Schwarz, Heinz Herbert

Schwarz, Heinz Herbert

Vienna, Austria

Heinz Schwarz was born in Vienna, Austria on November 23, 1924, the son of Wilhelm and Hermine Schwarz.  Most of his early life he lived in the Hietzing District, a relatively affluent section of Vienna, with his parents in their own house. He attended public schools. His father was Jewish and his mother a Lutheran. She was originally Catholic, but had to change religion to marry since the then Austrian laws prohibited Catholics to marry outside of their religion. Although both parents maintained their religion, he was raised in a non-religious household. He described his early life as pleasant and secure, but with the undercurrent of a coming doom.

Following the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in March 1938, his father was dismissed from his job as the Service Manager of a Jewish owned manufacturing company which was aryanized, i.e. taken over by Nazi management, with the threat that if he returned he would be placed in a concentration camp. Heinz was allowed to continue at his gymnasium (Jr./Sr. High School) since he was considered a Mischling (mixed breed) and the rules pertaining to the expulsion of Jewish students did not apply to him.

On Kristallnacht, November 10, 1938, his father was arrested at his home. When, upon being questioned he admitted to owning a gun he was told he would be shot with it. However, at the police station he was released when he produced evidence that he had made arrangements to emigrate to Trinidad. He left for Trinidad in December 1938 after posting the equivalent of a $250.00 deposit required for immigration. At that time no visa was required which Dr. Schwarz attributes to an oversight by the British, since Trinidad was a British Colony.

Dr. Schwarz, together with his mother, left Vienna in July 1939 to join his father in Trinidad. By that time visas were required. They traveled through Holland without difficulty since neither of their passports had the red J designating the carrier as being Jewish. According to Dr. Schwarz Holland did not allow German Jews to transit through Holland on the fear that they would cash-in their ship tickets and stay in Holland.

In Trinidad he continued his schooling in a Catholic high school. In March 1940, all Germans, Austrians and Italians in Trinidad, whether Jewish or not, were arrested as enemy aliens and placed into an internment camp. There, men and women were separated, but married couples with small children were allowed to stay together in cubicles in special barracks. The camp was surrounded by wire fences, with guard posts at each corner, and guarded by armed soldiers. Hygienic conditions and food were adequate. Children were taken to schools and on Sunday to see a movie. Dr. Schwarz compared the construction of the camp as similar to that of Nazi concentration camps he visited after the war.

The inmates of the internment camp were released in November 1941, but placed under severe restrictions. Among others they had to report daily to the police, observe a curfew, obey travel and movement restrictions, and were not allowed to have radios, firearms, or go to any establishment that had alcohol. These restrictions were eased as the war neared its end.

After the war Heinz Schwarz obtained a scholarship to attend Northwestern University and then went to the University Of Michigan Medical School where he became a psychiatrist. While at Michigan he met his future wife, also a medical student at U of M. She is Jewish and they were married in a Jewish ceremony. He served in the US Army Medical Corp as a psychiatrist from 1953 to 1955, before starting his own practice in Flint, Michigan. They have three children. His children were baptized at birth to, in his words, avoid being exposed to what he was. His parents remained in Trinidad and eventually died there. He feels that as a psychiatrist he cannot analyze himself as to the affect of his early experiences due to the Holocaust on his later life.

Interview and synopsis by: Hans R. Weinmann
Date of Interview: February 18, 2009
Length of Interview: 1 hour and 10 minutes