BUCHENWALD 63: Honoring My Father on Holocaust Memorial Day. Tags!

Help me honor a Jewish hero.

Robert SchwartzThis is the sixty third entry in a series I have written about my father’s  amazing photographs taken inside Buchenwald.  I am posting this to Facebook and would greatly appreciate any support or ideas about how to get these materials into the public domain.

It is now almost seven years after the death of my father, Dr. Robert Schwartz.  His story, one of many about Jewish heroes in WWII, has remained untold because of the actions of my brother, Hugh Schwartz and my father’s accountant,  Martin Miasserian.  Their offence?  As co-executors of my father’s estate they spent several years blocking any effort to find these pictures.  Then,  with help from Betty, my stepsister and my father’s wife,  I found the pictures.    Messers Schwartz and Miasserian blocked all efforts to have the materials properly preserved and digitized so they could be released to the public.  They have continued that effort and as of today the materials continue to decay in a box.
Let me retell the story of how these pictures were made.  During WWII my father, Dr. Robert Schwartz, was the commanding officer of a small medical company.  Prior to D Day, my dad had worked with Eisenhower as an expert in chemical warfare.  As a Jew and as a doctor, my father asked Eisenhower to be allowed to work directly with the invading army.  Robert was given the freedom to go where he and his men were needed.  Alongside the invading forces, the company arrived near Weimar before the discovery of Buchenwald. Along with other Americans, my Dad and his men entered the camp three days before the official entry. When General Patton arrived, the  American military already in the camp were ordered to leave.
Both Patton and Eisenhower  had issued orders restricting who could make photographs,  My father, however,  had an  Argus C3 and used this camera to record what he saw in the camp.  Finding a chemical shop nearby, Captain Schwartz developed the negatives, made prints wiht a “Rube Golderg” enlarger  and annotated each print with his feelings and messages to my mother and me.  My Dad printed  about 300 images, nt opnly of Buchewald but of his trip through Europe.  These should be precious objects, not just for my family, not just for my  two  children and Hugh’s daughter, or even for my 4 year old granddaughter,  but for everyone.
Sadly we have a family feud.  After my Dad’s death there was a horrid fight in the family.  My brother and sister did not want any funds from the estate going to support Betty, my stepmother and my Dad’s wife of almost 30 years.  They even refused to put Betty’s name on his tombstone.
Several hundred thousand dollars in estate legal fees were wasted in my brother Hugh’s fight.  I tried to  mediate, even hiring an expert attorney whose work focuses in mediating such disputes.  This just led to threats against me and my children.

Ultimately we got to a negotiated settlement that included my brother taking over $100,000 from the estate to purchase for himself my Dad’s autograph collection from Betty.  In return for this, the pictures became the property of my Dad’s three children (my brother Hugh, my sister Stephani, and myself). Hugh took possession of the pictures and was supposed to transfer them to a University or Museum where they would be in the public domain.  

That commitment was not honored.  My brother, executing his power as executor, took possession of the materials and left them in a box in a law office in Boston.  He refused to do a proper inventory or to have the materials properly preserved even after a kind offer from the US Holocaust Museum.  He now refuses to even tell us where the materials are or whether they even exist. W
There was an effort to donate.  Unfortunately, my brother and sister refused to donate the materials to Brandeis (his choice) once Brandeis explained the fair use doctrine that is used by all academic  institutions.  No academic institution or university will accept a gift like this unless the collection is made available  in pubic domain under the fair use doctrine .  
That doctrine  was exactly why I agreed to the conditions in the negotiated settlement.  All I wanted to do was get the materials properly preserved and digitized.  Once that was done I wanted to distribute copies to the survivors … prisoners and the soldiers who entered the camp … in the hope they could tell me more about that day in April 1945.
Unfortunately, my brother and sister  have now succeeded for three years in preventing these wonderful objects going to a proper repository for archival processing and digitization.  My brother, on an answering machine tape, even said he would rather let the materials rot. 
(updated from original Jan 31, 2o15 post on April 4, 2016)

2 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    What is Hugh’s rationale for blocking release of the photos? Have you asked?

  2. theaveeditor #

    This is hard to say. It is all tied up in the estate issues.

    My step mother had a life estate for the huse and its contents. While she was still living in the house Hugh claimed (falsely) that she had barred him from coming there to inspect the pictures. This was a part of a massive effort on Hugh’s part, with help from his co executor, to make my step mom uncomfortable and force her to leave the house. Hugh and my sister had a personality conflict with my step sister and wanted to minimize any settlement fund that would allow the move. This led to some terrible words. It was probably also why he refused to legally dispose of my Dad’s HIPAA records, telling me that eh saw these as a risk to my step mother that could help force her to leave. Under the aw, as a member of the faculty of a medical school, I had to report this to the Dept of Health and Human Services. I did this, causing Hugh to blame me and spend more money on lawyer fees .. apparently to the tine of 100s of thousands! Hugh claimed that he had to do this because the US had taken legal action against him. This was false, HHS told me they could take no action be3cause I was not a patient of my father.

    During all this I tried to help by urging Hugh to involve a family law attorney to resolve issues. Hugh refused and became very angry with me for interfering. I also provided him with contacts via the Mass Medical Society that could handle the records for something between 500 and a few thousand dollars. Eventually, rather than using such professionals, he had Mr. Miasserian (who has no credentials) come and stuff all the records indiscriminately into garbage bags.

    During that time, with my stepmom’s support, I discovered the WWII materials. With agreement by Hugh and my sister I arranged for an expert nominated by the Director of Photography on the Holocaust Museum to meet with us, evaluate the material, and process it for shipment to the Museum. Hugh agreed to this but then he and my sister made a series of excuses so that the visit never happened.

    Later, we had complicated negotiation to resolve the life estate. Hugh’s behavior behavior during this was frightening .. so frightening that security needed to be called, My sister;s husband was so distraught that he disappeared for hours at a time. Among other parts of this affair were threats of even more legal actions. Suffice it to say that Hugh was abusive screaming with my sister crying. At one point his attorney came into our room and lay on the floor crying. Hugh insisted on moving the WWII the materials from secure storage arranged by my step sister (acting for my step mother) to his attorney’s offices.

    We had expected the materials to be returned to the storage facility but that has not happened. From then to now they have been stored under less than secure conditions by his attorney. The attorney even threatened to have a clerk, with NO training in handling such materials, do an inventory. When we agreed to but insisted that the inventory be done by a qualified person, the proposal disappeared.

    I, of course, stayed away from Hugh during the negotiation, using an attorney to negotiate. As part of the settlement, I agreed to a proposal to let Hugh take responsibility for moving the materials to a proper institution. Hugh was toy consult the US Holocaust Museum. He claimed falsely that his alma mater, Brandeis, was the choice of the Holocaust Museum Director. She has denied this in writing. Brandies is a poor choice. The school has said it lacks the funds for the preservation and its main interest is not in Buchnwald itself but in my Dad’s experience at the Medical School that occupied the campus before the creation of Brandeis.

    Nonetheless, to keep Hugh happy, I went along. Things blew up when he and my sister were informed by Brandeis that the digital version of the materials would be placed in the public domain. This was fine by me since it would allow me to assemble things, distribute to the survivors, and put all this together as a book. Hugh and his wife (a corporate lawyer) decided that the Brandies rules were unacceptable .. supposedly because they would allow me to find a publisher to distribute the materials. They wanted to rewrite the standard Brandeis agreement ..a form used at all universities and museums in more or less the same way. Hugh blew up, telling my attorney that he would rather see the materials rot the have me handle publish them.

    He has been abetted in all this by the co executor. My Dad had chosen Mr Miasserian so there would be a business like person involved with the estate. My Dad had a previous experience with Hugh’s litigious attitude and was so worried that he asked me if I wanted to be co executor. I .. apparently foolishly .. told my father no because I wanted to avoid an sibling conflict. What I had not anticipated was that Miasserian himself had some issues with my step sister. Sighhh,,,

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