Schwartz (Goldwasser), E. B.
Ostrowiec (Poland), Pinsk, Ravensbrück
Schwartz was born in Ostrowiec in 1922. Her father was a businessman specializing in transportation with dealings in Warsaw and Lodz. The family was devout and well to do. College-bound, she attended the public school system, making it to high school before the war broke out. She was privately tutored in both Hebrew and Yiddish.
Schwartz remembers that when the war started in 1939 many Jews fled, without their belongings, to smaller surrounding towns and villages. Soon thereafter, however, they returned to their homes and stayed until they were forced to move into the town’s Jewish ghetto in 1942. Allowed to take only a few things, Schwartz referred to the few months spent in the ghetto as “terrible.” She and her family, with the exception of a brother who was killed trying to escape, were then sent to a camp in Pinsk, where they worked at a munitions factory. Returning from work one day, Schwartz found both her family and the camp gone. She was then moved to Ravensbruck, where she remained until she was sent to Sweden by the Red Cross in 1945.
Schwartz estimates that 70 of her relatives perished during the Holocaust, including her two brothers and her father. Her younger brother died while trying to escape the ghetto and her father and other brother died in Mauthausen. Her mother died soon after the end of the war in Cypress after having been denied entry to Palestine. Schwartz and her younger sister now reside in the United States.
Schwartz describes the prewar knowledge of the developing situation in her community as informed. In the ghetto no specific knowledge of the Holocaust existed. In Pinsk, however, knowledge of gas chambers and infamous camps did circulate. When she was moved from Ravensbruck to Sweden she believed she was on the way to the gas chamber.
Schwartz states that besides the foiled escape attempt by her brother, which was exposed by one of her Polish neighbors, she experienced little direct anti-Semitism. She remembers the Polish prewar environment to have been anti-Semitic; however, it was not until the German occupation that acquaintances and relatives were randomly killed and forced to abide by anti-Jewish laws. It was also under the Germans that publicly organized Jewish life ceased to exist.
In Pinsk Schwartz helped her family to survive by working for gentile co-workers in exchange for food. Schwartz mentions the presence of Dr. Mengele and his medical experiments at Ravensbruck, but she was not involved in any of them.
Upon moving to America Schwartz describes being reluctant about identifying herself as a Jew. She changed her married name in order to appear gentile. She also speaks of Americas who did not believe what she had experienced. At first she told her daughters nothing of her history, wanting them instead to lead normal lives. She suffers from no nightmares or physical disabilities as a result of her experiences.
Date: May 24, 1990
Length: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Interviewer: Donna Sklar
Format: Video recording