Antwerp (Belgium), South Belgium
Mrs. Seena Schwartz was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1931.
Conflict started in Belgium in May 1940 when Mrs. Schwartz was just over eight years old. She lived with her parents and older sister.
In 1942, the Holocaust experience began. The family’s good friend, Eva Zuspah, hid the Jewish children in an orphanage. Two weeks later, Mrs. Schwartz’s father was arrested and shipped to Auschwitz; never to be seen again.
Mrs. Schwartz became ill and woke up in a convent. There were fourteen Jewish girls and the priests took in the boys. Her sister, who was twelve years her senior, came to the convent to help the nuns with the children and in turn became their substitute mother. The nuns were wonderful to them.
They remained there from October 1942 until May of 1943 when the neighbors betrayed them to the Nazis. Mrs. Schwartz and three others were baptized and were away at school that day. The nuns told the Germans they’d return the next day. When the girls returned, the nun they called “Selmama” tried to get help and called the underground forces. During the night, the underground forces broke in, tied up the nuns, disconnected the phones and grabbed the children, saying “we’re Jews and we’ve come to save you.”
Mrs. Schwartz’s sister paraded as her and shoved her out the door, going to the original woman’s home. They were all saved! They were taken to another convent in the South of Belgium at the end of 1943, remaining there until the liberation. Years later, they all met at the 1st children’s reunion in New York.
After the war, they went back to Brussels and stayed in a Jewish orphanage until the beginning of 1948 when Mrs. Schwartz and her mother immigrated to the United States. Mrs. Schwartz said she took comfort in the church, but always knew she was Jewish. She had memorized her uncle’s Detroit address. She found out that her birth name was Sarah Stanutsky, but the nuns had given her another name.
The OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants – Society for the Aid of Children) saved her husband in France. He ended up in a small town south of France near Limoges. From 1943 to 1946 local farmers took him in until he came to the United States. Mrs. Schwartz wrote to Yad Vashem and asked that the farmers be recognized as “Righteous Gentiles.”
Mrs. Schwartz has a message, “To be good to each other; we are our brother’s keeper.”
Date: July 28, 2000
Interviewer: Rene Lichtman (World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust)