Klara Schwarcz

Klara grew up in the picturesque town of Tokaj, known for its wines, in north-east Hungary near the Slovakian border. She lived with her big family on Görög Street, just a stone's throw away from the town's large synagogue.

The Schwarcz family were religious, Orthodox Jews and Klara's father, Emanuel, worked as a rabbi and merchant in the city while her mother, Amalia Malka, worked in a pharmacy. Klara, who was often called by her Jewish name Sara, lived in Tokaj with her parents, nine siblings and grandparents Mihaly and Pepi. In this beautiful town, sandwiched between the hillside vineyards and small river Tisza, around 1,000 Jews and 5,000 non-Jews lived side-by-side. But that came to an end when the war broke out. 

Klara was 12 years old when the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939. Even before the outbreak of war, Hungary had become close to Nazi Germany and in 1940, just a year after the war started, Hungary allied itself with the Axis powers and Nazi Germany. Jews in Hungary now began to face discriminatory, anti-Jewish laws, inspired by the German Nuremberg Laws. The laws stripped Jews of their rights and prohibited them from holding certain jobs and marrying non-Jews, among other things. The laws made life difficult for Jews in Hungary, but it was not yet comparable to what was happening to Jews in Poland, the Baltic States and Ukraine. 

Tokaj, gata och hus
Tokaj, early 20th century. Photo: Unknown

The Schwarcz family seems to have managed to stay together and life continued during the first years of the war in Tokaj. But everything changed in the spring of 1944. Despite severe pressure from the Nazis and its anti-Jewish laws, Hungary had until now refused to deport Hungarian Jews to death. Instead, the Hungarian government had tried to negotiate with the Allies after the Axis powers' heavy losses on the Eastern Front in 1943. Nazi Germany therefore chose to invade and occupy Hungary in March 1944 to stop the peace negotiations. Immediately, the Germans established ghettos in major Hungarian cities where the Jews were forced to live. This was all part of a plan by senior SS leader Adolf Eichmann to murder Hungarian Jews as quickly as possible. Without knowing it, Klara and the Schwarcz family's fate was sealed.

On April 6, 1944, the Hungarian police arrived and arrested Klara and her family, as well as other Jews in Tokaj. They were forcibly relocated to the larger town of Sátoraljaújhely, called Ihel in Yiddish, on the Slovakian border, which had been a stronghold of learned rabbis for centuries with a significant Jewish population. Here, the Nazis had established a ghetto where the Schwarcz family was forced to live, along with Ihel's 4,000 Jews and 11,000 other Jews from small villages and towns like Tokaj. The stay in the crowded ghetto was just a stopover in the Nazis' cruel plan. In May, the following month, the Nazis began deporting the ghetto's residents to Auschwitz and an almost certain death.

On May 20, 1944, Klara, along with her parents, some siblings and probably her grandparents, were forced onto a freight wagon. The journey from Hungary took several days. From the testimonies of other Hungarian Holocaust survivors, we know that the journeys were pure suffering, in overcrowded wagons without enough air, food and water. Upon arrival at Auschwitz, Klara appears to have been separated from most of her family. Her mother, grandparents and five of her siblings, Leah Yehudit, Isaiah, Rachel, Miriam and Yuta Malia, appear to have been murdered immediately upon arrival, in the gas chamber of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Klara survived selection and was chosen to work in the camp. After six weeks in Auschwitz, she was transferred and sent to the labour camp in Christianstadt, in what is now Krzystkowice in western Poland. The Christianstadt camp was a so-called satellite camp of the large Gross-Rosen concentration camp, also in western Poland. It was home to one of Nazi Germany's largest munitions factories, where Klara and thousands of other prisoners were subjected to slave labour. Klara initially worked as a slave in the forest, where the female prisoners were forced into hard labour, such as felling trees, building roads and railways and carrying out heavy digging work before she ended up in the munitions factory.

Båtlista Kastelholm med Klaras namn
Foto: Arolsen Archives

Passenger list from S/S Kastelholm

Klara was seriously ill when she travelled to Sweden on S/S Kastelholm on July 11, 1945. The document shows the passenger list with Klara's name on it.

Klaras vittnesmålsblankett
Foto: Yad Vashem.

Testimony form 

Testimony form submitted by Klara's nephew, registering Klara as one of those murdered in the Holocaust.

After seven difficult months in the camp, the Allied forces were getting closer. In the bitter February cold, Klara and the other prisoners were forced to march towards Germany on foot. She and other prisoners were severely emaciated by this time and many died of exhaustion, cold or starvation during the long marches. Those who could not keep pace during what became known as the death marches were shot dead. Eventually, Klara and the others were transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In the overcrowded and cramped camp, diseases such as dysentery, diphtheria, typhus and tuberculosis spread and killed thousands. Klara fell ill with typhus and developed severe diarrhoea and fever.

Liberation and time in Sweden 

On the April 15, 1945, Bergen-Belsen was liberated by British forces. At that time, the camp held more than 60,000 prisoners, most of them Jews and the majority in a terrible state of starvation and disease. Thousands of dead prisoners were lying unburied in the camp. Klara and other surviving prisoners were moved out of the camp and received medical care. Meanwhile, the Allied forces tried to register all survivors. On her registration card, Klara states that she wishes to move on to Palestine.

Klara was one of over 9,000 survivors who were brought to Sweden for treatment by UNRRA transportation. After a period in the transit camp and the Swedish field hospital in Lübeck, Klara, who was seriously ill with typhus, was taken to Sweden on the S/S Kastelholm on July 11, 1945, together with Rozsi Hirschl and others. The Kastelholm docked in Stockholm after a four-day voyage. Klara, Rozsi and many of the other seriously ill were immediately transported to the emergency hospital in Sigtuna. Klara was admitted to the hospital with typhus on the July 15, 1945, her 18th birthday. She told the doctors that she knew her mother had been murdered in Auschwitz, but did not know what had happened to her siblings. Klara stated that she thought her father may have survived. She never learnt that her father and several of her siblings also survived the Holocaust.

Klara died just two weeks after arriving in Sweden in the early morning of the July 31, 1945, from the typhus she had been infected with in Bergen-Belsen. 

Klara's father Emanuel and four of her siblings survived the Holocaust. Emanuel remarried shortly after the war to another survivor, Szeren Kraus. He was reunited after the war with his daughter Iren and son Miklos, who both survived. Klara's younger brothers, Miklos and Jenö, were also deported to Auschwitz on an earlier wagon from the ghetto. They survived selection and were both sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where they were subjected to slave labour in the factories that produced fighter plane parts for the Nazi Air Force, among other things. Both managed to survive the concentration camp, where nearly 100,000 people lost their lives.

Klara's older sister Czecilia, also known as Lily, also survived the war and towards the end was in Slutsk, Belarus, until she was reunited with the rest of her surviving family members in Austria. Together with her father Emanuel and younger sister Iren, she chose to move to New York after the war, where they lived the rest of their lives. Miklos moved to Jerusalem, where he lived the rest of his life, while his brother Jenö moved to Australia. 

Klara's family seems to have discovered that their daughter and sister died in Sweden. Her grave is one of the few where family members erected a larger headstone, alongside the small, original headstone in her memory.

Klara's route

The map shows the places Klara was forcibly transferred or travelled to, from Tokaj where she lived to the Northern Jewish Cemetery. Click on the information symbol to see all the locations, listed in chronological order.

About Klara Schwarcz

Klara Sara Schwarcz

First name: Klara, jewish name Sara
Last name: Schwarcz, also occurs as Schwarz och Schwartz
Born: 15 juli 1927, in Tokaj, Hungary
Died: 31 July 1945, 18 years old, in Sigtuna war time hospital
Buried: At North Jewish Cemetary, N K 18 3314
Recidence befor the war: Göröggasse 2, Tokaj, Hungary
Recidence during the war: Tokaj, Hungary, and later in Satoraljaujhely ghetto
Arrived in Sweden: On S/S Kastelholm which departed from Lübeck on 11 July 1945 and arrived in Stockholm on 15 July 1945
Occupation: Student

About Klara's father Emanuel Schwarcz

Emanuel Menachem Schwarcz HaCohen

First name: Emanuel, also known as Menachem Gershon
Last name: Schwarcz HaCohen
Born: 24 November 1903
Died: 6 March 1970, survived the war and the Holocaust and moved to New York, USA after the war
Recidence befor the war: Tokaj, Hungary
Recidence before the war: Tokaj, Hungary, and later Satoraljaujhely ghetto
Parents: Mihaly and Pepi Perel, born Josefa
Wife: Re-marries Szeren, born Kraus, after the war
Occupation: Rabbi and merchant

About Klara's mother Amalia Schwarcz

Amalia Malka Schwarcz

First name: Amalia Margit, jewish name Malka
Last name: Schwarcz, born Winkler
Born: 1904, in Nyirbator, Hungary
Died: Deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on the 20 May 1944, where she was murdered with her in-laws and five of her children, 40 years old
Recidence before the war: Tokaj, Hungary
Recidence during the war: Tokaj, Hungary, and later Satoraljaujhely ghetto
Parents: David Yitzhak and Roza Rakhel, born Spitz
Occupation: Pharmacist

About Klara's sister Czecilia Silberman

Czecilia Tzirel Silberman

First name: Czecilia, also called Lily and Tzirel
Last name: Silberman, born Schwarcz
Born: 16 April 1925, in Tokaj, Hungary
Died: Survived the war and the Holocaust, moved to New York, USA after the war
Recidence befor the war: Tokaj, Hungary
Recidence during the war: Tokaj, Hungary, and later Satoraljaujhely ghetto
Husband: Arthur Avraham Josef Silberman, born in Bodrogkeresztur, Hungary

About Klara's brother Jenö Schwarcz

Jenö Yitzhak Schwarcz

First name: Jenö, jewish name Yitzhak
Last name: Schwarcz
Born: 18 January 1928, in Tokaj,
Died: 23 May 2016, survived the war and the Holocaust, Moved to Australia after the war, died in Marseille, France and buried in London, UK
Recidence befor the war: Tokaj, Hungary
Recidence during the war: Tokaj, Hungary, and later Satoraljaujhely ghetto
Wife: Marries Sarah Schwarcz after the war
Occupation: Worker, tailor and mechanic

Aboyt Klara's brother Miklos Schwarcz

Miklos Yechiel Schwarcz

First name: Miklos, jewish name Yechiel, also called Shraga
Last name: Schwarcz
Born: 27 August 1929, in Tokaj, Hungary
Died: 10 May 2016, survived the war and the Holocaust, moved to Jerusalem, Israel after the war
Recidence befor the war: Tokaj, Hungary
Recidence during the war: Tokaj, Hungary, and later Satoraljaujhely ghetto
Wife: Marries Frieda Schwarcz after the war
Occupation: Student

About Klara's sister Iren Schwarcz

Iren Schwarcz

First name: Iren
Last name: Schwarcz
Born: 16 April 1932, in Tokaj, Hungary
Died: Survived the war and the Holocaust, moved to New York, USA after the war
Recidence befor the war: Tokaj, Hungary
Recidence during the war: Tokaj, Hungary, and later Satoraljaujhely ghetto
Occupation: Student

About Klara's siblings

Klara Schwarcz also had siblings Leah Yehudit, Isaiah, Rachel, Miriam, and Jota Malia. They were murdered along with their mother and grandparents upon arrival at Auschwitz in May 1944. We do not know their birthdates or ages.

Närbild på Klara Schwarczs gravsten
Klara Schwarcz's tombstone at the Northern Jewish Cemetery in Stockholm. Photo: Miranda Solvang, Swedish Holocaust Museum/SHM.

Learn more about the fates of other

Here you will find links to the "Förlorade röster" [Lost Voices] collection page as well as links to all the personal texts, listed by surname.

Reference list

To reconstruct Klara's life story, source material has been collected from various archives in Sweden, Germany, the USA and Israel. 

The Swedish National Archives contain the archives of the Royal Medical Board, where the files on “1945 refugee healthcare” are preserved, containing information about her time in Sweden. The National Archives also houses the archives of the Aliens Commission, which often has a personal file for survivors who survive their first year in Sweden. 

The German Arolsen Archive preserves the Allied registration of survivors after the end of the war, known as the “Displaced Person Registration Record”. The Arolsen Archive also preserves documentation from many concentration camps, such as Dachau, Buchenwald and Ravensbrück. 

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) has preserved and digitised the lists of all Holocaust survivors and, in particular, preserves the lists compiled at Bergen-Belsen and later by UNRRA. The USHMM has also digitised much of the material from the Lodz ghetto, including school records and, in particular, the ghetto's civil registration records.  Finally, the Israeli Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem has “Pages of Testimony”, forms, where survivors could register their murdered relatives. In many cases, surviving relatives believed that those who came to Sweden in 1945 were murdered in the Holocaust, and many of the “1945 rescued” group are thus incorrectly registered. The testimonies of the relatives are the most important source for reconstructing the names of those who were murdered.

The historical facts about World War II and the Holocaust are taken from Yehuda Bauer's "A History of the Holocaust" (2001) and Saul Friedländer's work "The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945" (2007).

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The Northern Jewish Cemetery

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