Sunday, April 7, 2013

Holocaust Remembrance Day: The Schwartz Family of Ungvar

Sad to say, the Holocaust wiped out most of the family that my grandpa Teddy Schwartz left behind in Ungvar, Hungary (briefly part of Czechoslovakia, then Russia, and now Uzhorod, Ukraine). This post is in remembrance of my family and others who were Holocaust victims.

Teddy lost his mother, Hani Simonowitz Schwartz (at left) in the Holocaust (UPDATE: She died a few years earlier). His father, Herman Schwartz, had died many years earlier.

Also, two sisters, Paula and Etel Schwartz were killed in the Holocaust. At right, Paula and her daughter Violet (who survived and later submitted Paula's name to the list of Holocaust victims). Possibly some nieces or nephews also perished.

In 1977, my mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk) wrote down what she knew about her father Teddy's family, more than a decade after he had died. Here's what she wrote:
"He came from peasant people in Czechoslovakia and never spoke about his home life. He came here at 13*. He was always silent about who staked him and how he got here, except that steerage was the most common method; neither he nor Mom (Hermina Farkas Schwartz) ever elaborated on the ocean voyage but it must've been sufficiently unpleasant for them to never to have unlocked their lips over it.
"Anyway, he lived as a boarder with a Hungarian family on the Lower East Side [of New York City] as many others did, and worked as a runner for the steamship lines and then he tried to be an insurance salesman and finally started a small grocery business--the first couple failed.
"The letters from Europe [from Ungvar] I remember asked for money constantly.  They all thought we lived in the lap of luxury here; and he always sent money home. Just before WWII he stopped hearing and never head again; later he learned his family was wiped out. His brother and sister had come here also**, but the exact timing I don't know."
*Actually, Teddy was 14 (nearly 15) when he arrived on the S.S. Moltke from Hamburg on March 20, 1902. He was shown on the manifest as Tivador Schwartz from Ungvar, along with this note: "Passage paid for by father, 14 years old, student." Below, a photo of the S.S. Moltke showing steerage passengers readying for the landing in New York City.

**Mom didn't realize that Teddy had helped both his older brother Sam and his baby sister Mary come to New York. Nor did she remember that both had kids and grandkids--and those grandkids are my 2d cousins, who I've come to know thanks to genealogy research.


  1. Part of your story is exactly the same that my father-in-law tells of his mother's family from Bonyhad, Hungary: The letters from family in Hungary always asked for money and then all of a sudden the letters stopped and later they realized that the whole family died in the Holocaust, and his mother was the only one who survived because she had come to America.

  2. Elizabeth, I imagine there are many thousands of families with similar stories. I'm lucky that my mother actually wrote this one down so I have it 26 years later. But you're even luckier that your father-in-law can tell the story in person :)