Survivor Profiles: Agnes Schwartz
I am awed by the thought that my grandchildren will be able to bring their children to the museum and show them, “Grandma taught children like you about the Holocaust because she felt it was important for young people to know about it and confirm that it really happened.” I hope this museum will serve as an educational center to fight prejudice for many years to come.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, Agnes grew up during the Second World War. She lived in a “well-to-do” family as an only child and though her family was Jewish, Agnes attended an all-girls’ Catholic school. When the Germans invaded Hungary in March 1944, deportations began in the rural areas. Agnes’ grandparents lived in a rural area and sought safety with relatives in Budapest. Soon after, Agnes and her family were forced to wear the Yellow Star. They were moved from their apartment into a Jewish Designated Building (ghetto) and crammed into a dirty apartment. Agnes’s father lost his business and she could no longer attend school.
In November of 1944, a group of Nazi officers came to their building and ordered all men between the ages of 18 and 45 to lineup outside. Her father was taken away, and she had no idea if she would ever see him again. Later in the month, the Nazis repeated the act and seized all women within that same age group. The family’s former maid, Julia Balazs, took 11 year old Agnes in as her “niece”. Agnes changed her last name, learned the Rosary and passed herself off as a Christian. During months of Allied bombings, Agnes had to hide in an underground bunker.
In January 1947, Agnes and her father reunited and left for Chicago. However, within a year her father had returned to Hungary, leaving Agnes in the care of her aunt. Agnes still lives in the Chicago area, where she is an active volunteer with Illinois Holocaust Museum.