Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

Kurt Schwarz papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2015.580.1

Search this record's additional resources, such as finding aids, documents, or transcripts.

No results match this search term.
Check spelling and try again.

results are loading

0 results found for “keyward

    Kurt Schwarz papers

    Please select from the following options:


    The Kurt Schwarz papers consist of correspondence, photographs, telegrams, and documents related to the immigration of Kurt Schwarz, originally of Vienna, Austria, to the United States by way of Italy and Cuba, 1938-1940; as well as extensive correspondence from his mother, Helene Schwarz, in Vienna, 1938-1941. Includes telegrams from the American theatrical producer, Billy Rose, as he sought to help Kurt Schwarz immigrate to the United States, 1938-1939. Also includes later correspondence with Idy Sherer, the daughter of Kurt Schwarz, as she researched the fate of her grandmother, Helene Schwarz.

    The Biographical series contains documents that primarily relate to Kurt Schwarz’s immigration to the United States by way of Cuba, as well as his marriage to Elsie Geduld. Included are travel documents, marriage certificates, a press pass, and a resume, all dated from 1939-1946. Also included are copies supplied to researcher Mark Cohen of Schwarz’s restitution case file, obtained from the Österreichisches Staatsarchiv in 2015, and documenting Schwarz’s case against the Austrian government, dating from 1962 to 1965.

    The Correspondence series consists largely of letters sent by Helene Schwarz to her son, following his departure from Austria in 1938, up until November 1941, which may have been the time of her deportation to Theresienstadt. The letters begin with discussions of Kurt’s emigration, Helene’s own desire and plans to do the same, and often contain descriptions of conditions for Jews in Vienna—such as new regulations regarding the addition of “Israel” and “Sara” to names, increasingly difficult economic circumstances, or the articles being published in the one remaining Jewish newspaper—as well as news about various family members, often with discussion of their own plans or attempts to emigrate. Included are descriptions of meetings with the family of her sister, Gisela, at the time when the latter’s daughter, Marion Stern Pilpel, was planning to immigrate with her family to India. Occasionally notes and greetings from other family members were included with Helene’s letters to her son, and many of Helene’s letters contain references to news mentioned in Kurt’s letters, in particular regarding his activities in Cuba and attempts to immigrate to the United States from there.

    Additional correspondence includes a file of material related to Billy Rose, including telegrams from Rose related to his efforts to assist with Schwarz’s immigration to the United States, and a letter from Helene Schwarz sent to Rose, and thanking him for his assistance to her son. Remaining correspondence includes letters that Kurt and Elsie Schwarz intended to send to Helene Schwarz in December 1941, and Kurt Schwarz’s efforts to locate his mother’s whereabouts and fate from late 1941 until 1945, including a letter addressed to the Red Cross in December 1941, and one received from an American acquaintance who had tried to help, in 1945. Later correspondence to Schwarz’s daughter, Idy Sherer, include letters from Yad Vashem, the Viennese magistrate’s office, and the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien, all related to Sherer’s attempts to trace the fate of her grandmother, 1998-2001.

    The Photographs series includes images of Kurt Schwarz, as a boy and young man with his mother and other relatives, as well as after his immigration, en route to and in Cuba. A photo of Helene Schwarz’s brother, Leo Klemperer, is included, as well as a photo of prints of Hitler and Mussolini in Rome, including one noted to have been taken at the Hotel Majestic, where Kurt Schwarz worked.

    The Research Files series consists of documents copied from other archival repositories, and obtained by Mark Cohen during the research and writing of Cohen’s book about the activities of Billy Rose in rescuing European Jews. Includes is a copy of the restitution file for Kurt Schwarz, obtained from the Österreichisches Staatsarchiv.
    inclusive:  1938-2001
    bulk:  1938-1941
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Idy Sherer
    Collection Creator
    Kurt Schwarz
    Kurt Schwarz (1917-1985) was born in Vienna, Austria on 19 May 1917, to Ludwig Schwarz (1886-1963) and Helene (née Klemperer) Schwarz (1893-1942). He was an only child, and his parents divorced in November 1936. His father subsequently remarried, and his second wife, Margo, and stepson, Fritz Thieberger, left Austria, initially for Denmark and England, before immigrating to the United States, where they settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

    At the time of the German annexation of Austria, Kurt Schwarz had been working as a clerk at the Hotel Bristol in Vienna, but he quit his job there in February 1938 and left for Rome, where he worked at the Hotel Majestic. Eventually, when the Fascist government in Italy began pressuring Jewish refugees to leave that country, Schwarz began to look for another country he could immigrate to.

    At this time, he sought to persuade his mother to join him, and to leave Vienna, but she was unable to do so. In late 1938, the American theatrical producer, Billy Rose, learned of Schwarz's plight, perhaps through another American entertainer who had met Schwarz while he was employed at the Hotel Majestic. Rose cabled that Schwarz would have a job waiting for him if he could get to New York, and he offered to pay for Schwarz's journey there. Schwarz left Italy for New York on 16 March 1939, but was not allowed to disembark, since he only possessed a transit visa. Rose was apparently unable to help him at this point, and sent Schwarz a telegram explaining that he was unable to come to Ellis Island, where Schwarz was detained, due to his busy rehearsal schedule. As a result, Schwarz sailed to Cuba, where he lived for the following year and a half, working on the staff of a German-Jewish newspaper published there, the Jüdische Rundschau. In December 1939, he married an American Jewish woman he had met in Cuba, Elsie Geduld, and following her return to New York, he set about obtaining a visa to the United States, which he subsequently did, joining his wife in New York in August 1940, when they were married in a Jewish ceremony in Elsie’s home town of Franklin Square, Long Island. The couple settled in New York and subsequently, Fair Lawn, New Jersey. During World War II, Schwarz, who was unable to join the United States armed forces, registered to serve in Civil Defense, which he did for many years, up to the 1960s. With a degree in business administration from an Austrian vocational school, he initially held supervisory and management positions in a number of retail stores in the New York area, and was later employed by the Surpradur Corporation in New York, a maker of cement and asbestos building materials, where he worked for over 30 years. Kurt Schwarz died in Fair Lawn, New Jersey on 7 March 1985. Some scholars, including Billy Rose’s biographer, Mark Cohen, assert that Saul Bellow’s 1989 novel, The Bellarosa Connection, which involves Billy Rose’s rescue of European Jews, was inspired by Kurt Schwarz’s story.

    As to Schwarz’s immediate family, his mother, Helene, remained in Vienna until her deportation in 1942. There is conflicting documentation that states she was either deported to Theresienstadt at that time, or to the Riga ghetto, and is presumed to have died on 3 November 1942. Her sister, Gisela, had married Moritz Stern, and had three children, Fritz, Marion, and Gerda. Fritz immigrated to Palestine, but his sister Marion had married Franz Josef Pilpel, and with their daughter Nina, left Austria for India in 1939, and subsequently immigrated to the United States. The remaining sibling, Gerda, remained with her parents in Vienna, and all three perished during the Holocaust.

    Physical Details

    1 box
    System of Arrangement
    The Kurt Schwarz papers are arranged in the following series, in alphabetic order by folder title: I. Biographical, II. Correspondence, III. Photographs, IV. Published materials. The correspondence is arranged in alphabetic order by correspondent, and then in chronological order.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Copyright to the correspondence of Helene Schwarz is in the public domain. Other material 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

    Geographic Name
    Cuba. Vienna (Austria) Austria.

    Administrative Notes

    Idy Sherer, the daughter of Kurt Schwarz, donated the Kurt Schwarz papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2015, with the assistance of Mark Cohen.
    Record last modified:
    2023-02-24 14:33:29
    This page: