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January 28, 2012

the remarkable story of Leslie Schwartz who survived Auschwitz and Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:48 am

I have blogged twice in the past about the remarkable story of Holocaust survivor Leslie Schwartz here and here. A reader of my blog, Marc Bonagura, who has his own blog Talking Weeds made a comment on my blog and provided a link to his blog. This blog post on Talking Weeds is also about Leslie Schwartz.

I have done some research on the Internet about the story of Leslie Schwartz, who is a cousin of Tony Curtis, and here are the highlights of his remarkable story:

Leslie Schwartz was born in 1930 in a small village in Hungary that had a population which was one third Jewish, mostly Hasidic or Orthodox Jews.  In 1943, when the Germans came into Hungary, the Jews were deprived of their Hungarian citizenship; at the age of 13,  Leslie was sent, along with the rest of his family, to the Ukraine.  In 1944, they were brought back and sent to a ghetto in Hungary, from which they were transported in May 1944 to Auschwitz in cattle cars.

Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944

According to Schwartz’s own account, when he arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau at the age of 14, he was sent to the children’s barrack where there were “kids” under the age of 15 who were waiting to be killed in the “crematoriums.”  All of these “kids”  were killed, according to Schwartz, but he survived because, after 10 days in the children’s camp, he asked his friend Sandor Grosz to allow him to sneak into the adult barracks. This saved his life because he was able to join the adults on a transport train out of Auschwitz.  Schwartz says that Sandor is the reason that he is living today. 

The other children had been in the children’s barracks “for a few weeks” and they were laughing and playing, not knowing that they would soon be killed.  But Leslie Schwartz knew that “something was wrong,” so he got out of that barrack; he survived but all the other “kids” were killed.  According to an interview that he gave to Harold Channer, all the “kids” in the barrack were killed in the “crematorium.”  How does he know this?  Everybody knows that children under the age of 15 were gassed at Auschwitz.

Hungarian children on their way to the gas chamber

Schwartz was sent to Dachau with the adults, and then sent to various sub-camps of Dachau, including Mühldorf and Allach.

Almost one half of all the Jews that were killed at Auschwitz were Hungarian Jews who were gassed within a period of 10 weeks in 1944. Up until the Spring of 1944, it had been the three Operation Reinhard camps at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor, that were the main Nazi killing centers for the Jews, not Auschwitz.

At the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, the incoming prisoners, who were allowed to live, were first held for 6 to 8 weeks in the Quarantine barracks to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Pictured below is sector BIIa, the Quarantine camp at Birkenau, taken from the tower of the gate house in October 2005.

Quarantine barracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Quarantine barracks are the first buildings on the north side of the main camp road, located next to the Gate of Death. They have been preserved and can still be seen by tourists today.

It is not clear to me whether Leslie Schwartz was ever put into the quarantine barracks or whether he was sent immediately to the children’s barracks.  Usually, incoming prisoners who were going to be transferred out of Auschwitz were not given an Auschwitz identification number.  Leslie Schwartz has an Auschwitz ID number: 71253.  Prisoners who were destined for the gas chamber were not given an ID number at Auschwitz, but Schwartz was given a number and then sent to the children’s barracks where all the children were waiting to be killed in the gas chamber.

Schwartz has written a book Living Through Hell and a documentary of his story is being made by a German film maker.  He has been on the lecture circuit in Germany, talking to students in 17 German high schools in six months.  He also does a presentation to 9-year-old children in Germany.  Leslie Schwartz suffered for a year, at the hands of the Nazis, but he’s not bitter.

In an interview with Harold Channer, which you can see on YouTube, Schwartz said that when the Jews were sent to the Ukraine in 1943, there was a river and “the purpose of that river” was that the Germans “put you on a boat and opened the bottom,” so that all the Jews drowned.

Channer, who said that he is 76 years old, could not understand the reason for anti-Semitism.  He kept asking, with regard to the Jews: “What’s not to like?” and “Where does anti-Semitism come from?”  Both Channer and Schwartz said that the Jews in Hungary were intellectuals.  Channer asked:  “Was there anti-intellectual prejudice” among the Christians?  Or jealousy?

Finally, Schwartz explained the reason that the Nazis hated the Jews:  Hitler had syphilis — and it went to his brain.

7 Comments

  1. Dear Leslie Schwartz,
    My father’s side of the family is from Porscalama, Hungary. He was the oldest and only survivor of 4 siblings. During the Holocaust, my father Miklos, lost a young brother named Laci, a name that today would be Leslie Schwartz.. His parents, Golda (Katz) and Jeno Schwartz, survived the war. I wonder if there is by some miracle, a connection?
    On my maternal side we Grosz from Csenger/Satumar region.

    Comment by Elisabeth Gelb — February 5, 2013 @ 5:01 pm

    • i hope someone answered you, Elisabeth Gelb. In looking at Leslie’s book,, his mother’s name was Malvin and his dad died before the war and he only had sister Judith and I think a step sister later.

      Comment by Chris — October 6, 2015 @ 8:35 pm

  2. I really don’t know why you write blogs like this. It is not enlightening; it doesn’t teach us anything; it just retells these preposterous stories one more time. I would much rather read a far more critical analysis of this person and his tale. It would not make you a holocaust denier at all … just someone reading critically and asking questions.

    Comment by Sceptic — January 28, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

    • It would not make you a holocaust denier at all … just someone reading critically and asking questions

      Fair enough.

      Problem is, the you-know-who beg to differ.

      They being so powerless, we have nothing to fear, of course.

      Comment by Eager for Answers — January 28, 2012 @ 11:50 pm

    • Apparently, you missed the point that I was trying to make. I have not read the book written by Leslie Schwartz, but all the news articles about him mentioned that he had an Auschwitz ID number. These numbers were tattooed on the arm of the prisoners, but I don’t know if Schwartz has a tattoo. According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website, “During the Holocaust, concentration camp prisoners received tattoos only at one location, the Auschwitz concentration camp complex, which consisted of Auschwitz I (Main Camp), Auschwitz II (Auschwitz-Birkenau), and Auschwitz III (Monowitz and the subcamps). Incoming prisoners were assigned a camp serial number which was sewn to their prison uniforms. Only those prisoners selected for work were issued serial numbers; those prisoners sent directly to the gas chambers were not registered and received no tattoos.”

      Schwartz says that he was only at Auschwitz for ten days and that time was spent in the children’s barrack, where children younger than 15 were waiting to be gassed. I have not read anything about him spending any time in the Quarantine barrack; he was sent directly to the barracks where children were waiting to be gassed, yet he had an Auschwitz ID number: 71253 with no letter A in front of the number.

      Again, we can go to the USHMM web site where the ID numbers are explained: “In order to avoid the assignment of excessively high numbers from the general series to the large number of Hungarian Jews arriving in 1944, the SS authorities introduced new sequences of numbers in mid-May 1944. This series, prefaced by the letter A, began with “1” and ended at “20,000.” Once the number 20,000 was reached, a new series beginning with “B” series was introduced. Some 15,000 men received “B” series tattoos. For an unknown reason, the “A” series for women did not stop at 20,000 and continued to 30,000.” The USHMM does not mention any numbers starting with the number 7, but with no letter. Schwartz arrived at Auschwitz in May 1944, so he should have an A in front of his ID number.

      As the USHMM website points out, only those prisoners selected for work were issued serial numbers. Schwartz implies that he was selected for gassing, but he was saved by sneaking into the adult barracks and going on a transport to Dachau. The men on this transport probably didn’t have ID numbers because these numbers were not given to the men who were immediately transferred. Yet, the guards didn’t notice that Schwartz had a tattoo, and was not supposed to be on this transport.

      Comment by furtherglory — February 1, 2012 @ 10:23 am

  3. Is it some consolation to learn that, before being gassed, an 11 year-old child like Willi Stiasny at least enjoyed the food parcels he received from his family, who apparently did little else to save him.

    Did he manage to deceive Dr.Mengele by telling in a deep voice he was 16, and thus escape immediate gassing ?

    We’ll never know as he forgot to mention it in the postcard(s?) he sent from Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was a pure extermination camp.

    Comment by Eager for Answers — January 28, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

  4. Leslie Schwartz could be referring to the mass gassing of Jewish children described by Joseph Zalman Kleinman at the Eichmann trial

    “… Suddenly a shudder passed over the entire ground as if we had been struck by a electric shock. The “Angel of Death” appeared.

    Q. Who was that?

    A. Dr. Mengele appeared, riding his bicycle;”
    http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/e/eichmann-adolf/transcripts/Sessions/Session-068-02.html

    Comment by Black Rabbit — January 28, 2012 @ 4:58 pm


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