Adela Schwarzer was looking for here siblings until the end


Adela Schwarzer
Adela Schwarzer, 1923 - 2005.
The pictures are taken 1940 and 1946.
Updated September 2009

- she saw them in the Rzeszow Ghetto in spring 1942 for the last time

(version updated)

8th of May, 2005 – the 60th anniversary of the ending of the World War II – was the last day in the life of Adela Schwarzer, a Jewish woman from Kraków. After surviving the Holocaust, she lived in Sweden for the rest of her life. She never learned if she was the only survivor in her closest family.

She was prisoner of seven Nazi slave labour camps, and at the final stage – Bergen-Belsen – was found dying on a heap of corpses, 23 kg weight. Adela used to say her determination to meet with her family had given her strength to survive. However, her search after the War did not bring any result. This leaflet is written in memory of her, as a continuation of Adela’s search for any trace, any information about the fate of her four sisters and two brothers that was undertaken by her family.

The Schwarzer family in the pre-War Kraków

Adela’s story brings us to the Rzeszów ghetto, but it starts in Kraków, where she was born, at 13 So³tyka Street in 1923. Both her parents, however, were from Cieszanów, a small town in Poland close to the present Ukrainian border, but part of Austrian Galicia at the time of their birth. Both of them moved to Kraków.

Father, Mechel Schwarzer (b. 1888; also mentioned as Mechel Schwarz in the Kraków census of 1921) settled there in 1912, and mother, Malka Beila Tennenbaum (b. 1890), moved there in 1917.

Mechel Scwarzer
Malka Beila Tennenbaum Schwarzer
Mechel Schwarzer
born 1888
Malka Beila Tennenbaum
born 1890

Adela remembered her grandfather, Mendel Tennenbaum, telling the story of his hasty escape from Cieszanów on a white horse. The town became burnt down during the World War I. Mendel may have moved to Kraków together with Hasids from Cieszanów. They had a synagogue at 13 Miodowa Street in Kraków. The shock of the war conflagration was so big that later Mendel would “escape on his white horse” even at… sleep.

She also remembered a very pious uncle who was coming from Grodzisko Dolne to visit them in Kraków, taking care of it that the metal pots should be made really kosher by red-heated stones.

In Kraków, the Schwarzer family also lived at 32 Miodowa Street (ca 1918 – ca 1922) and at Wielicka Street (ca 1922 – 1941) No 13, App. 2, close to its crossing with Robotnicza Str. The house existed untill the 1970’s, when the local authorities built a highway crossing there (Wielicka-Powstañców Slaskich).

The family were poor but open and hospitable: at the beginning of the War, in the house at Wielicka Str., also a daughter to Mendel from his previous marriage, Chaja Tennenbaum, with her sons Haskel and Josef had meals, and they lived there for a short time although the living space for the twelve persons consisted of one room and a kitchen.

Mechel Schwarzer was a tradesman and cooperated in business with Chaim Abend, a trade agent, who lived at 11 Marquet Square at the centre of Kraków. They had a shop with furniture and antiques at 2 Mostowa Str. in the Jewish District, Kazimierz (at this address also the society Nossei Massu for support of orphans and widows had their seat and a prayer place). The business was also to restore old furniture. Chaim and Mechel employed three more persons: a cabinet-maker, an upholsterer and a selling woman, who was Gusta Schwarzer, Adela’s eldest sister. Mechel often went for business trips to Katowice and Jaroslaw. Chaim Abend with his wife Mania (both from Jaroslaw) often stayed with the Schwarzers’ family at Wielicka Str. as they liked children but had none of their own.

Malka Beila Tennenbaum-Schwarzer was daughter to Adela Feder, third wife of Mendel Tennenbaum. Mechel Schwarzer was son to Izak and Gitla, and he had sister Bronia and two brothers of unknown names. Mendel died in September 1939 and was buried at the Jewish cemetery in Podgórze (in 1942 to be completely profaned and destroyed by the Nazis who used its ground as the territory of the forced labour camp in Plaszów and all the matsevot as building material for it).

As for the parents’ family: one of Mechel’s brothers was said to have migrated to the USA, but Adela did not remember his name.

Bronia Schwarzer (herself a match-maker) married one Liebermann. One of their sons was Henryk Liebermann, a painter, who married Lusia Steinfeld. They settled in Israel. One of Mendel Tennenbaum’s grandsons, son to Malka Beila’s half-brother, cousin to Adela, was Leibek (Leon) Erez-Tennenbaum, born in Grodzisko Dolne. The latter was boss at the Fromowicz – big delicatessen store at 28 Krakowska Str. at Kazimierz which imported goods from all over the world. In 1972 he was still alive – living in Israel. His wife was Bina, his sons are Gershon and Mordechaj. His brother, Izak Tennenbaum, married before the WW II and left for the USA, where he had a chocolate factory (he soon died, however).

Here are Adela’s siblings: IZAK Schwarzer (b. 1919), GUSTA Schwarzer (b. 1921), HELENA Schwarzer (b. 1925), REGINA Schwarzer (b. 1926), SAMUEL Schwarzer (b. 1928), AMALJA Schwarzer (b. 1930). (Their photos follow at the end.)

Izak was a car mechanic, Gusta – a seller in Mechel’s shop, Helena was a tailor: she had learned her profession at the secondary school of the Jewish society, Ognisko Pracy (“Labour Society”, 7 Skawiñska-Boczna Str.). Amalia was born at the Jewish Hospital at 8 Skawiñska-Boczna. She was so weak after her birth that doctors said she would not survive – and, yet, when Adela saw her youngest sister last, she was a teenager.

Adela attended the Polish grammar school – Szkola Ludowa (“Folk School”) – close to their house at Wielicka Street. Later, she was learning her profession at a Jewish modiste’s shop at Floriañska Str. (one Hela). One day in 1930’s she was to deliver hats within the neighbourhood of the university. She remembered being chased then by a pack of students who were shouting: “Jews to Palestine!
Let’s ‘have’ the Jewess!”

The Schwarzers under the Nazi occupation in Kraków

With the Nazi occupation (which started in Kraków on September 6th, 1939) a number of restrictions were applied to Jewish inhabitants, which among others concerned moving around some areas of Kraków. The Jewish modiste’s shop at Floriañska was closed. Soon, in November 1939, the Kraków Jews – under a death sentence – were demanded to wear a white band with a blue star of David on their arm.

Adela remembers that all inhabitants had to queue for bread since 4 am throughout a major part of the day. And then it could happen that a Nazi came with dogs to expel all Jews from the queue. She herself was pushed out of a queue by the Nazis many times, being kicked and whipped or smashed with a stick.

Many times Adela was taken to forced labour such as washing, cleaning and cutting wood for the Schutzpolizei who were stationed at Robotnicza Str. – close to the Schwarzers’ house. Once (still by the end of 1939) the Nazis detained Adela for a longer time at their camp. Her father Mechel knew and was upset about it, fearing that she had been raped. But Mechel had a gift of conversation – he came to the policeman with a nice chat and was let in. The talk was about the Nazi’s business
in his heimat, which was a small bankrupt photo shop. Finally, the German apologized for keeping Adela at work too long and he released her.

The first deportations of Jews, part of the Nazi plan to “purify the old German city Kraków”, started in 1940. At the first stage (from May 18th till August 15th), the families designed for being deported had a possibility to choose a living place outside Kraków. The rest of Jewish residents became listed by the Jewish Community in Kraków at the command of the Germans. These Protokolls remain at the Jewish Historical Institute at Warsaw (the Protokolls for Adela and Helena are dated August 28th, the one for Izak – September 8th; cf p.5).

The files of the Stadtshauptman Stadts Krakau contain, among others, lists of Jews designed for deporting from Kraków on 5-6.12.1940, 24 and 31.01.1941, and 4 & 17.02.1941. The deported were made to come to a transition camp in a post-Austrian stronghold at 1 Mogilska Street. Every person was allowed to take 25 kg of luggage. One was to leave the keys to one’s apartment at the caretaker. All in all, from November 1940 till the end of March 1941 the Nazis deported over 8000 Jews from Kraków.

The Stadsthauptmann files also include Jewish appeals to withdraw that decision. Among them, we find two applications (the latest dated January 16th, 1941) and a medical certificate of Adela’s mother, Malka Beila, requesting the district chief to let her family stay as she suffered from a serious heart disease and required constant care, not being able to move by herself, and, naturally, was totally dependent on her family’s work and earnings. We also find a certificate by a German RAVO company, testifying that it is employing Mechel Schwarzer, who is needed by them.

The Schwarzers were one of the last Jewish families deported. Mechel was the first: according to the transport list kept at the US Holocaust Museum at Washington, he was taken to Rzeszów on March 1st, 1941 (and March 3rd was the date of the regulation ordering the establishment of the “Jewish living quarter in Podgórze”, ie, the ghetto.) Adela remembered that the rest of her family had
joined Mechel later. Their property remained in the house at Wielicka Street. And here is Adela’s recollection of her farewell to her family house: their Polish neighbours are kicking their scanty luggage and shouting: “Away with
them! Go to Palestine!”

Later Regina made trips to Kraków to bring clothes and other necessary things from their house, which was inhabited by the son of their servant, Anna Urbaniak – Roman. Owing to Anna, Adela regained her family photos after the WW II, which the lady sent her to Sweden…

In the occupied Rzeszów – until the liquidation of the ghetto

In Rzeszów, they lived at 14 Ga³êzowski Street (one level houses that exist no longer) with another Jewish family of four persons – together 13 persons in one room and a kitchen. The Schwarzer parents died in May 1941 – Malka from heart disease on 27th, Mechel from typhoid on 29th (cf the unique Jewish death records in the State Archives and USC office in Rzeszów). Maybe their burial places could be identified in the new Jewish cemetery at Czekaj district as the locations are known, but the map of the cemetery cannot be found at the moment… And a major part of the grave stones were used by the Nazi to pave Chopin Street…

The children were moved to 1 Szpitalna, part of which soon became the “smaller ghetto” (which was liquidated first). Adela remembers Nazis coming with dogs to the market place on Fridays. Their task was to catch some Jews – for the city to be “cleaned” – but they did not dare select the victims: they left it to the dogs. The Jew who was sniffed by the dog was taken for elimination.

As it is known from the history of the Holocaust in Rzeszów, its ghetto was closed on January 10th, 1942, with 12,5 thousand Rzeszów Jews inside, who in June were joined by a similar number of Jews from the vicinity. 19 years’ old Adela was included in a forced labour group who worked at the local railway station. Her work was to unload wagons with coal, wood and sand. She also dug ditches, helping one tall woman, Jewish professor who could not manage with her job.

In the spring of 1942, Adela together with her forced labour group was sent by the Nazi to work at Biesiadka camp. SHE NEVER SAW HER SISTERS AND BROTHERS AGAIN. A gleam of hope was sustained in Adela after the War as some women from Rzeszów who came to Czêstochowa labour camp told her that her youngest sister Amalia had hidden from the Nazi in a litter-box during the

What happened in Rzeszów in the succeeding months is supposed to be the climax and focus of this story because then the fates of the Schwarzer siblings were determined, and of them we know nothing.

Various sources give varying numbers and places of exterminations. Here is knowledge that all of them agree about: the Jews of Rzeszów and those brought to the Rzeszów ghetto from the surroundings were exterminated following a number of deportations which started in July 1942.

All deported groups were marched to the Staroniwa railway station at Rzeszów. From there they reached two possible destinies: they were murdered either at the Belzec death camp or at the Forest near Glogów Malopolski (some call it Rudna Forest). The number given for the Jews killed at Belzec in the July action is 14 000.

In his unique diary, Stanislaw Kotula writes that the Glogów Forest was the place of extermination of mainly elderly and sick Jews. The number given for those victims varies from 2 to 6 thousand. On August 7th, the remaining women with the children were gathered (by a Nazi deceit) and brought to Pelkina, and later to Belzec (more than 1000).

On November 15th, 1942, there was another extermination transport to Belzec of 2000 Jews. It left ca 3000 Jews in the southern ghetto, which now became divided into ghetto A, east to Baldachowska Str., with forced labour workers, and ghetto B, west to Baldachowska, called by the prisoners schmeltzgetto (“melting ghetto”) – ie, ghetto for Jews designated for death. The latter were all taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau and perished in the gas chambers in September 1943. Between September 1943 and July 1944 the force labour prisoners were also sent to Auschwitz, some of them escaped and hid until the liberation, some survived Auschwitz. Some of them, after being moved to Szebnie forced labour camp in September 1943, were shot at Dobrucowa forest.

The historical description allows for a hypothesis that the older of the Schwarzer siblings could be selected for forced labour, just as Adela, which gave more chance of survival. Especially the final group of ghetto A had successful escapes. Some of the slave workers of the aircraft motor factory of Luftwaffe in Rzeszów survived because its private owner cared about the stability of his working team, consisting of 150 Jews (cf I. Rubinfeld in: A. Potocki, p. 168). The children could escape or be hidden – and the world knows of many such miracle stories...

May Izak, Gusta, Helena, Regina, and the youngest Samuel (who was 14 in 1942) and Amalia (who was 12 in 1942) – have had more luck than the 6 million Jews murdered at the Shoah?

Adela Schwarzer's story of her work at the Nazi forced labour camps

At Biesiadka, Adela was among the prisoners who were commanded to cut down the woods. Adela recollected: “My boss was a small fat German who always wore civil clothes and a little green hat with a feather. When we arrived, we found there were a lot of vermin, and we became all covered with insects all over our bodies. To live, we had to eat a kind of potato soup. There was a lot of sand in it. We were guarded by volksdeutschers, a Polish man and a Ukrainian. If we tried to straighten up our backs, we were battered with a stick. When I lost consciousness once, I had to be lying on the ground until I regained consciousness by myself. No one was allowed to help me. A number of times I saw sick people who had to dig their own graves. After that they were shot...”

Since February 1943 she stayed at the forced labour camp at Huta Komorowska. “There, I also had to cut down woods. I did not have proper clothes, so my hands and feet were frozen. We survived on garbage and potato peels, and a lot of similar stuff. The barracks were full of vermin – due to this we suffered day and night; our fight with the insects was really exhaustive. There were no beds, we slept on a very cold floor. I got sick with typhoid. My health was still very bad when I was forced to do my physical work as usual. The food was very, very bad. During the nights, we had to be standing outside the barracks in attention for many hours. During that time, the kapo threatened to shoot us or send us away. He beat us with his gun.”

Next, Adela was sent to the Plaszów camp at Kraków. The prisoners wore clothes with numbers. Their work consisted in sowing buttons to Nazi uniforms. The succeeding camp – since October 1943 – was Skarzysko-Kamienna, where they had to work in an ammunition factory. Adela was compelled to work at a drilling machine for a 12 hours’ shift. The work was very straining and because of exhaustion she once fell asleep at a machine, and was woken up by a volksdeutsch woman who poured water on her. They were fed only once a day, and during the meal they had to be standing at the machines. During that work Adela was terribly wounded by the machine. She was operated; a blood infection followed. After the operation the wound was not sown up, with the result that, for the rest of her life, the hurt finger was not working properly.

Since August 1944 Adela was working at Czêstochowa, at another ammunition factory. The boss of her shift was a German, one Winter. She was beaten up many times there. “They beat me even because of my being sick in the stomach and leaving for toilet. Once a machine got broken, when I was operating it. I was taken to the guard – Herr Winter was also there. They laid me on a table and Winter ordered a man to whip me until my whole body was blue. When this molesting was over, I was compelled to go and thank Winter that he had been so kind and had not given me more hits.”

At the Czêstochowa camp Adela attempted an escape. She managed to get out of the camp and reach some peasants. She bought bread from them for the golden ring she had in her dress sown to it for that occasion. But… she came back to the labour camp, and shared the bread with her companions. She wouldn’t know how to survive outside…

Finally, in January 1945 (when the Red Army was close), the prisoners were transported to the last camp – Bergen-Belsen. “First, we were sent to Buchenwald by a goods train – without windows or toilet, without food – and this lasted for a number of days. We were in a really bad condition when we reached Buchenwald. There we changed wagons, and they sent us to Bergen-Belsen. When we arrived, we had to be queuing for inspection for many hours. In the camp there was very little to eat and for the last period hardly any water. For a short time, I was taken for cutting woods. If we didn’t do our work as expected, we were beaten.”

After the Liberation – the wonderful survival and the never-ending search

“When we were liberated by the Allies in April 1945, I was in such a bad shape that I didn’t know what was happening to me or around.” Indeed, she was thrown on a mount of dead people, and she really owes her life to a her Jewish co-prisoner, Betty (now married Goldberg, living in Israel), who informed the British troops about her. Adela was taken to 81 BR General Hospital. When she got better, she was sent from the transit centre in Lubeck, Germany, to Sweden by the Swedish Red Cross (Folke Bernadotte’s “White Buses”) on the ship SS “Ronnkaer”, on July 16th, 1945. She arrived in Malmö on the next day.

In Malmö, the Swedish Red Cross considered Adela so weak that they took her in for quarantine in a hospital for four weeks. Later some of Bergen-Belsen survivors were sent to Baggå as convalescents. They were offered work at ASEA (now ABB) in Västerås, which they accepted with deep joy.

Since that time Adela Schwarzer was searching for her brothers and sisters – without success but never loosing hope, which “is the last to die”… Memory of them sustained her through all that horrible and was recurring day and night ever since.

These are Izak, Gusta, Helena, Regina, Samuel and Amalia Schwarzer (see the photos of the Schwarzer siblings below).

Izak Schwarzer Helena Schwarzer
Izak Schwarzer
born 1919
Gusta Schwarzer
born 1921
Helena Schwarzer
born 1925
Regina Schwarzer Samuel Schwarzer Amalia Schwarzer
Regina Schwarzer
born 1926
Samuel Schwarzer
born 1928
Amalia Schwarzer
born 1930


written by Violetta Reder on the basis of Adela Schwarzer’s recollections put down by her husband Gösta and son Jan, and of the authors’ own contacts with Adela

Contact information: home page:

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2. BREITOWICZ Jakob, Through Hell to Life, New York, 1983.
. DUDA Eugeniusz, The Jews of Kraków, Kraków 1999.
4. HERZOG Henry Armin, And Heaven Shed No Tears, Madison 1998.
5. KOTULA Stanislaw, Losy Zydów rzeszowskich 1939-1944. Kronika tamtych dni (The Fates of the Rzeszów Jews. A Chronicle of those Days), Rzeszów 1999.
6. PIECH Stanislaw, W cieniu Kosciolów i synagog. Zycie religijne miedzywojennego Krakowa 1918-1939 (In the Shadow of Churches and Synagogues. Religious Life of Kraków between the Wars 1918-1939), Kraków 1999.
7. POTOCKI Andrzej, Zydzi
w Podkarpackiem (Jews in the Subcarpathian District), Rzeszów 2004.
8. SALTON George Lucius, The 23rd Psalm. A Holocaust Memoir, Madison 2002.
9. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, New York 1990 after: