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Word & Image: Sima Schwarz, 82

Russian Holocaust Survivor


To listen to an interview with Sima Schwarz, visit

Not a night, when I can not sleep, I think about it. How could something like that happen? And I say maybe if I would talk about it, I would feel different. I would not have heart problems. …  So who knows. So where should I begin?

Until 1941, Hitler and Stalin makes a pact: The Russians are taking the eastern side, and western side goes to the Germans. So, we lived under the Russian side. So when they came to us, we went a little bit to school. They did not persecute us, but my father had a store, and we had two homes, and they was taking away everything from us. We had a maid in the house, but it was taking away — the Russians didn't have any private industry.

So we didn't have any food, and we had to stay in line to get a piece of bread. So my sister lived under the Russians for two years. My older sister. And when Hitler breaks the pact in '41, the Russians pull out, and they take the students deep to Russia. So this older sister of mine was not killed.

But [long pause, voice breaking] in '41, when the Germans came to us, the very first thing they killed my father. They killed my mother.

'Til today I think about it. That's why I talk, why I'm going to talk to you. I'm not worried to walk there. I'm not worried to have food.

Especially what happens to you as a child, and it happens to you as you was a child. It's hard for me to come out and to tell you everything in detail, what really happened. To be molested by the Germans, because you are scum. You are not a human being. — as told to Chris Dovi; photographed by Scott Elmquist

Sima “Simone” Schwarz was born in 1927, at least according to records from her immigration to the United States. During World War II, she was held in at least five Nazi concentration camps, including Bergen-Belsen and Dachau. Her parents, two sisters and a brother died in the Holocaust. A sister survived on the Soviet side of the border.

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