The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

Joseph Schwarzberg

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Born
June 17, 1926 Leipzig, Germany

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1968 Toronto

Joseph Schwarzberg is sixteen years old and living a dangerous double life — as a German Jew carrying false identity papers in France, he must constantly lie, constantly evade capture. Under threat since fleeing with his mother and sister from Germany after the violent attacks during Kristallnacht in 1938, Joseph and his family resolve to get as far from the Nazis as possible. After years in hiding and on the run, Joseph assumes the non-Jewish identity of nineteen-year-old Joseph-Jean Sarlat and bravely joins the underground resistance in France, fighting the Germans and sabotaging their war effort. Narrowly avoiding roundups of Jews and escaping from arrests and interrogations, Joseph lives with the daily dread of being discovered.

About Joseph

Joseph Schwarzberg was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1926. In 1945, Joseph and his family were part of the earliest legal Jewish immigrants to pre-state Israel. Joseph immigrated to Toronto in 1968, where he established his own business, Adina J. Fashions, in the garment industry. Joseph Schwarzberg lives in Toronto.

Photos and Artifacts

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    Joseph’s maternal grandmother. Poland, date unknown.

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    Joseph’s mother, Chava (Eva) Schwarzberg, with one of her brothers. Warsaw, Poland, 1920s.

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    Joseph’s father, Noach (Natan) Swieczka. Poland, date unknown.

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    Joseph’s father, Noach (left), with his brother. Poland, date unknown.

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    Joseph at age six in his school uniform. Leipzig, Germany, 1932.

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    Joseph with his mother, Chava Schwarzberg, and his father, Noach Swieczka. Leipzig, Germany, 1932.

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    Joseph and his sister, Lea. Leipzig, Germany, circa 1933.

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    Joseph’s class in the Jewish school. Joseph is in the second row, third from the left. Leipzig, Germany, circa 1935.

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    Joseph’s parents with their friends the Tomarkins. Joseph’s father, Noach, is in the front row, second from the left, and his mother, Chava, is in the back row, fifth from the left. Leipzig, Germany, circa 1936.

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    Joseph with his mother, Chava, and his sister, Lea. Leipzig, Germany, circa 1938.

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    Joseph. Brussels, Belgium, 1940.

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    Joseph with his friends from school in Leipzig. From left to right: Harry Grunbaum, Manny Hausman, Joseph. Brussels, Belgium, 1940.

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    Joseph. Brussels, Belgium, circa 1942.

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    Joseph with his mother, Chava, and his sister, Lea. Brussels, Belgium, circa 1942.

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    The agricultural school at the Château du Bégué where Joseph lived for about a year. From left to right: two residents of the château, names unknown; Joseph’s friends Ady and Henry Steg; Joseph. Cazaubon, France, circa 1942.

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    Joseph (right) with his friends Ady (left) and Albertine (centre) Steg at Château du Bégué. Cazaubon, France, circa 1942.

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    Joseph’s mother, Chava, after the war. Date and place unknown.

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    Joseph’s troops in the Negev. Palestine, circa 1947.

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    Joseph building fortifications during his army service in the Negev. Palestine, 1947.

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    Joseph building fortifications during his army service in the Negev. Palestine, 1947.

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    Joseph leading his troops. Palestine, circa 1947.

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    Joseph with his troops in the mountains at the Egyptian border. Israel, circa 1948.

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    Joseph (left) in Ma’aleh Akrabim. Israel, circa 1948.

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    Joseph and his wife, Schulamit, with their daughter, Eve. Israel, circa 1967.

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    From left to right: Joseph’s niece, Odine; his nephew, Ayal; his daughter, Eve; his sister, Lea; and his wife, Schulamit. Canada, circa 1972.

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    Joseph and his wife, Schulamit, featured in an article about their garment business, Adina J. Fashions. Toronto, circa 1980s.

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    Joseph’s seventieth birthday celebration. From left to right: Joseph’s sister, Lea; his wife, Schulamit; Joseph. Toronto, 1996.

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    Joseph and his wife, Schulamit. Toronto, 2002.

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    Joseph at his daughter Eve’s wedding. From left to right: Eve’s husband, Rob; Eve; Joseph; Joseph’s wife, Schulamit; Joseph’s grandson, Austin Knights; and Austin’s wife, Tereiss Oliver. Toronto, 2015.

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    On the boardwalk at The Beaches in Toronto. In back (left to right): Joseph’s granddaughter’s husband, Tomer; great-grandson Ori, on Tomer’s shoulders; granddaughter, Liat, holding great-granddaughter, Noa; Joseph’s daughter, Eve; Joseph; and his son-in-law, Rob. In front, Joseph’s wife, Schulamit. 2015.

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    Waiting for the ballet. From left to right: Joseph’s wife, Schulamit; Joseph’s son-in-law, Rob; Joseph’s daughter, Eve; and Joseph. Toronto, 2015.

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    Joseph with his wife, Schulamit; granddaughter, Liat; Liat’s husband, Tomer; and Joseph’s great-grandchildren Ori (left) and Noa (right). Rishon LeZion, Israel, 2016.

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    Joseph with his great-grandson Israel Reign Knights. Toronto, 2017.

The Book

Cover of Dangerous Measures

Dangerous Measures

The officer inspecting my papers addressed me in German and in response I convincingly faked my lack of understanding. I was relieved that I was able to calmly withstand my first test in the art of deception, as many more tests of my nerves were yet to follow.

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Dangerous Measures

Going Underground

One morning, as I was having my usual coffee and roll in the kitchen of the hotel, a fascist militiaman approached me. He told me who he was and advised me not to leave the hotel that day. I was completely bewildered. My mind raced as I considered whether or not he was deceiving me — what were his motivations? Was he stating the truth? I calmly responded that I didn’t see any reason why I should not leave the hotel. I did leave and walked about sixty to eighty metres when I was stopped and directed to go to a certain spot. The people assembled there were then taken in groups to a movie theatre nearby. We stood in line to be interrogated by a member of the French fascist militia. There were Jews in front of me in the line. Some were afraid to make use of their false papers or could not withstand the questioning, and when they were recognized as Jews, the beatings started without delay. The fascist thugs were relentless with their fists and boots. The louder the screams of protest, the more frenzied and monstrously violent they became.

It was my turn. The questioning went along in a quiet manner, though they insisted that I must have a Jewish parent or grandparent. My steadfast denial and insistence on the identity in my documents gave them some doubts, and they took me to a well-guarded bus with several others. I was taken to a jail where I was placed in a small cell. It was well into the evening when a priest was placed in my cell too. The priest immediately befriended me and started to curse the fascists. He also had some food with him and he offered me some; since I was very hungry, I accepted. We sat there together while he incessantly cursed the fascists. I smelled a provocation, so I interjected, defending them with the justification that they were only doing their job. He slept in the same cell as me that night, and in the morning he was removed. Once again I was questioned, but this time on the subject of anti-Vichy and anti-German activities. I applied my well-practised character of stupidity, and they feigned interest in my opinions on this topic. I had to sleep one more night in the solitude of the cell but was steadfast not to slip out of character.