LOVING MEMORY OF ADELA SCHWARZER,
Adela Schwarzer was looking for here siblings until the end
- she saw them in the Rzeszow Ghetto in spring 1942 for the last time
8th of May, 2005 the 60th anniversary of the ending of the World War II was the last day in the life of Adela Schwarzer, a Jewish woman from Kraków. After surviving the Holocaust, she lived in Sweden for the rest of her life. She never learned if she was the only survivor in her closest family.
She was prisoner of seven Nazi slave labour camps, and at the final stage
Bergen-Belsen was found dying on a heap of corpses, 23 kg
weight. Adela used to say her determination to meet with her family had
given her strength to survive. However, her search after the War did not
bring any result. This leaflet is written in memory of her, as a continuation
of Adelas search for any trace, any information about the fate of
her four sisters and two brothers that was undertaken by her family.
The Schwarzer family in the pre-War Kraków
Adelas story brings us to the Rzeszów ghetto, but it starts in Kraków, where she was born, at 13 So³tyka Street in 1923. Both her parents, however, were from Cieszanów, a small town in Poland close to the present Ukrainian border, but part of Austrian Galicia at the time of their birth. Both of them moved to Kraków.
Father, Mechel Schwarzer (b. 1888; also mentioned as Mechel Schwarz in the Kraków census of 1921) settled there in 1912, and mother, Malka Beila Tennenbaum (b. 1890), moved there in 1917.
She also remembered a very pious uncle who was coming from Grodzisko Dolne to visit them in Kraków, taking care of it that the metal pots should be made really kosher by red-heated stones.
In Kraków, the Schwarzer family also lived at 32 Miodowa Street (ca 1918 ca 1922) and at Wielicka Street (ca 1922 1941) No 13, App. 2, close to its crossing with Robotnicza Str. The house existed untill the 1970s, when the local authorities built a highway crossing there (Wielicka-Powstañców Slaskich).
The family were poor but open and hospitable: at the beginning
of the War, in the house at Wielicka Str., also a daughter to Mendel from
his previous marriage, Chaja Tennenbaum, with her sons Haskel and Josef
had meals, and they lived there for a short time although the living space
for the twelve persons consisted of one room and a kitchen.
Mechel Schwarzer was a tradesman and cooperated in business with Chaim Abend, a trade agent, who lived at 11 Marquet Square at the centre of Kraków. They had a shop with furniture and antiques at 2 Mostowa Str. in the Jewish District, Kazimierz (at this address also the society Nossei Massu for support of orphans and widows had their seat and a prayer place). The business was also to restore old furniture. Chaim and Mechel employed three more persons: a cabinet-maker, an upholsterer and a selling woman, who was Gusta Schwarzer, Adelas eldest sister. Mechel often went for business trips to Katowice and Jaroslaw. Chaim Abend with his wife Mania (both from Jaroslaw) often stayed with the Schwarzers family at Wielicka Str. as they liked children but had none of their own.
Malka Beila Tennenbaum-Schwarzer was daughter to Adela
Feder, third wife of Mendel Tennenbaum. Mechel Schwarzer was son to Izak
and Gitla, and he had sister Bronia and two brothers of unknown names.
Mendel died in September 1939 and was buried at the Jewish cemetery in
Podgórze (in 1942 to be completely profaned and destroyed by the
Nazis who used its ground as the territory of the forced labour camp in
Plaszów and all the matsevot as building material for it).
As for the parents family: one of Mechels brothers was said to have migrated to the USA, but Adela did not remember his name.
Bronia Schwarzer (herself a match-maker) married one Liebermann.
One of their sons was Henryk Liebermann, a painter, who married Lusia
Steinfeld. They settled in Israel. One of Mendel Tennenbaums grandsons,
son to Malka Beilas half-brother, cousin to Adela, was Leibek (Leon)
Erez-Tennenbaum, born in Grodzisko Dolne. The latter was boss at the Fromowicz
big delicatessen store at 28 Krakowska Str. at Kazimierz which
imported goods from all over the world. In 1972 he was still alive
living in Israel. His wife was Bina, his sons are Gershon and Mordechaj.
His brother, Izak Tennenbaum, married before the WW II and left for the
USA, where he had a chocolate factory (he soon died, however).
Here are Adelas siblings: IZAK Schwarzer (b. 1919),
GUSTA Schwarzer (b. 1921), HELENA Schwarzer (b. 1925), REGINA Schwarzer
(b. 1926), SAMUEL Schwarzer (b. 1928), AMALJA Schwarzer (b. 1930). (Their
photos follow at the end.)
Izak was a car mechanic, Gusta a seller in Mechels
shop, Helena was a tailor: she had learned her profession at the secondary
school of the Jewish society, Ognisko Pracy (Labour Society,
7 Skawiñska-Boczna Str.). Amalia was born at the Jewish Hospital
at 8 Skawiñska-Boczna. She was so weak after her birth that doctors
said she would not survive and, yet, when Adela saw her youngest
sister last, she was a teenager.
Adela attended the Polish grammar school Szkola
Ludowa (Folk School) close to their house at Wielicka
Street. Later, she was learning her profession at a Jewish modistes
shop at Floriañska Str. (one Hela). One day in 1930s she
was to deliver hats within the neighbourhood of the university. She remembered
being chased then by a pack of students who were shouting: Jews
With the Nazi occupation (which started in Kraków on September
6th, 1939) a number of restrictions were applied to Jewish inhabitants,
which among others concerned moving around some areas of Kraków.
The Jewish modistes shop at Floriañska was closed. Soon,
in November 1939, the Kraków Jews under a death sentence
were demanded to wear a white band with a blue star of David on
Adela remembers that all inhabitants had to queue for bread since 4 am throughout a major part of the day. And then it could happen that a Nazi came with dogs to expel all Jews from the queue. She herself was pushed out of a queue by the Nazis many times, being kicked and whipped or smashed with a stick.
Many times Adela was taken to forced labour such as washing, cleaning
and cutting wood for the Schutzpolizei who were stationed at Robotnicza
Str. close to the Schwarzers house. Once (still by the end
of 1939) the Nazis detained Adela for a longer time at their camp. Her
father Mechel knew and was upset about it, fearing that she had been raped.
But Mechel had a gift of conversation he came to the policeman
with a nice chat and was let in. The talk was about the Nazis business
The first deportations of Jews, part of the Nazi plan to purify
the old German city Kraków, started in 1940. At the first
stage (from May 18th till August 15th), the families designed for being
deported had a possibility to choose a living place outside Kraków.
The rest of Jewish residents became listed by the Jewish Community in
Kraków at the command of the Germans. These Protokolls remain at
the Jewish Historical Institute at Warsaw (the Protokolls for Adela and
Helena are dated August 28th, the one for Izak September 8th; cf
The files of the Stadtshauptman Stadts Krakau contain, among others, lists of Jews designed for deporting from Kraków on 5-6.12.1940, 24 and 31.01.1941, and 4 & 17.02.1941. The deported were made to come to a transition camp in a post-Austrian stronghold at 1 Mogilska Street. Every person was allowed to take 25 kg of luggage. One was to leave the keys to ones apartment at the caretaker. All in all, from November 1940 till the end of March 1941 the Nazis deported over 8000 Jews from Kraków.
The Stadsthauptmann files also include Jewish appeals to withdraw that
decision. Among them, we find two applications (the latest dated January
16th, 1941) and a medical certificate of Adelas mother, Malka Beila,
requesting the district chief to let her family stay as she suffered from
a serious heart disease and required constant care, not being able to
move by herself, and, naturally, was totally dependent on her familys
work and earnings. We also find a certificate by a German RAVO company,
testifying that it is employing Mechel Schwarzer, who is needed by them.
The Schwarzers were one of the last Jewish families deported. Mechel
was the first: according to the transport list kept at the US Holocaust
Museum at Washington, he was taken to Rzeszów on March 1st, 1941
(and March 3rd was the date of the regulation ordering the establishment
of the Jewish living quarter in Podgórze, ie, the ghetto.)
Adela remembered that the rest of her family had
Later Regina made trips to Kraków to bring clothes and other necessary things from their house, which was inhabited by the son of their servant, Anna Urbaniak Roman. Owing to Anna, Adela regained her family photos after the WW II, which the lady sent her to Sweden
In the occupied Rzeszów – until the liquidation of the ghetto
In Rzeszów, they lived at 14 Ga³êzowski Street (one
level houses that exist no longer) with another Jewish family of four
persons together 13 persons in one room and a kitchen. The Schwarzer
parents died in May 1941 Malka from heart disease on 27th, Mechel
from typhoid on 29th (cf the unique Jewish death records in the State
Archives and USC office in Rzeszów). Maybe their burial places
could be identified in the new Jewish cemetery at Czekaj district as the
locations are known, but the map of the cemetery cannot be found at the
And a major part of the grave stones were used by the Nazi
to pave Chopin Street
The children were moved to 1 Szpitalna, part of which soon became the
smaller ghetto (which was liquidated first). Adela remembers
Nazis coming with dogs to the market place on Fridays. Their task was
to catch some Jews for the city to be cleaned
but they did not dare select the victims: they left it to the dogs. The
Jew who was sniffed by the dog was taken for elimination.
As it is known from the history of the Holocaust in Rzeszów, its
ghetto was closed on January 10th, 1942, with 12,5 thousand Rzeszów
Jews inside, who in June were joined by a similar number of Jews from
the vicinity. 19 years old Adela was included in a forced labour
group who worked at the local railway station. Her work was to unload
wagons with coal, wood and sand. She also dug ditches, helping one tall
woman, Jewish professor who could not manage with her job.
In the spring of 1942, Adela together with her forced labour group was
sent by the Nazi to work at Biesiadka camp. SHE NEVER SAW HER SISTERS
AND BROTHERS AGAIN. A gleam of hope was sustained in Adela after the War
as some women from Rzeszów who came to Czêstochowa labour
camp told her that her youngest sister Amalia had hidden from the Nazi
in a litter-box during the
What happened in Rzeszów in the succeeding months is supposed to be the climax and focus of this story because then the fates of the Schwarzer siblings were determined, and of them we know nothing.
Various sources give varying numbers and places of exterminations. Here is knowledge that all of them agree about: the Jews of Rzeszów and those brought to the Rzeszów ghetto from the surroundings were exterminated following a number of deportations which started in July 1942.
All deported groups were marched to the Staroniwa railway station at
Rzeszów. From there they reached two possible destinies: they were
murdered either at the Belzec death camp or at the Forest near Glogów
Malopolski (some call it Rudna Forest). The number given for the Jews
killed at Belzec in the July action is 14 000.
In his unique diary, Stanislaw Kotula writes that the Glogów Forest was the place of extermination of mainly elderly and sick Jews. The number given for those victims varies from 2 to 6 thousand. On August 7th, the remaining women with the children were gathered (by a Nazi deceit) and brought to Pelkina, and later to Belzec (more than 1000).
On November 15th, 1942, there was another extermination transport to
Belzec of 2000 Jews. It left ca 3000 Jews in the southern ghetto, which
now became divided into ghetto A, east to Baldachowska Str., with forced
labour workers, and ghetto B, west to Baldachowska, called by the prisoners
schmeltzgetto (melting ghetto) ie, ghetto for Jews
designated for death. The latter were all taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau
and perished in the gas chambers in September 1943. Between September
1943 and July 1944 the force labour prisoners were also sent to Auschwitz,
some of them escaped and hid until the liberation, some survived Auschwitz.
Some of them, after being moved to Szebnie forced labour camp in September
1943, were shot at Dobrucowa forest.
The historical description allows for a hypothesis that the older of
the Schwarzer siblings could be selected for forced labour, just as Adela,
which gave more chance of survival. Especially the final group of ghetto
A had successful escapes. Some of the slave workers of the aircraft motor
factory of Luftwaffe in Rzeszów survived because its private owner
cared about the stability of his working team, consisting of 150 Jews
(cf I. Rubinfeld in: A. Potocki, p. 168). The children could escape or
be hidden and the world knows of many such miracle stories...
May Izak, Gusta, Helena, Regina, and the youngest Samuel (who was 14 in 1942) and Amalia (who was 12 in 1942) have had more luck than the 6 million Jews murdered at the Shoah?
At Biesiadka, Adela was among the prisoners who were commanded to cut down the woods. Adela recollected: My boss was a small fat German who always wore civil clothes and a little green hat with a feather. When we arrived, we found there were a lot of vermin, and we became all covered with insects all over our bodies. To live, we had to eat a kind of potato soup. There was a lot of sand in it. We were guarded by volksdeutschers, a Polish man and a Ukrainian. If we tried to straighten up our backs, we were battered with a stick. When I lost consciousness once, I had to be lying on the ground until I regained consciousness by myself. No one was allowed to help me. A number of times I saw sick people who had to dig their own graves. After that they were shot...
Since February 1943 she stayed at the forced labour camp at Huta Komorowska. There, I also had to cut down woods. I did not have proper clothes, so my hands and feet were frozen. We survived on garbage and potato peels, and a lot of similar stuff. The barracks were full of vermin due to this we suffered day and night; our fight with the insects was really exhaustive. There were no beds, we slept on a very cold floor. I got sick with typhoid. My health was still very bad when I was forced to do my physical work as usual. The food was very, very bad. During the nights, we had to be standing outside the barracks in attention for many hours. During that time, the kapo threatened to shoot us or send us away. He beat us with his gun.
Next, Adela was sent to the Plaszów camp at Kraków. The prisoners wore clothes with numbers. Their work consisted in sowing buttons to Nazi uniforms. The succeeding camp since October 1943 was Skarzysko-Kamienna, where they had to work in an ammunition factory. Adela was compelled to work at a drilling machine for a 12 hours shift. The work was very straining and because of exhaustion she once fell asleep at a machine, and was woken up by a volksdeutsch woman who poured water on her. They were fed only once a day, and during the meal they had to be standing at the machines. During that work Adela was terribly wounded by the machine. She was operated; a blood infection followed. After the operation the wound was not sown up, with the result that, for the rest of her life, the hurt finger was not working properly.
Since August 1944 Adela was working at Czêstochowa, at another ammunition factory. The boss of her shift was a German, one Winter. She was beaten up many times there. They beat me even because of my being sick in the stomach and leaving for toilet. Once a machine got broken, when I was operating it. I was taken to the guard Herr Winter was also there. They laid me on a table and Winter ordered a man to whip me until my whole body was blue. When this molesting was over, I was compelled to go and thank Winter that he had been so kind and had not given me more hits.
At the Czêstochowa camp Adela attempted an escape. She managed to get out of the camp and reach some peasants. She bought bread from them for the golden ring she had in her dress sown to it for that occasion. But she came back to the labour camp, and shared the bread with her companions. She wouldnt know how to survive outside
Finally, in January 1945 (when the Red Army was close), the prisoners were transported to the last camp Bergen-Belsen. First, we were sent to Buchenwald by a goods train without windows or toilet, without food and this lasted for a number of days. We were in a really bad condition when we reached Buchenwald. There we changed wagons, and they sent us to Bergen-Belsen. When we arrived, we had to be queuing for inspection for many hours. In the camp there was very little to eat and for the last period hardly any water. For a short time, I was taken for cutting woods. If we didnt do our work as expected, we were beaten.
When we were liberated by the Allies in April 1945, I was in such a bad shape that I didnt know what was happening to me or around. Indeed, she was thrown on a mount of dead people, and she really owes her life to a her Jewish co-prisoner, Betty (now married Goldberg, living in Israel), who informed the British troops about her. Adela was taken to 81 BR General Hospital. When she got better, she was sent from the transit centre in Lubeck, Germany, to Sweden by the Swedish Red Cross (Folke Bernadottes White Buses) on the ship SS Ronnkaer, on July 16th, 1945. She arrived in Malmö on the next day.
In Malmö, the Swedish Red Cross considered Adela so weak that they took her in for quarantine in a hospital for four weeks. Later some of Bergen-Belsen survivors were sent to Baggå as convalescents. They were offered work at ASEA (now ABB) in Västerås, which they accepted with deep joy.
These are Izak, Gusta, Helena, Regina, Samuel and Amalia Schwarzer (see the photos of the Schwarzer siblings below).
written by Violetta Reder on the basis of Adela Schwarzers recollections put down by her husband Gösta and son Jan, and of the authors own contacts with Adela