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Thursday, May 26, 2016
Spitting in a vial to find the past
(Page 2 of 4)
Howard Schwach

The Schwach family lived in Kisvarda in Hungry for a long time. Many came to American in the late 1890s and early 1900s, but there were still a few people with that last name in the town when it was wiped out by Nazi storm troopers, along with locals who were all too ready to assist the Nazis during two days in the fall of 1943. While a number of Schwach’s were on the German manifests of those sent to the camps, only one was left after, according to Holocaust Center records. She went to Israel and her name soon disappeared from public view. Perhaps she died, perhaps she married, perhaps she moved on. For all I know, she might well live in the local area.

I have since learned that Kisvarda’s largest and most famous product and export was an alcoholic beverage akin to our moonshine liquor. I don’t know if any of my ancestors were in the trade, and I would probably have to go to Kisvarda and look up the record of arrests to find that out. I would love to do just that, but have never had the wherewithal to do that.

What is surprising to me is that the remainder of my DNA shows that I have non- Jewish ancestors in Spain, Portugal and Italy. No wonder I love pizza and spaghetti.

In any case, my ancestor’s travels to the new world were pretty standard by all accounts.

Samuel left his wife, Esther in Kisvarda in 1888 and came to New York City to make his fortune. He eventually founded two of the largest barber shops on the lower east side – one at 231 East Houston Street and the other at 285 Stanton Street. The Houston Street building still stands, but the Stanton Street building is now a parking lot.

Samuel and Esther had eleven children, none of whom came over with Samuel on the USS Noorland. Records show that he was berthed on the “eighth deck,” which most likely meant steerage.

My grandfather, Kalman, the oldest of their children, born in Hungary in1879.

Howard Schwach


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