Lost Voices

Portrait of Rozsi and Lazlo with visible fold on the photograph.
The Northern Jewish Cemetery in Stockholm is home to row upon row of small, simple tombstones. These are the graves of the Jews who survived the Holocaust and came to Sweden after the end of the Second World War in 1945, but who died here shortly after their arrival. Their voices have been lost, but their memory lives on. Who were they, and what can be told about their lives?

The Lost Voices – Echoes of the Rescued of 1945 project includes about sixty Holocaust survivors who died shortly after arriving in Sweden. They came to be known as “the Rescued of 1945” and were buried at the Northern Jewish Cemetery – Norra judiska begravningsplatsen – in Stockholm. In total, up to 300 of the "1945 rescued" died as a result of their injuries, in various places around Sweden. They were buried as far as possible in Jewish cemeteries, such as in Malmö, Gothenburg, Karlstad and Norrköping, but also in other cemeteries, such as in Örebro and Lärbro on Gotland.

The project is led by Daniel Leviathan, a doctoral student in Jewish Studies, and the material is published in collaboration with the Swedish Holocaust Museum. This is an ongoing project that will be published in stages. We tell the story of ten survivors initially, including Rywka Posladek and Rozsi Hirschl. Rywka was just 14 years old when war broke out in 1939 and her home town of Łódź, Poland, was occupied by the Nazis. Rozsi had just given birth to Edit, her first daughter, and was living with her husband in Budapest when the Holocaust reached Hungary in 1944.

Their voices are forever lost to us, but their memory lives on. We are keeping their memory alive by telling their stories. The memory of who they were, where they came from and what happened to them. The memory of people, most of them young, from different backgrounds, different places, who all suffered Nazi atrocities simply because they were Jewish.

Sweden conducted a series of rescue and evacuation operations in the spring and summer of 1945, towards the end of the Second World War and shortly thereafter, bringing Jewish Holocaust survivors to Sweden. The most famous of these is the major Swedish Red Cross operation known as the White Buses, led by Folke Bernadotte. Between March and May 1945, this humanitarian operation saved thousands of people from Nazi prison camps, including Jewish prisoners.

Shortly after the White Buses operation came to an end, Sweden – at the request of the allied refugee organisation known as the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) – accepted over 9,000 “displaced persons”, survivors from the former concentration camps. They came to Sweden to receive treatment so that they could be repatriated – return to their home countries – over time. The people who came to Sweden were referred to by the Swedish authorities as “repatriandi”, and by the Jewish communities as “the Rescued of 1945”.

Photo of the ship Rönnskär
Photo: Unknown photographer. Sjöhistoriska museet/Public Domain


Hertha Heyman was one of over 9,000 survivors who were brought to Sweden to recieve care through the UNRRA transports. After some time in the transit camp and the Swedish field hospital in Lübeck, she was taken to Sweden on M/S Rönnskär on July 25,1945.

Most of the people who came to Sweden were Jews, mainly young women, from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. This is the camp to which the Nazis had been transporting prisoners towards the end of the war, often via the death marches from other concentration camps such as Auschwitz as the Allies approached. When Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the British on April 15, 1945, it held almost 60,000 prisoners and almost 13,000 unburied human bodies. After the camp was liberated, an assembly camp was established nearby for almost 30,000 former prisoners from various concentration camps. The survivors of the concentration camps often suffered from severe hunger and malnutrition, and Bergen-Belsen was struck by massive epidemics of TBC, typhoid, diphtheria and dysentery that killed almost 35,000 people in the spring of 1945, both before and after the liberation.

Top photo: Rozsi and Laszlo Hirschl. Photo: Yad Vashem.

Reception in Sverige

Over 9,000 people were brought to Sweden from Bergen-Belsen. Most of them were Jews from Poland, Hungary, Romania and Czechoslovakia, and many were seriously ill. 

In Sweden, preparations to receive “the Rescued of 1945” were made by establishing a number of emergency hospitals, including one in Sigtuna, to receive the people arriving at Frihamnen in Stockholm. When the first survivors arrived at the port, however, some of them were so ill that they were unable to be transported to Sigtuna, and had to be admitted to the isolation hospital in Roslagstull. There, just a few kilometres from the port, the first of the people liberated from the camps died just a few days after arriving in Sweden. 

They would not be the last to die from the harm caused by the Nazis and the Holocaust. In the months and years that followed, more than 60 Holocaust survivors in Sweden died as a result of their severe injuries. And they continued to do so into the 1950s and, in some cases, beyond that. Who were they? Where did they come from? What had happened to them and their families?

The Northern Jewish Cemetery

The survivors who died shortly after arriving in Stockholm were buried at the Northern Jewsish Cemetary in Stockholm, side by side with the Swedish Jewish community.

Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Lia Stark

Lia was born in Sighet, today northern Romania. She was not even 17 when she and her family were deported to Auschwitz.


Rozsi Hirschl

Rozsi was living in Budapest with her husband Laszlo with their newborn daughter Edit when the Holocaust reached Hungary in 1944.

Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Rywka Posladek

Rywka was only 14 years old when war broke out in 1939 and her hometown of Łódź in Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany.

Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Margit Polgar

Margit was born on Christmas Day 1920 and grew up in what was then Czechoslovakia. In 1944 her family was deported to Auschwitz.

Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Czarna Ber

Czarna was 16 years old when Nazi troops captured her hometown of Łódź in September 1939.

Photo: Arolsen Archives

Gerte Lorie

Gerte grew up in Prage. She was 20 years old when the Nazis captured her hometown on March 15, 1939.

Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Herbert Pinkus

Herbert was born as the eldest son of Max and Johanna Pinkus in Dresden, Germany. In 1935, the Nürnberg Laws, were introduced,which would change his life forever.

Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Hertha Heyman

Hertha lived in Stettin, in what was then German Pomerania, with her husband and their sons when the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933.

Vittnesmålsblanket, Page of Testimony
Photo: Yad Vashem

Klara Schwarcz

Klara grew up in the town of Tokaj, in northeastern Hungary near the slovak boarder, where her father was a rabbi.

Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Sabina Krautwirt

Sabina grew up in Krakow, Poland, where the family ran a bakery. She was 25 years old when German troops marched into Krakow on September 6, 1939.

Archival material and photographs

Not only was the Holocaust the actual murder of six million Jews, but also an attempt to completely wipe out all traces that these people had ever existed. Many of the survivors have made their voices heard, describing what happened during the Holocaust, but what about the people who never had the opportunity to make their voices heard, the people whose voices are lost?

From the traces that exist in the form of archival material, a picture emerges that allows us to tell the story of what happened to these people. A clear and distinct picture emerges to varying degrees depending on the material, but the picture presented is merely a snippet of who the person was.

These traces can sometimes be cards permitting entry into Sweden, stamped in Trelleborg or Malmö and dated to indicate when people arrived on one of the white boats. Or sometimes, a few lines of general information jotted down by a doctor in the survivor’s medical record. In some cases, the police may have conducted a short interview if the liberated person survived in Sweden long enough to talk about what happened to them. 

The registration cards that the Allies created after liberating Bergen-Belsen, in an attempt to understand which people were liberated and what happened to them, are a major source of information. In other, rarer cases, information has been preserved from some of the concentration camps, such as Buchenwald; the information was written down as part of the systematic extermination of the Jews by the Nazis. The address books indicating where people lived in the Łódź ghetto survived the war, providing otherwise rare information. 

However, as is often the case, surviving relatives submitted information about their family members. In most cases, these relatives had no idea that their sister, brother or cousin had survived and ended up in Sweden. In many cases, relatives have gone on living without ever knowing that their family member survived, only to pass away and be buried in Sweden. 

There is no photograph preserved on Rywka Posladek. Here you can see archive material with her name. Photo: State Archive in Łódź/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In rare cases, surviving relatives have even provided photographs of the people who survived. The Holocaust also involved eradicating the traces of the Jews who were murdered. When families were sent to their deaths, the Nazis destroyed or disposed of the photographs that the families had brought with them. Family photographs that so many families carried in their pockets or their bags as they boarded the trains taking them to annihilation. These photographs were lost forever if no other family members survived and kept copies of them.

A number of photographs were taken in Sweden after the war, at one of the hospitals where the survivors ended up. But even there, a random selection of people are pictured. Many of the people who died shortly after arriving in Sweden were too ill to be photographed, while the people who lived a little longer were more likely to be captured in a photo. This means that people such as Rywka Posladek, who were the last survivors in their families and died shortly after arriving, are not pictured, while photographs of others such as Roszi Hirschl, whose siblings survived, still exist. In most cases, it is rare for photographs of survivors to be preserved.

Jewish Names

For centuries, Jewish people have taken names with origins in Jewish sources – the Hebrew Bible and Talmud in particular, names such as Abraham, David, Sarah or Esther. Over time, names from beyond the community have been taken – often with a Jewish twist.

In 19th century Europe, it was common for people to have two first names, one Jewish and one secular. The Jewish name was often in Hebrew, but it could also be from a Jewish language like Yiddish. Generally, the secular name would be in the language of the surrounding society, such as German, Polish or Hungarian, although it could also have been Yiddish or another Jewish language.

Occasionally, the secular name would be a direct translation of a person’s Jewish name, for example Arye-Leib – ‘Arye’ is the Hebrew word for ‘lion’, which is ‘Leib’ in Yiddish. Sometimes, people would choose names relatively similar to each other, such as Rywka-Regina or Perla-Paula. The Jewish name would often be used in the home, while the secular name would be used in the majority of official documents. Having several middle names was also common. Among the Ashkenazi Jews, children are often given middle names in memory of dead relatives such as grandparents. Nicknames were also common both among family and friends and the community. A girl called Fajga-Fela may have been called Fajgale or ‘little Fajga’ by most of the people around her.

And so, in the remaining sources documenting the survivors and their families, it is not uncommon to see different names in different sources depending on the origin. Furthermore, many people in one family may share the same name, usually because they have been given the same middle name. Jewish sources, such as testimonies sent to Yad Vashem, often see the use of the person’s Jewish name, whereas Swedish archives or those where the Allies’ documentation is stored tend to contain the secular name. And so, a person such as Rywka-Regina Posladek may be Rywka in some sources, but Regina in others.

Reference list

Reference list Lost Voices

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Bergen Belsen.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/bergen-belsen

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/united-nations-relief-and-rehabilitation-administration 

Birke, Sune (2003). De vita skeppen: en svensk humanitär operation 1945. Forum navale. No. 58, p. 9–38, 94–97.

Roos, L. (2008). Barmhärtiga svenskar och tacksamma flyktingar. Nordisk Judaistik - Scandinavian Jewish Studies26(1-2), 133-156.

Rudberg, Pontus (2017). The Swedish Jews and the Holocaust. Routledge.

Reference list Archival material and photographs

The Swedish National Archives, including the archives of "Utlänningskommissionens arkiv" and "Medicinalstyrelsens arkiv"

The Arolsen Archives: https://arolsen-archives.org/en/about-us/who-we-are/ 

Yad Vashem's Hall of Names: https://www.yadvashem.org/archive/hall-of-names/shoah-victims-names.html 

USHMM's collections: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/

Reference list The Northern Jewish Cemetery and graves

Jewish Community of Stockholm, ”Judiska begravningsplatser”.

Reference list Jewish Names

G. L. Esterson, 2001. The Given Names Data Bases (GNDBs), JewishGen: https://www.jewishgen.org/databases/givennames/ (retrieved April 12, 2023)

About the project Lost Voices

The project was initiated by the Jewish Community of Stockholm and has been realized by Daniel Leviathan, archaeologist and PhD student in Judaic studies, who himself carries the memories of his many relatives who were murdered during the Holocaust. The texts are produced by Daniel Leviathan and the material is published in colllaboration with the Swedish Holocaust Museum. This is an ongoing project that will be published in stages.

The project has been realized and carried out thanks to the 2021 scholarship from Micael Bindefeld´s Foundation in memory of the Holocaust. Thanks to the scholarship, we can now make visible the life stories of those who came to Sweden in 1945 but did not survive the injuries from the Holocaust.

The project has also recieved support from the Swedish National Heritage Board, the City of Stockholm, Eduard and Sophie Heckschers Foundation, Yad Vashem, the Clas Groschinskys Memorial Foundation, Robert Molander, Siv Finkelstein and Adele Fajntuch. The work has been carried out with the help of Anna Nachman and the Jewish Community of Stockholm, Hanna Nir, the Living History Forum, the Jewish Museum in Stockholm, and the Association of Holocaust Survivors in Sweden.