BILLINGS – A holocaust survivor shared her story Monday at the Billings West High auditorium.
Following World War II, Agnes Schwartz, a Hungarian Jew, emigrated to the United States.
How she got to America is a story of tragedy and sacrifice.
The year was 1933. That year, Schwartz was born in Budapest, Hungary. At the same time, Adolf Hitler started his rise to power, becoming the chancellor of Germany.
As a child, Schwartz was raised under the constant threat of Nazi rule.
Years later she was separated from her mother and father, learning later that her mother died in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.
After her mother had died, and her father was still at an unknown work camp, Schwartz’s Catholic nanny, Julia, took her in.
Julia sheltered Schwartz in the basement of her apartment as the Allies were bombing Budapest. According to Schwartz, Soviet and German forces were also fighting in Budapest at that time.
After the war, she was eventually reunited with her father and the two of them moved to the U.S.
Schwartz, now 86, travels the country sharing her message about the Holocaust. That message: Never again.
“That’s what I’m hoping to do,” Schwartz said. “By telling young people, especially the young people, my life story so that they take at least a couple sentences home with them. And tell somebody that today they met a Holocaust survivor. And yes it did happen, and don’t ever let anybody tell you that it never happened.”
Schwartz believes the Holocaust will remain alive in people’s memories as long as survivors can tell their stories. Unfortunately, according to The International March of The Living, the estimated number of Holocaust survivors living in The United States in 2016 is about 140,000. That number is expected lower over time.
“Unfortunately my generation is dying out,” said Schwartz. “Within the next few years, there won’t be any live speakers anymore.”
Schwartz is involved with the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center continuing to share her story.
There’s more to Agnes Schwartz’s story. She published her memoir, “A Roll of the Dice,” in 2018.
Reporting by Mitch Lagge for MTN News