less. I mean this was the thinking at the time. You weren’t going to live anyway.
POPKIN: I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: You had the feeling you weren’t going to live anyway. And he said that perhaps people might have survived a little longer if they had guns. And I remember that Steven and I were quite shocked by this whole idea, you know, that you, you know, shooting your way through was going to be no answer because usually it just meant a hundred hostages were killed anyway. But you know, one doesn’t, you know, you pick on anything to try and survive—survival being the name of the game.
POPKIN: That’s right.
SCHWARTZCHILD: But it turned out that this young man who came out with nothing and was just a poor young man trying to establish himself, today, three quarters, I would say three quarters of the famous “Kurfursendamm”, which is the main street in Berlin, belongs to him. He bought up all the real estate. It was all in rubble. You know, everything was bombed. Berlin particularly was very, very badly bombed, as everyone knows. And he thought, “Well, I’m going to buy up.” So for very small, cheap amounts he bought up all the real estate. Then it was all built, and so—
POPKIN: He became very prosperous, indeed.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, he owns practically the whole of Kurfurstendamm, the buildings, the real estate there.
POPKIN: Did you ever get in touch with him again?
SCHWARTZCHILD: One more time, twenty-five years after the war. Twenty-five years after the rehabilitation of the Jewish communities, the mayor of Berlin invited people who had been Rabbis in Berlin who still survived, and they had all kinds of speeches and banquets and all kinds of occasions.
POPKIN: When was that?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Twenty-five years after 1945.
POPKIN: Oh, oh, I see.
SCHWARTZCHILD: ’70—1970. So we were—since Steve had been the Rabbi in Berlin from 1948 to 1950, and there were several Rabbis from London that had come from Berlin in the first place. And there was one famous one here, Rabbi Nussbaum, that was in California. He has since died, but he was a very famous Rabbi here too, he and his wife. So a whole group of us were invited by the mayor of Berlin, at their expense, to spend a week in Berlin to see what had been done. And there were all sorts of celebrations going on. And on that occasion we met this same, this man, this Pole.
POPKIN: He still lives in Berlin?
SCHWARTZCHILD: He did then. I don’t know. I would imagine so if he is still alive because he was only a young man. There would be no reason for him to go anyplace else, you know. But it was just an interesting insight as to how one thought, you know, that the first thought was that you needed something to pay your way, and if only they thought of shooting your way rather than paying you way. Neither helped.
POPKIN: No, survival seems to have been more a matter of chance than almost anything else.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, in the oddest situations there were survivors, you know.
POPKIN: From what I’ve been reading, yes.
SCHWARTZCHILD: You know, it was just happenstance, as it were. There was no set pattern; there really wasn’t. I remember, as I mentioned again, that there were very few children that survived. You know, there were children’s transports that were sent to England and other countries, but I mean, all those that went into concentration camps, since they couldn’t work. You see, the pattern there was that if you were sick, you were killed, and if you were a child, you were killed because you couldn’t produce. And so on the one hand, they would put you to heavy labor and starve you so that in a short time—
POPKIN: They’d use you up.
SCHWARTZCHILD: They’d use you up, and so the thing that they did was to gas you or put you into the ovens, you see. And children weren’t productive, so that the young children were killed off which was why children became such a marvelous miracle afterwards. Any child that survived or was born was so terribly important, and to this day still is, in Israel. I mean, children are, you know, the
POPKIN: –“apple of everybody’s eye”.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –“the apple of everybody’s eye” because the future of Israel lies in children because the older ones—all the people—many, many of the people who had come from Europe in the first place, from the camps were old and had died off. And so survival depends on the young people.
POPKIN: Yes, I met a distant cousin when I was in Israel, in Haifa, a very delightful man. He’d come out, fortunately for him, in ’24 from Poland, and he’d lost a lot of his family in Poland. In fact, he had his own family in Israel and five great grandchildren. And with great satisfaction he said to me, “Family is everything.”
SCHWARTZCHILD: Sure, of course. I remember one time, there was one woman who came through Kaunitz. She didn’t stay very long. It was one of those miracles. Her eight year old son had survived, but he had TB. He had contracted TB in the camps, and we had him in Kaunitz. So the first thing I did, of course, was to contact the doctors, and it was mostly the doctors because we had a hospital in Belsen, a very big hospital there.
POPKIN: Yes, you’ve mentioned that.
SCHWARTZCHILD: I should mention that we had also an orphanage, but there was a hospital, too. And they said, “Well, the only way that the child will recover would be to send him to a sanitarium in Switzerland.” And the mother wouldn’t let him go. She said she wasn’t going to be separated from her child and that the Swiss no way would take the mother.
POPKIN: Oh, gosh.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And she wasn’t going to let the child go without her, and the child was getting sicker by the month. And I think, finally, she just left Kaunitz be3cause she was afraid that we would just kidnap the child, you know, to send this little boy away. And for a while I lost touch with what had happened to her, but I finally found out—I don’t know in the long run if the boy survived, but I did find out that they finally—in Switzerland they bent the rules somewhat. You know, it wasn’t a normal situation where they could say, you know, “Under normal circumstances, you take a child to Switzerland, and the parents don’t go. This is just one of those things–you can visit if you like.” But these weren’t normal times, and you could–you had to understand why a mother whose only surviving part of her family was her child. Everybody else—parents, husbands, cousins, aunts, uncles—everyone had all died except this one jewel, this one little boy. And they finally permitted her to go with him.
POPKIN: It’s extraordinary the bureaucracies–
SCHWARTZCHILD: The bureaucracy was extraordinary. Particularly, I remember, you know, the winning army that goes by the book, and you had to battle, battle all the time. You could do it if it wasn’t through channels.
POPKIN: Were you able to keep your good spirits when you came up against these things?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, you did. When we first went to Germany, for the first three months or so, it was a world that was completely incomprehensible. How could this happen? This can’t be! And here it is in front of your eyes. And so you didn’t sleep very much at night because a million things, you know, rolled around in your head, and there was no way of putting them in perspective, no way, because there was no precedent, and you didn’t really know how to deal with it. You dealt with it each moment as it came up. But as with everything else, after about three months, that, too, became just another item in a day’s work, and you dealt with it. It’s sort of like, you know, when you go into social welfare work and you’re given the case work, you can’t get too involved with the people you’re dealing with. It’s a case, and it’s got a number. Although we really couldn’t put it down because we were much too closely identified Jew to Jew. So we were so closely identified that you really couldn’t put it down that this is case number so-and-so. But you did have to get a perspective because you realized that if you got so closely involved with every incident that came up, some of them were so horrendous, and they were so vast within the context of people’s lives, that if you got so involved with them, you simply could not do your work.
POPKIN: You needed some distance.
SCHWARTZCHILD: So you had to make a distance if only a temporary distance between what you were hearing or what you were doing, and this was the only way we really could cope. As with everything, you know, in every tragedy, there is always a comic relief. A lot of very amusing things happened along the way which became more amusing, not because they WERE more amusing, but by contrast to the tragedies, so that any slightly funny thing or slightly happy thing assumed large proportions. And that way, we were able to carry on. And we did, indeed.
POPKIN: And nobody was so overwhelmed that they couldn’t do it?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, two or three people were that I knew of. One girl committed suicide. Two went back home, and several people that had volunteered, or had gone out, had to go home or be sent home because they simply couldn’t do their work properly. They couldn’t cope with it, you know. They needed some psychiatric help themselves in order to be able to cope. So you had to work only with the people who could deal with it in a fairly rational, or say, a normal way.
POPKIN: Do you think it took a special kind of person, really, to do this work?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, it did. But it’s very funny because any circumstances of that description of such vastness clears up with a special kind of person. And you get that special kind of—what shall I say?—if you have to do something, you do it.
POPKIN: If you have those resources, you can.
SCHWARTZCHILD: If you have those resources. But a lot of people who you thought didn’t have those resources turned out to have them!
POPKIN: Turned out to have them—my.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Because you had a very difficult time. Either you had to break down, or you had to do your work; and you did your work. So of the vast number of people who went out there, there were really very few that couldn’t cope.
POPKIN: That’s interesting because, of course, that is true of the survivors. That’s one of the characteristics among the survivors.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Of course, of course.
POPKIN: There had to be this temperament which could adjust to the worst circumstances.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Of course, that’s right.
POPKIN: It’s the same quality, I think, even in the workers.
SCHWARTZCHILD: But you also got people who—unfortunately I have to say this because it was an unhappy sort of situation—where people took advantage of the situation over there, and many volunteers, or so-called volunteers, who came out there to work in the camps, spent eighty percent of their time accumulating things on the black market.
POPKIN: Oh, that’s too bad.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And, you know, it was easy pickings if this was your turn of mind. And they would buy things, and have them sent home to whichever country they lived in, and most of their time was talking business and how they could get this, that or the other. And as I mentioned, just another girl and myself, we were so turned off by that whole scene that no way would we want any part of it. It was absolutely demoralizing, even for the people themselves. Many of them were sent home because they spent so much time wondering where they could get this, that or the other, they simply weren’t doing their jobs. And if there were a team, say, of ten people, eight weren’t pulling their weight. Now, for instance, where I went to my first camp in Kaunitz, there were two of us there. Now what would have happened if one of us had been so busy doing our own personal things, that would have been fifty percent of the workforce not doing their job.
POPKIN: Well, I guess this is something human beings inevitably do, and there were those who were idealistic.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, that’s true. There were those who—and it was very easy—it was very easy to say, “Oh, well, you can get this, that and the other. And if it’s so easy to do it, why not?” I don’t know why. I just found myself so completely involved with the survival and the rehabilitation and the replacement of the housing of the people who survived, that it meant no time for me as a person. I don’t say it was because I was so moral; I just didn’t have the time, and I really didn’t think about it. I might have been moral enough not to want to think about it.
POPKIN: It probably wasn’t part of your makeup.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Possibly it wasn’t part of my makeup, and possibly this is why I stayed for four and a half years instead of the six months that many people stayed.
POPKIN: You must have been drawn to it.
SCHWARTZCHILD: I was drawn to the work, and I was drawn to what I was supposed to be doing. And even though one was in the bombing and all through the blitzkriegs in England and all through the war period there, and we sort of had a feel for it (inaudible) and, like I say, apart from the bombing, I lived a fairly normal life. So that when I was sent to Germany, and I could see what was happening there, I tried to make as normal a life for these people as possible after what they had gone through, one doesn’t really know what normality or normalcy is for them. But I found myself, certainly every waking hour, completely absorbed and involved in what I was doing, not in any business transactions where I could have gone into if I had so wished.
POPKIN: In a way, I think many of us probably missed the chance to do that kind of thing.
POPKIN: Because I, you know, talk about it at length, the high morale of being able to work together during the war. It’s something you look back to.
SHCWARTZCHILD: Oh, absolutely.
POPKIN: An ordinary life really—
SCHWARTZCHILD: You’re not exposed to that sort of thing. Often I think back, and people say to me, you know, if you had known what you were going to see and what you would have to do, would you have done it? And I said, you know, I was sorry that it was necessary because of the circumstances of life, but—-

Tape 1 - Side 1 (Heifetz)

HEIFETZ: Give me an example of someone who came to you when you were working in the D.P. Camps—what they brought to you and what you did for them, what materials you worked with.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, we had, at the time I went to the camps, some of the camps, Belsen for example, had already been established. The Belsen Displaced Persons Camp had been established, and there were large numbers of workers there. One of our first jobs, probably the very first job of all of the workers in any of the camps, consisted of making lists of the people in the camps. These lists were made—I really ought to start again—you’ll be getting this anyway. This was the first job. The first thing when the DPs came to our office or clustered around us, the first thing they wanted to know is if we could find out if any relatives survived, and they were looking for their relatives. And Europe, after the war, became one vast country of wandering Jews because all those Jews, most of those Jews who had survived the camps, then wandered across the face of Europe trying to locate relatives, family because they had all been separated from various times, and one simply didn’t know where one’s mother or husband or child was sent. And so they wanted to find out if there were any survivors, and so they wandered from camp to camp, from DP camp to DP camp, to see if they could find—get some information as to their families. So the first thing ANY of us did was to take the names of every member of the family that was given to us by one of the DPs, plus any places that they knew they had been sent to—Auschwitz, Belsen—any of the camps as far as they knew or where the first place was or what they had heard about it. And these lists were then coordinated, and to this day they are still being used because, believe it or not, survivors are still searching for relatives. Now, unfortunately, most of those relatives are dead, but it has happened that once in a long, long while, forty years later, they discover that somebody has survived in Shanghai or Israel or Australia, and it’s only been through these lists. And then there’s a Jewish newspaper, The London Jewish Chronicle, publishes “Relatives Wanted” so that anybody that reads the paper could say, ” Oh, yes, I know about this, that or the other.” And HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, who started really these lists—they were given—they were distributed all over the place. So our first job and the DPs first job—their first want, their first need—was to try and find out what had happened to their relatives, if they were alive or dead, and how, if they were alive, how one could go about trying to locate them.
HEIFETZ: So once they gave you the list—
SCHWARTZCHILD: We made dozens and dozens of lists of the names and also their home address, their country of origin, because names are very similar, as you know. And even village names and so on and so forth, and copies of these were sent to our headquarters in London and to all other organizations that were dealing with the Holocaust and the people in general. So that lists went out all over the world, and they were added to and added to and added to because more and more people came. Some were doubled up because people that had given the same information in Belsen might have come to me and given me the same information because, you know, the feeling is that the more people that know about it, the more likely are you to be able to trace it. And then they were all coordinated. But this was one of the most important thoughts of the survivors other than purely physical, material things—food and clothing.
HEIFETZ: Now, you spoke no Yiddish.
SCHWARTZCHILD: I spoke no Yiddish. I understood some of it because I came from a Jewish family, and when my father was alive, Yiddish was obviously spoken because both my parents came from Poland and spoke Yiddish. But my father died when I was a baby so that as we grew up, Yiddish got further and further away from the family, I mean from the “lingua operandius”, as it were.
HEIFETZ: Could you speak any other language?
SCHWARTZCHILD: I could speak some French. When I volunteered, we were given a sort of quick course, very quick course, in Yiddish, believe it or not, which was a very short thing because we were sent out to Germany and places anyway, so that we really didn’t have an opportunity. A lot of people, of course, knew Yiddish. I understood a lot of it from my childhood, but I just couldn’t speak it in great sentences. But I discovered anyway, that I didn’t need Yiddish because most of the—what you did need was German, you see, because since the DPs had been in camps mostly in Germany—those I dealt with anyway—they had jolly soon learned German because they had to deal with Germans, so that German was the tongue. It might have been a little mixture of Yiddish plus German, you see, so that when I went there, I discovered as you do if you go visiting any other country, you learned a few words here. If you go to France, you picked up a few words here and there, and then with expressions on your face and movements of your hands, people—you know, if there’s rapport between you, then people can get finally to understand what you’re aiming at. So I finished up learning German—grammatically terribly bad. Still to this day, I can’t speak German grammatically. But you get—you jolly soon learn to be able to speak enough of it so that you can communicate with the DPs. And by the time I got there, some of them had learned a little English because Belgium and British zone, or the American zone and were being dealt with by the army learned English. And as you very well know, most Europeans learn English languages very, very quickly. So that we had a very good modus operandi (LAUGHING), and we got together, and we learned, and we were able to understand each other with whatever language we could cope with. Things like Yugoslavian and Hungarian, they were completely out of my ken, but they, of course, knew German, too—however badly. So the Germanized Yiddish or Yiddishized German, whichever way you want to put it (LAUGHING) was the way we dealt with the people, and it worked! (BOTH LAUGHING)
HEIFETZ: You had one other person working with you as well.
SCHWARTZCHILD: I had one other person working with me in the camp because it was a small camp. We had about 350 people which had started out by being a Hungarian camp, and then because of the wandering of the people across Germany, by the time I got to it in 1946, we were Hungarians and Poles. And again, German was the language that one spoke with them because the Hungarians didn’t know Yiddish. They knew German and Hungarian and the Poles, of course, knew Yiddish and German.
HEIFETZ: Now when they came to you—here they come from some other part of the world, and they come to your office and your house—and was it your responsibility then to find them quarters?
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, by the time we got there, the army got them quarters. You see, we weren’t even allowed into Germany until after the war, well after the war, you see.
HEIFETZ: This was in Kaunitz?
SCHWARTZCHILD: I was in Kaunitz. Kaunitz had been established in 1945 immediately after the war—no, not even immediately after the war—but at the tail end of the war when the American soldiers were coming through. I mentioned this on my tape the last time that they had found these Hungarian women in the trucks, in the sealed trucks, and they said, “Well, this is where you are; this is where you’ll be.” And they just confiscated rooms from the farmers. So the rooms in the farm houses became the DP camp, so they were already housed when we came along, and the army supplied them with food.
HEIFETZ: Now what about transient people? After you came, there must have been others who wandered in from other camps. What–
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, you did, and mostly, mostly the workers possibly never even saw them. I mean, if they came in and they were asking questions because they wanted to get some information about survivors, for example. But there is no way, for instance, even in a camp like Kaunitz with only 350-odd people—there’s no way, no possible way I could know every single person in the camp, by name or by face. And when you get to a camp like Belsen where you had about 15,000 people—so when people were coming through, they’d find their own friends there and stay with them, so you really had no idea who did belong to Kaunitz or Belsen or who didn’t belong to Kaunitz or Belsen, except they were all registered, not as names—“X number of DPs”—because you had to get your food allotment, and all your supplies depended on how many people you had in the camp. Now if I had 350, there might have been 300, and there might have been 400. But the original count, the original head count, as it were, was that number, and that’s how we dealt with it. Now, as many people that came into our camp knew people that came into our camp or any other camp, as many would have left to go on to other camps. So that it always remained a somewhat stable number, except they may not have been the same faces. The bulk of them were. There were just a few transients. When I say “transients”—in Belsen there might have been—they might have gone into the hundreds and hundreds. In a place like Kaunitz, there might have been ten or twenty. Then you took your information from them, and then you really had no idea whether they were still there or they weren’t still there a week later. You had no idea because unless you took a roll call every morning, how were you going to find out?
HEIFETZ: I see. Do you know any examples of German’s handling of the situation once they were in the house? That sounds like an incredibly volatile situation.
SCHWARTZCHILD: It was a volatile situation, and it varied very much. There was a tremendous fear on the part of the Germans so that they tried, maybe unwillingly, but they had to try and be polite. I mean, as far as the army was concerned, as far as the workers were concerned because they were the vanquished. They were the losers in this game. That’s a bad way because they weren’t the losers really, they didn’t lose six million people, not under the same circumstances as we lost ours. But the point is that there was an occupational army; there was an occupational force in Germany so they had to mind their “Ps and their Qs”, and they had to do what was asked of them. Very few people could refuse. If they did, as an example, this other girl, Selma Silvy and I, when we went to Kaunitz, we were told to requisition a house. I mean, the DPs had accommodations which were given to them by the American army at that point. We come in there to work, and we have no place to stay. And so we were told—Belsen was already a big established camp because there was accommodation there, you see. The old concentration camp had been burned down, but the DP camp was then housed in what had been the barracks of all the German workers and administrators of Belsen concentration camp. So that the physical edifice was there, not very luxurious, and a lot of it burned down and burned down. Nevertheless, it was there, and it was usable. In a place like Kaunitz which was—I learned only, as a matter of fact, the day before yesterday that there was another place. I thought that Kaunitz was the only one where this peculiar thing had happened where they were living in the same houses with Germans, but I heard of another one the day before yesterday on the part of some Baltic people who had come much later on from the Russian front. They were refugees, and they had been given accommodation in the homes of Germans. In Kaunitz, for example, there was a lot of friction, but it was a sort of a—it wasn’t a great open friction because it couldn’t be. Because if there was open friction, what could have been done, what could have happened, we could have gone to the military police outfit which was fourteen or fifteen miles away—the British Military Police outfit—and we could have said, “Please evict them from their house because they’re making it very tough on the Jews that we’ve got in there, so would you find them some other accommodations so that we don’t have any sort of friction”, which never did happen. And when the Jews were first housed there, yes, there was some friction because the Jews had preferential treatment, and they had food from the Joint and from the army, and the Germans were starving. They didn’t have coffee, and they didn’t have cigarettes, and they didn’t have canned goods, and they didn’t have any of the things which were supplied, in however small a measure, to the Jews. So there was this jealousy.
HEIFETZ: How did you know about it?
SCHWARTZCHILD: About the friction? Well, occasionally, a German would come to me. You know, one of the farmers would come and say, “Well, now look. They’ve done this, that or the other, or they’ve taken our furniture, or they’ve taken our bedding, and we don’t have bedding.” And you’d hear about it, but not terribly often, not terribly often at all. I think in all the time I was at Kaunitz, I probably heard about it twice.
HEIFETZ: Was it both times from the Germans, or did the Jews complain as well?
SCHWARTZCHILD: The Jews would complain occasionally only that there was sort of this friction, but it was an abstract friction. It was a dislike of each other, obviously, which was bound to be the case. And when you go in there, you’re living in the same house with Germans, the very people—not the individual people—but the very people that perhaps killed all their families, so there had to be a great friction and a dislike. But then a funny thing happened because, you know when you have to live somewhere because there was no other alternative, like they could have gone to Belsen, but you can’t keep moving across the face of the earth forever. They had been doing that for twelve years forcefully, you see. So that when they settled down somewhere, then they settled down and got about their business of trying to reconstitute their lives. So they weren’t about to be moving all over the place again. And when you’re living somewhere, and you are in a house with other people, the atmosphere, the air, changes after a while. And here a family of human beings and a family of human beings forced to live with each other, and they’re all human beings. You may not like them, you may not like them very much when you first started out, and then we discovered, strangely enough, all sorts of friendships came about within that situation, which is, you know—one would say, “How could you?” On the other hand, you say, “How couldn’t you?” because what are you going to do, spend the rest of your life with hatred which could eat you up yourself, couldn’t it? I mean, you can be just as destroyed by your own inner turmoil. Goodness knows there was enough of that then to prolong it. And the Germans found that—I mean since they were farmers—for example, they had milk, eggs, butter that came from their farms. The DPs had sardines, Hershey’s syrup, as an example, (LAUGHING) which was very, very desirable—most desirable. A can of Hershey’s syrup, my God, you could have gotten anything you wanted in the early days. And as for cigarettes, or anything like that, that became the currency of Germany. Cigarettes was the currency, not money afterwards, because people who had money couldn’t buy anything because there was nothing to be bought in the stores. So that there was an exchange system going on, a very nice exchange system going on. The DPs gave them certain things, and then they got fresh milk, fresh eggs and butter from the farmers. So they had—possibly underneath and deep down, I won’t say that they cared for each other—but you adapt. You have to live, and so you adapt to all sorts of circumstances, and they adapted, as far as Kaunitz was concerned anyway, quite well.
HEIFETZ: Did you hear of any incidences or know of any where people—where it was not just a utilitarian kind of a relationship, where there really—you said a friendship—
SCHWARTZCHILD: I only know of one—no, well—for example, after a couple of years, there were marriages between Germans and Jews. Now a lot of the Germans became Jews, and—I’m jumping about a bit, but—
HEIFETZ: That’s fine.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –this has to do with it. When my husband came to Germany, before I knew him—back to Germany, I should say, to be the Rabbi in Berlin, in the two years that he was there, he had about 450 applications for conversion to Judaism on the part of the Germans.
HEIFETZ: That’s absolutely fascinating.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Now, he didn’t convert very many of them. Some people in smug headquarters or comfortable headquarters outside of Germany said, “Why not?” But there were all sorts of reasons why not, and this comes back to marriages, for instance. A lot of Germans suddenly found that it was expedient to be Jewish. My God, Joint was sending in all sorts of foodstuffs, so why not convert? They were getting packages, people, you know. And everybody throughout the world was sending shiploads of stuff—old and junky stuff, nevertheless—but they were sending out things for the DPs, and so they wanted to be part of this largesse, and the only way they could be part of this largesse, they felt, was we’ll become Jewish. So that there were some conversions, and a lot were refused—certainly by my husband. Now I don’t know what happened throughout the rest of the country, but I’m quite sure it couldn’t have been peculiar only to that part of the country. I’m quite sure it was all around. But there was one man, a Pole, who had spent about eight years in concentration camps and used to come to me. I mentioned that on the tape, too. Nearly every morning, if he had a gripe about something which had not necessarily anything to do with the Germans, but if he felt that he needed more of something that we didn’t have to give him or why couldn’t we find his relatives, or why couldn’t we get him settled in another country. Why is it taking such a long time—and goodness knows it took years and years—he would always harp on the fact, you know, that after all, he was a victim—as everybody was—but he would always show me these scars on the back of his neck where he had been systematically beaten, and so that his hatred of the Germans was very, very heavy at that time. Nevertheless, he was living in a house. The room that he was in—the house that he’d been put in was a house—and the occupant of the house was a German woman. And the German woman’s husband was a prisoner of war on the Russian front. So she’s lonely, and he’s lonely. (PAUSE) So they get together.
HEIFETZ: Did they marry?
SCHWARTZCHILD: No! No, they didn’t marry at all, but they lived—you know. I don’t know what they did in the house together. I couldn’t care less, quite frankly, but they did—they set up a friendship. So she helped him; he helped her. What they did at night I don’t know, and I don’t care. I didn’t care at the time because what was I going to do—monitor everybody as to who they went to bed with? That was nonsense. And then one day the Burgermeister came to me because he’d heard about this, and he was very upset about it—that here was this Jewish DP living with this woman. I said, “What would you like me to do about it?”
He said, “Well, you stop him.”
I said, “Well, let me see now. For twelve years, from 1933 to 1945, the Jews were trampled on, beaten, tied up, chained up, and what have you. What do you want me to do, put a chain on this man? And if I put a chain on this man for the night hours, there’s nothing that you do at night that can’t be done in the day. What would you want me to do? Chain him up for twenty-four hours? I have absolutely no idea that I will do such a thing. Why don’t you go talk to the woman? Why don’t you tell her to keep out of his way? Why don’t you tell her to keep out of his bed? Stick a chastity belt on her if you wish (LAUGHING), if you want to go back to things like that. You deal with it from your end, but you can’t deal with it.” And he realized, of course, that you really can’t deal with such a thing. No, there’s no way. And from then on, we had a sort of friendly/unfriendly relationship, the Burgermeister and I, because we had gin or schnapps, and they didn’t because we could get it in our PX, or the British equivalent of the PX. We could buy these things in the PX. We could buy drinks, cigarettes, whatever we needed. So every week, he would come in, and I would give him a glass of schnapps, and every week he’d bring me a dozen eggs (LAUGHING) which I could do with, and he got what he could do with. Plus the fact that in these small towns where you have a Burgermeister which is, you know, the equivalent of the mayor, you have to deal with them for all sorts of things. You either have to deal with them because you have to complain to them that Herr so-and-so in such a farmhouse is being very rude or is being very harmful or is trying to hurt or vice versa. So you have to have an exchange because you have to deal with them. And they are the people that deal with their own. You know, the mayor is a very active person in German towns in his dealings with the people. So you get, even that way, you get a way to live with each other in some sort of a form. Whether that happened in any other cases in the village I really can’t tell you. That was the one I came across mostly because the Burgermeister came to me with this complaint. But it worked out perfectly all right afterwards until such time—you’ve got to remember we had thought that within a year of our being there, the camps would be liquidated, the DP camps, and people would be resettled somewhere. But as history has now very minutely and very cogently told us, nobody wanted them. I mean there were very few—I mean very few Jews were permitted into American, for instance, until 1948 in the Truman Act. Well, they had been released—I mean the war ended in 1945, so between 1945 and 1948 what was supposed to happen to those people? No country wanted them. They would take token numbers perhaps, small numbers. But when you had all these thousands of people and even when the Truman Act came in, we had about 150 permits per month. When you’ve got 15,000 people, say, sitting in Belsen which is only one camp, how are you going to—it would have taken hundreds of years to finally settle people at 150 certificates a month to be settling. Yes, South American, Argentina did take them. Shanghai took them, and a lot of people went to Shanghai. A lot of them left afterwards because it was a way of getting away from Germany, and they went there, and then later on they might have found relatives, or they might have stayed there if they had found a good life there. Then the next way of getting, a means of getting them out, was the establishment of the State of Israel. By that time, 1948, a lot of people didn’t want to go to Israel. You had all sorts of things to deal with. Older people didn’t want to go. You had a language barrier because although Jews knew Hebrew from the Bible, the conversational Hebrew is very different. So they had to learn a new language, and they had to go into a new climate, and if you’re over forty-five, as you well know from this country, who is going to give them a job? You could go to work, you know, perhaps as pioneers in Israel which was what was wanted, and the hundreds of thousands that went did just that. But a lot of people between 1945 and 1948, they had got some sort of a way of living in Germany. Many of them that remarried, you know, they’d lost their families, and they’d remarried, and they were—the men weren’t going to live on the handouts of fifth-hand clothes, rubbishy clothes that were sent from all sorts of places. South Africa sent—the ladies of South Africa sent wonderful clothes, cleaned, repaired, usable. But in one little camp like Kaunitz I had four tons in a cow barn. I had four tons of clothing which was useless, which was completely useless but which had taken up shipping space to be sent out to the DPs. You couldn’t even put it into a rummage sale anywhere. And it was only afterwards that some man came along, a businessman who was, you know, they used to make cloth. You couldn’t get wool and cotton. They made it out of sawdust, ersatz. Cloth was made out of sawdust and wood shavings and all sorts of things, pressed cotton, wool and everything else they could get hold of. So here we had four tons of rubbish which he took and supplied me with four suit lengths for four tons of rubbish. Now you multiply that a million times, and so a lot of young men said, “No, we’ve had enough of this. We’re going to settle ourselves in some sort of work.” As everybody well knows, there was a tremendous black market going on, and they sort of settled themselves in some way or another. And so a lot of them that had settled themselves in Germany by that time didn’t want to go to Israel which was the one free country they could go to in large numbers, you see. Many did, as we know–hence the State of Israel and its increased population, of course. But a lot of people didn’t want to go, and a lot of those people including—I mean the German Jews—a lot of the German Jews, of course, stayed in Germany or went back to their home. In Berlin, for instance, where I was, we had, you know—we were dealing with Jews who were living under the German economy, and then we also had two DP camps in Berlin where they, mostly Poles or Eastern Europeans, were housed there. Most of the Germans who originally lived in Berlin went back to live in Berlin—under the State of Berlin, as it were.
HEIFETZ: If they stayed in Kaunitz, what did they do—deciding to settle or temporarily, what did they do during the day? I know that you mentioned wonderful things about the people’s extraordinary living by their wits and setting up nightclubs and all—
SCHWARTZCHILD: That was in Belsen. That was not in Kaunitz. That was in Belsen because it was so huge. But a lot of people did a lot of what they called “handling”. They “handled things”. In other words, they bought and sold things; they became handlers of goods, and whatever they got from, you know, from the organizations or the army or whoever was dealing with them as DPs, they would exchange for other things from Germans who wanted these things, and therefore—

Tape 1 - Side 2 (Heifetz)

SCHWARTZCHILD: The very young and the very old did nothing, really. They just waited for resettlement somewhere which never seed, he came home when he wamed to come. And that was another part of our job. You see, if they had relatives in other parts of the world, apart from the lists that we made of their families that had gone into the concentration camps. As you know, down through from the year of dawn, people, Jews, have wandered across the face of the earth. They’ve settled in America, in England and everywhere. They’ve gone from their Eastern European countries, and if somewhere in the back of their mind they had remembered that somewhere in America, for instance, an aunt fifty years earlier had gone, we tried to trace them. We tried to trace them again through ads or notices and lists in Jewish newspapers.
HEIFETZ: So you would take the information from them of people in other parts of the world–
SCHWARTZCHILD: That’s right.
HEIFETZ: –make a list of that—
SCHWARTZCHILD: –send it to Jewish organizations in that country and see if they could trace them, see if they could be traced. You see, it would always be easier to trace them the other way around because Jews in European countries all belonged to what’s called a Judische Gemeinde, a Jewish community, so that you’re registered with them which is how they were able really to find out who did or didn’t survive because they had, you know—if any of these lists survived. In this country, if you want to belong to Temple Israel, you belong to Temple Israel, and that’s your synagogue, and that’s where you’re registered. It doesn’t mean to say that you’re known any place else. And if I belong to Temple Beth El, then my name is here, you see. Well, in Europe everybody, they can go to the synagogue, obviously, of their choice, but they are all registered with a central office, you see. So that if I wanted to know, for instance, somebody in Berlin who lived there so-and-so, instead of having to go which Temple or Shul did they belong to, if the Gemeinde’s archives were intact or had the list, then you could go there. It didn’t matter which synagogue they belonged to. You could always know if they were there, which doesn’t happen in this country. And so they would give us any—supposing somebody said, “Well, an aunt of mine went to New York”, then there’s your starting out point. And it takes years. But if some were traced, and if they were then applied to, and if they were willing to be responsible for the DPs, then health problems being okay as far as the American authorities were concerned, they would be able to be sponsored in order to come to America. But they would be responsible—the family in America would be responsible for them so that they wouldn’t become a burden on the State, you see. And a lot of people found relatives that way and were therefore sponsored and were able to get out. But hundreds and thousands didn’t, and you weren’t able to trace them. It took years sometimes to trace, and then a lot of people, not only in this country, any relatives that have gone away thirty or forty years earlier, were not willing to sponsor unknown relatives and be responsible for them. So they said, “No”, and then you had to wait until America or England or any other country opened up the doors, and then you had to go through a very, very rigid physical examination before you were even allowed into the countries because if there was anything, you know, really wrong, they wouldn’t give you a permit to come, no matter how many relatives you had.
HEIFETZ: Now when—if you were able to make this list, and they were able to be traced through the organization, through London or wherever, would that information go the next step of finding out—okay, we’ve located the brother—did that come back through your office then, that information? If in London they found the brother of a person?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, well, if they found a brother, without the brother’s permission you wouldn’t be able to give the information. I don’t know. They might have done, but I can’t tell you what happened generally.
HEIFETZ: But if they were going to give permission, and uh—
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, then they’d say, “Write a letter.”
HEIFETZ: So then it would not come back through you.
SCHWARTZCHILD: It would come back through perhaps our organization or any of the organizations or Joint who would then contact the workers and say, “Well, there’s been this correspondence.” If you knew that in Block number so-and-so, say in the camp of Belsen, in Block number so-and-so lives Moishe somebody-or-other and he’s discovered an uncle here. Let the uncle write to him directly then.
HEIFETZ: So were you ever the person giving the information to a person that a relative had been located, or were you ever in the circumstance of witnessing that?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, there’s a couple I see now whenever I go to New York that were in my camp. And I have—you know, you deal with so many of these things that unless you write down every single thing that you do in the course of a day, which one did for the first month, and then after that it became, strangely enough, a routine job for that sort of thing, and also you didn’t have time. You were so busy with other things because you have to deal with a whole person. If my job was only to deal with the correspondence, the tracing correspondence, that’s one thing, but you didn’t; you had to deal with their sicknesses, their physical well-being, their psychological well-being, their clothing, their clothes, trying to get them to do something during the day, you know, to do some sort of work. I’d set up workshops, for instance, sewing workshops. I managed to get a dozen sewing machines through the army and through UNRRA. And we set up with all this pile of junk that we had, any of the material that could be cut. If a dress could be cut and the material used, or we had a bunch of girls, a bunch of women sitting there making things, you see. You had to persuade people to do these jobs because a lot them felt, “No, if we work, we want everything boiled down to calories. We need extra calories.” You see, the pay for doing this work became in the form of calories, as it were. So you gave them an extra such-and-such at the end of the week or so on and so forth. A lot of people, of course, wanted to work because they wanted to do some job because there’s twenty-four hours in a day to be filled in. But this couple reminded me, and whenever I go to New York, and I had completely forgotten about it. And apparently they had had some relatives or friends of relatives or friends of family that I helped trace. And I still, to this day, don’t remember it because I dealt with dozens of these things, wrote millions of letters—millions, dozens, hundreds of letters—and I don’t remember it. But they said that without that, they would have been without that information that I was able to get for them and put them in touch with various people, and they would never have been able to survive as they did. I don’t remember it. I have to be very honest. I mean, I’d love to be able to say, “Yes, I did a wonderful job. I did this, that and the other.” I simply don’t know. But they assure me that I did, and since I was the one dealing with them—because after several months the other girl that was with me was transferred to another camp, and I was in Kaunitz all by myself as a worker. So I must have dealt with them, but there’s no way. And I used to put all these things in my report. We used to send a monthly report to London, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. I sent a report to London, and I did a carbon copy, obviously, for my own records, you know, in Kaunitz and anywhere else, and in Berlin and Belsen and wherever else I worked. At the end of the war—at the end of my stay in 1950, when I left Germany, all of my carbon papers, all my copies of all my archives, my own files, I just sent on to the London office. And they’ve all been lost, misplaced. They have never been able to trace those files, not only mine. They have very few of those files available from all those reports that we had sent in. Now, when my husband came to Germany to be the Rabbi, he was much brighter. He’s much brighter that I anyway (LAUGHING). But he was brighter than I in so far as he kept his records apart from the copy that went to the organizations. So all his—we have a million things around the house of his two years in Berlin as the Rabbi of Berlin. You see, unfortunately, if I’d had my papers I could have looked up a million other things that undoubtedly I did because I was awfully busy (LAUGHING), but I can’t remember all of them. There must have been such cases, and undoubtedly there were.
HEIFETZ: You obviously were an important person to those people.
HEIFETZ: And you kept contact with them. Were there people who were important to you? I know that there’s a certain amount of distance a person must take, doing a job like that. People that you really became close to?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, I became particularly close to this couple that I told you about in Berlin, now in New York, because the wife of this couple, Marilla, had a sister, Franya, and I mentioned this in the [other] tape. Franya was the one that was on the plaster bed, and the one that I took down to the American zone of Germany because Marilla’s present husband, David, who wasn’t her husband at that time, he was at a camp in the American zone in Stuttgart or Munich, one of the two—Stuttgart, I think. He was down there. Franya was in my camp, and Marilla who was also down there, learned that her sister was alive here. So she would kind of ply between the two camps. She’d come and see Franya who was in the hospital, and then she’d go back because David wanted to marry her, and she said she would never abandon her sister. And he said to her, “Well, you don’t have to abandon her.” He said, “I’ll get her a hospital down here”, which he did. He found room, and he got room in a Catholic hospital that was manned by nuns, and this was how it came that I took Franya in the plaster bed down to Munich or Stuttgart–I wish I could remember which of the two, it might have been Munich—so that she could be in the hospital down there. Now they became very, very precious to me because in the hospital where Franya was when I first met her, all the doctors had said she would never walk again. She would be in this plaster bed for the rest of her life. And David said she would walk again, and, by golly, she walked again! And, by golly, she passed the physical examination to come to America! And she came to America, and she got married in America and still lives in upstate New York somewhere out in the country and is still there. She married an American that she met in America. She had no children, but she is still there. So this whole family—and Marilla and David have a son and a daughter, and I got to know them when they were quite grown up, and both the son and the daughter are married, and there’s a couple of grandchildren by now. So that—unfortunately I don’t go into New York that often, but when I do, I invariably go to see David and Marilla, the Kempers. They are very, very close to me. And there were a few others, but I lost touch with many of the others because either they went to Israel or to Australia or to South Africa where I had no means of seeing them because for a while we corresponded. But as you know very well, after a while correspondence dwindles, you know, with the passage of years. There was one other one that was very important to me. It was a man that became—we had elections in Kaunitz, you know, for the manning or the administration of the people in the camp. One person as a worker couldn’t do that. There had to be, you know, administration within themselves. And there was one man who was the administrator, the head administrator there. We became very close, very nice man indeed. And he married one of the girls there. And then when they were able finally to get out because a relative of his was located in Canada, and they went to live in Canada. And I learned, when I was at the reunion—
HEIFETZ: Which was–when was that?
SCHWARTZCHILD: October of last year, just last October, not quite a year ago. I learned that he had died in Canada because when I got to the house where the reunion was being held, there were three or four people that came from Germany for the reunion. They were Germans, German Jews who had worked in our organization that we had hired for various reasons in the administration of our head office in Germany. And so they’d worked with us in our head office for two or three years. And then they stayed in Germany because they were German Jews, and they had made their own lives there by then. And now these two middle-aged men come toward me with a middle-aged woman. We were all youngsters at that time (LAUGHING), you see.
HEIFETZ: Did you recognize them?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Yes, of course. Of course, I was surprised that they recognized me because here am I, a white-haired old lady, and I was a very pretty young girl in those days (LAUGHING).
HEIFETZ: Oh, no.
SCHWARTZCHILD: Oh, yes, and we had the usual hugs and things, and it was from them, through them, because they had kept in touch with many people throughout the world, people they’d become very friendly with, and they told me that he had died in Canada which was rather sad, but he couldn’t have been a very young man anyway by then. So there are and have been such cases around. And you get sort of close—one other case because this applies. I don’t know whether I had it on the tape because I don’t know whether this was before or after I had gone back to Germany just a couple of years ago. There was a Hungarian young man, a very sensitive young man who was in the camp, and he was, you know, a very tall young man. He came from a very wealthy background apparently, then discovered, I think, that either a brother or a first cousin had fared very well and was in Austria, in Vienna, as a meteorologist. And since they had no passports—the Jews here in Germany had no passports because they had been rendered Stadtenlosse (Stateless) by the Germans. You really couldn’t move around and go from one country to another, but a lot of them did, and it’s no use asking me how they did because I haven’t the vaguest idea how they crossed borders. And at one point, he went to see his brother or his cousin and then came back. I don’t know whether it was because he obviously wouldn’t be permitted to stay there, and he came back, and he attempted suicide several times. But then I discovered that he could play the organ and was a very fine organist. And in our little village there was a church with an organ, so I was able to get permission from the Pastor of the church for this Hungarian young man to play the organ, you know, when services weren’t on or at any time he was permitted. And this sort of saved him for a while, but not for very long. And then afterwards we had to put him into the hospital because he had tried suicide again, and they’d even put him into a straight-jacket, you know, so that he wouldn’t do himself any harm. And I can’t tell you what happened to him. I don’t know whether he finally succeeded in killing himself or whether he settled somewhere because then I had been transferred away from Kaunitz at that time because a lot of people had been resettled, and it was small enough and close enough to our headquarters where their own administrators, their elected administrators, ran the camp. And then when they needed any help, they were able to go and get it from our headquarters because it was only an hour or so drive away. So they didn’t need—at that point a lot of our workers had gone home. We volunteered for six months. Very few of us stayed for four and a half years. You see, they had to keep trying to get new volunteers, but a lot of the first early volunteers had gone home and so the numbers had dwindled somewhat, so we really couldn’t leave a person in Kaunitz when they had a perfectly capable—what would you call it— Board of Aldermen as it were, there, you see. And then when I was moved away, I really don’t know what happened to many of those people after that.
HEIFETZ: You know, as you describe your work, and obviously the frustrations were tremendous, but the emotional gratification of being able to do something for these people must have been tremendous.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –was very great, was very great. We found, I think most of us found that for the first three months that we were there, it was mentally very, very difficult transition period because although we were sent to—what would you call it—charitable organizations in England to do some field work in order to get some sort of training, we really didn’t help because there was nothing like it. There was no way of having any precedent that you could go to the books and say, “Well, if such-and-such a circumstance arises, this is what you do.” So you had to go in from scratch, and you had to, as we used to say, you had to work from the seat of your pants or from your heart, wherever you kept whatever was necessary (LAUGHING). And you just had to do anything purely by instinct. And sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. But for the first three months, you couldn’t sleep at night because you heard first hand of what had been going on. You saw the results first hand of the survivors. Now I didn’t get there ‘til 1946, so those that were there in 1945 would have had even a tougher time because by the time I got there, there was a sort of way or mode of living, and the very sick people—one of our very first jobs was to try and—I’ll stop there because I’ve jumped a bit. When I first got to Kaunitz, we had learned that there was a group of people that had been trying to go back and forth across the Belgian border before the war was ended. And when they managed to get across the Belgian border, they were sent back. And when they were sent across the German border, they were sent back, so that they were sort of shuttled because nobody wanted to keep them. The authorities wouldn’t allow them to settle, to come into Germany, and the Belgians wouldn’t, or any other country, Holland or whatever it was because there was otherwise—you know, there had to be some sort of law and order on the border. And we learned about these and at the time I first went there, we came under the aegis of UNRRA which was the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association. And so the UNRRA people came to us because the border was where they had finally got these people, and they said, “We’re going to bring these people to your camp, to Kaunitz.”
We said, “Fine.” There were about sixty or seventy of them, I think. And so we immediately, with the help of UNRRA, we set up sort of field kitchens because we didn’t have the rooms with kitchens, and they came with all kinds of big pots, and we all chopped vegetables, and we made vegetable soups because the idea was not to give them all the greasy foods that meats would give because if they had been, as they had been, so systematically starved and so long without regular meals, that they would have got more sick if you had shoved food down their throats—the food as we would normally eat. And so the UNRRA dieticians decided the thing to do was give them nice vegetable soups, all nice full of vegetable things. And we made huge—these big black pots of, you know, where you ladle the stuff out rather like on the old-time farmlands I suppose. And they were very highly indignant. “Who wants vegetables?! We’ve been eating vegetables out of the ground!” you see. “What about some meat? What about some fish?” (LAUGHING), you see, and things like that, which was understandable in a sort of a way, but we thought they would get much more sick, you know, if we supplied those things. Well, it didn’t take too long for them to find their own way around things, and there we were left with these huge cauldrons of vegetable soup (LAUGHING), you see. So, what was your question?
HEIFETZ: You’re answering it because the question was, “How would you?” It must have been very frustrating and yet rewarding in the beginning to find out the right way—
SCHWARTZCHILD: –the right way of doing things and how to do it.
HEIFETZ: And a lot of errors.
SCHWARTZCHILD: And also to see the pathos of these people, particularly those people who had children and had no idea where they were, if they were alive or if they were dead. We had one little—maybe on the [other] tape—I remember there was one woman in the camp there who had a son of eight years old. I told you about the TB, and she wouldn’t let him go, and I don’t know what finally happened, whether they bent the rules and let her go to Switzerland with him? I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I did send one girl to Darvosse. I was able to get—Verna, she was probably in her middle teens at that time, and until about five years ago, we corresponded. And once a year I would get a little note from this girl in the sanitarium in Darvosse in Switzerland. And then again, what finally happened, whether she died and I didn’t hear from her anymore. My letters didn’t come back, but I had no answers, so I don’t know what finally happened. So you did what you could. After a while that too became routine because you felt that if you didn’t sleep at night because you were so perturbed by what was going on, then nobody was going to be able to do any work. And even the most horrible things, as we know from the concentration camps, even horrible things, whether you were a part of them or listening to them, become a routine. You know, you deal with it. And then, fortunately, there were a load of funny things, you know, sort of the comic relief—
HEIFETZ: Can you give me some examples?
SCHWARTZCHILD: –which lent the antidote, I suppose, to what would otherwise be a very, very harrowing experience. I mean, the first one that I always remembered which I know I mentioned on the [other] tape, was the eight hard-boiled eggs at Pesach. Do you remember that?
SCHWARTZCHILD: Well, in Kaunitz—I went there, I think it was March of 1946, and then when it came around, it came Pesach time, you see. Well, everybody was all in these little houses where they had formed little family units, or not really family, but close enough to be called family. They had their own little Seders, you see. And I was invited to them, obviously. Mrs. Lily had to come and join the Seder. And I said, “Well, I can’t come to join any one Seder, but I’ll pop in”.
And I went into a few houses, and they all insisted, “Well, you have to eat something in the Seder. You have to be a part. You have to partake of the food, anyway.” So what did I have to partake of?–the hard-boiled egg and salt water. So I went to eight houses and ate eight hard=boiled eggs (LAUGHING).
HEIFETZ: You said “Mrs. Lily”. Did you–?
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, it was “Miss Lily”, but they always called me “Mrs. Lily”. No reason. I was a young girl, and they called me “Mrs.” They called everybody “Mrs.” It was another way of—they didn’t want to call me Lily because they would have felt that would be too—you know, they’re much more formal over there, and they weren’t going to call me by, you know, “Miss last name”, and so they compromised, and they said “Mrs. Lily”, and that covered everybody–so that I ate eight hard-boiled eggs–to my chagrin afterwards. So that was one of the funny things. And one of the other amusing but very nice things was the fact that among all the junk that was sent to us, there was one white dress which we used as a wedding dress. And I mentioned that, too [in the previous tape]. It went in, and it went out. And the hat—I had some pictures which I could have shown you. I just left them in London because the Leo Baeck Institute in London—no, not the Leo Baeck Institute—the Widener Library. You know, there’s a library in London called the Widener Library which is housing everything to do with the Holocaust years, and all the books are there. And our organization has a space there with a volunteer worker, and since we don’t have all those records that we had hoped would still survive, they are now in the process of collecting everything they can from the workers. So, when I went to London—I’d just come back from London in August. I was there during July and August. I took a whole bunch of stuff with me to this lady in the Widener Library, and she will have it photographed or “photostatted” and will eventually send it back to me. And there were some pictures of three weddings, all the three brides wearing the same dress and the same hat. It was just really very nice (LAUGHING).
HEIFETZ: Do you have a photograph of Kaunitz?
SCHWARTZCHILD: No, I don’t. And the funny thing was, and that was—I started mentioning it but, of course, my trend of thought disappeared. A couple of years ago my husband had to do some lectures and some teaching at Heidelberg University where a Jewish section had been set up. And while we were in Germany, we rented a car, and when we were driving along the Autobahn one day, on the sign post it said “Kaunitz”. And I said, “Ah! We have to go back and see Kaunitz”, and we did. We went back there, and I didn’t recognize the place, couldn’t find the place because what had been a very pretty little farming village—I mean the house we took over was here, and there were fields all around because we gave the man—we confiscated the house from the policeman, but we gave him permission to—
HEIFETZ: –harvest.
SCHWARTZCHILD: –harvest his crops. But, anyway, there was just a house here and a house there and another house there and fields in between, all the farmers’ fields. When I get there, I can’t find the farmland at all. But I do find a little town, and it says, “Kaunitz” with paved roads, cooperative stores, baker shops, drugstores. All I can find is a little town, and it turns out that thirty years later the little farming village had been swallowed up in urban renewal or what have you, and it was a very, very thriving town. And I couldn’t find the house that I had taken any old place. I couldn’t find anything. It was a completely strange feeling, and I said, “Well, it could be anywhere.” And I said, “But I do know it was near the church where the young man, Zoltan, played the organ.” So we found the church, and we went into the church, and there was the organ, of course, there. And then I brought home with me a listing of the Kaunitz church services which I still have somewhere in the house here. I didn’t bring it out, but it’s here somewhere. And as we were coming out of the church, a man came out of the little house across the road. He turned out to be the caretaker of the church, and he said, “Can I help you?” And my husband, of course, whose German is fluent because that was his mother tongue, told him, you know, who I was and what we were looking for. And he said, “Oh, were you one of those young ladies from England?” says he.
And I said, “Yes, how do you know?”
“Well”, he said, “I can tell you the house that you had.” And in this row of houses, in this main street of Kaunitz, he pointed out a house which is now a hairdressing establishment, and, you know, everywhere, all the way a complete street. It would be like going down any street anywhere. This young man had been in the German army, and he’d been a prisoner in Russia, and then when he was demobilizes sent home—

Listen to Lily's Story