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Margot Schwarzschild Wicki papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2006.464.1

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    Margot Schwarzschild Wicki papers

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    The Margot Schwarzschild Wicki papers contain documents and photographs relating to her family’s stay at the Gurs and Rivesaltes camps, and their eventual rescue by the Swiss Red Cross. These documents are primarily identification papers, including certificates of internment, baptism and vaccination documents, and identity cards. The material from the Schwarzschild’s time with the Swiss Red Cross includes invitations to join, correspondence, and a bound hand-book given by the children to the Elsa Ruth. The post-war documents include return visits that Margot made to Gurs, and an anniversary ceremony in Kaiserslautern, her birthplace. Also included are various photographs of the Schwarzschild family and Kaiserslautern.

    The Margot Schwarzschild Wicki papers contain documents and photographs from her family’s time in Gurs and Rivesaltes internment camps, and their subsequent stay with the Swiss Red Cross. Other material in this collection include items from Margot’s return visit to Kaiserslautern and Gurs decades later. The official documents are primarily for identification and verification purposes, including certificates of internment, baptism and vaccination papers, and identification cards. The baptism certificate was awarded after convincing authorities that Luisi, Margot and Hannelore were Catholic, thus sparing them from deportation to Auschwitz. The documents pertaining to the Schwarzschild’s time with the Swiss Red Cross include correspondence received from both Margot’s paternal and maternal grandmothers, and Simon Salzmann, who lived with Margot during the war. Other items include mission orders for Luisi, the invitation for the children to return to school in Pringy, and a hand-bound notebook created by the schoolchildren at Pringy, and given to their Director Elsa Ruth for her birthday. Also included is a song card, which has the lyrics to one of the many songs the children sang while at school. The post-war documents include copy prints for art drawn by Freidel Reiter (Bohny) and inspired by the sights she saw at Gurs internment camp. Other material are documents relating to a commemoration in 2000 of the anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Kaiserslautern, and photos from the Gurs memorial that was erected after the war. A letter recommending Friedel Bohny-Reiter and August Bohny for inclusion to Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations. The photographs include portraits of the Schwarzschild family, and of Kaiserslautern before the war. Of particular note is the photographs of Luisi’s first communion, which was crucial in convincing authorities at Gur that her family was not Jewish and escaping deportation to Auschwitz.
    inclusive:  1941-2003
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Margot Schwarzschild Wicki
    Collection Creator
    Margot S. Wicki
    Margot Schwarzschild was born on November 20, 1931, in Kaiserslautern, Germany, to a Jewish father, Richard, born on December 12, 1898, in Kaiserslautern, and a Catholic mother, Aloisia (Luisi) Keim. She had an older sister, Hannelore, born on March 21, 1929. They lived a comfortable middle class life. In 1938, the sisters were no longer allowed to attend their public school because they were Jewish. During the Kristallnacht pogrom that November 8-9, her father was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp, though eventually he was released.
    On October 22, 1940, the Gestapo came to the home and told the family that they could each pack one suitcase; they were being deported. The family, which also included her eighty year old paternal grandmother, Settchen Schwarzschild, was sent to Gurs internment camp in France. The family was separated, as men were housed apart from the women and children. The barracks were overcrowded and infested with vermin, and Margot remembers always being hungry. When some teenagers were caught smuggling food into the camp, her father was accused of being involved and sent to prison in Pau. He was released in March 1941 and the family was sent to Rivesaltes camp near Perpignan. In November, relief workers with the Red Cross affiliated Secours Suisse aux Enfants [Swiss Aid to Children] arranged to have the girls sent to the Pringy children’s home, but they had to return to Rivesaltes that summer. Following the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, the camps began the systematic deportation of Jews from France. On September 4, 1942, Margot’s father was deported on convoy 29 to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Their grandmother was sent to Noe internment camp near Toulouse. Margot, Hannelore, and Luisi were to be deported as well. But Luisi had packed the family photograph album in her suitcase and she was able to use the photograph of her Catholic communion ceremony to prove to the camp authorities that she was not Jewish. One of the nurses with Secours Suisse, Friedel Reiter (later Bohny-Reiter) was able to get the girls and their mother released. The girls were sent back to the children’s home in Pringy and their mother was given a job at a nearby Secours Suisse home in Cruseilles. Margot and Hannelore joined her there the following year. Their grandmother was transferred to La Guiche, a sanatorium/concentration camp and died soon after her arrival on March 7, 1944.
    After the end of the war in May 1945, Luisi and her daughters moved to Switzerland. She and her husband had selected the Secours Suisse office in Bern as their rendezvous point before his deportation. It became clear that he was not coming to meet them and they later learned that he had been killed at Auschwitz. On October 22, 1946, they returned to Kaiserslautern. The sisters finished their schooling: Margot became an interpreter and Hannelore, a kindergarten teacher. In 1952, Hannelore married Franz Wicki. In 1956, Margot married his brother, Josef, and they settled in his native Switzerland.

    Physical Details

    German French English
    17 folders
    System of Arrangement
    The Margot Schwarzschild Wicki papers are arranged as four series:
    •Series 1: Official documents, 1941-1951
    •Series 2: Swiss Red Cross, 1942-1946
    •Series 3: Post-war, 1942-2000
    •Series 4: Photographs, 1927-2003

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The collection was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2006 by Margot Schwarzschild Wicki.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-02 08:52:41
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