"The Other Holocaust:" Colorado Springs man discusses surviving two concentration camps

Gene Schwarz Family
Posted at 7:37 AM, Jan 31, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-31 09:40:30-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — "He came at me, he clubbed me, and kicked me into the shower," Holocaust survivor Gene Schwarz said as he described what a Nazi guard did to him at a concentration camp. "That's the last time I walked for a year and a half."

82-year-old Gene Schwarz still carries the physical and emotional scars from his time as a prisoner at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. He was only 2 years old when his family was sent there by the Nazi regime. The guard's blow to his head left him paralyzed and with a permanent indentation on his skull.

"I was disabled at Auschwitz, it was Birkenau, and then we were transferred to Neumarkt to which was one of the Dachau satellite camps," Schwarz said.

It's his first memory and his only one from the two concentration camps where he was a prisoner.

"For years I had flashbacks of the guard getting up from this gray metal desk and grabbing a club and coming at me," he said.

Wedding of Gene Schwarz

Schwarz was born in 1941 in an area that was then part of Poland. As a Roman Catholic Polish family, they were targeted by Hitler too. It's why he calls his story, "The Other Holocaust."

"There were probably 7 million Poles that died in the concentration camps," Schwarz said.

He recounts what happened to him with the help of his family in his book "The Other Holocaust." He calls Hitler "the greatest robber."

"He stole the land, he stole the wealth of the Jewish people, he stole their lives, he stole from everybody," Schwarz said.

The book cover shows the haze of the smoke from the crematoriums at Auschwitz.

"The prevailing winds would have this smell of burning flesh constantly," he said.

The words below the title in German say "Arbeit Macht Frei" which means "work makes you free."

"That was the biggest scam, the biggest joke, because if you worked in the concentration camp the women got 575 calories a day and the men got 725 calories a day," he said. "At that rate, you could work two years and then you died."

There was no freedom, and all basic needs were taken away. A shower was only allowed every three weeks.

"I apparently had heard people talking about people dying in showers and I refused to go in," Schwarz recalled. "I screamed and hollered and the guard wouldn't have any of it."

Left paralyzed by the guard, the young Schwarz was unfit for any job at the concentration camp. His disability almost cost his family their lives too, especially when the Nazis eventually allowed a farmer to take them away to work for him instead.

"(The farmer) came by, he pointed to my father, my mother, my brother, and then he went like this (waving his hand "no" at me) and my mother told him in perfect German, because she was fluent in several languages, 'If you don't want him, we don't want to go either.' So he decided to take us."'

That same farmer actually ended up saving their lives twice, Schwarz said. A few months after Auschwitz was liberated in 1945, the Germans tried to pick up former concentration camp inmates. The farmer hid Schwarz and his family for three days under seven layers of hay in the loft of his barn.

"We were right against the floorboard, we could hear the SS threatening him below us and we were breathing through the cracks," Schwarz recalled. "(The farmer) said, 'What do you expect? They heard the machine gun fire, they figured you were shooting them and they ran away.' Well, they finally let him go and three days later the Americans arrived and they set up their headquarters across the street in a garage."

That's when the Schwarz family knew they were finally free. They spent the next four years in an allied refugee camp in Germany before heading to the United States, a country to which he says he owes his life.

"I've lived the American dream, I've been the chief administrative officer over an international company, I've been a management consultant, I've had success even more than I deserve but it's all part of God's miracle," Schwarz said.

A big part of that miracle is his wife Rosemarie. The couple has been married for 60 years, a love founded on a determination to love each other and others well.

"We are all God's children and we should treat each other with respect, kindness and generosity because if you don't, how can you be happy," Rosemarie said.

"How can I be sad. You know? I'm alive," Schwarz said. "We often forget the miracles that we are given. If you've recognized the miracles you've been given you have to have a sense of joy."

Simple lessons from a man who knows exactly what the power of hate and love can do.

"Love life, love God, love each other," Schwarz said.

"The Other Holocaust" is available for purchase on Amazon here.

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, calculating the exact number of individuals who were killed as a result of Nazi policies and actions is an impossible task. The museum saidthere is no single wartime document that spells out how many people were killed.

Historians estimate that approximately 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, and another 1.8 million were non-Jewish Polish civilians.

The Other Holocaust: Local man discusses surviving two concentration camps