Buchenwald 89, as I turn 74, The next steps are likely to get even more ugly. 

SMS frawingWhy, as I approach my 74th birthday, do I fight so hard to get my father’s writings and photography made public?

Among other parts of the collection there is an amazing letter my Dad sent about his experiences in the liberation of Buchenwald, a letter to me and to my mother that reflects on my Dad’s shock at what he saw … contrasting her perfume to the smells in the camp. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum requested the letter but my brother refused.

Roberts's Travels April to Swptm,ber

My plan for the materials is simple. First, they need to be properly processed and digitized. My Dad, despite nasty claims by my brother in law William Quick, processed the pictures himself … using chemicals from a nearby pharmacy and a jury rigged enlarger. That processing was primitive and many of the images are now fading.  Once the images are digitized, my plan is to send paper prints to the survivors, not just the inmates but also the American soldiers who liberated the camp.  I will ask them to send me any memories.  I also have a colleague who is a wonderful cartoonist and illustrator.  Bill has agreed to work with me to create cartoons to illustrate the missing parts of the story, including the events when my Dad returned to Boston and confronted the local anti semitic thugs who were upset with us as  Jewish family moving into (their) Irish-Italian neighborhood.  Robert Schwartz went on to be a wonderful family Doc and a founder of the family practice specialty.  As a rare Jew growing up in a Boston Catholic community, my childhood friends came from the same community that had once threatened my family.    … Link to the full Buchenwald series in TA. 

My brother, Hugh Schwartz, refused to donate this letter to the Museum because he wants the materials all to go to one place.  Sadly, that is not the whole story.

My parents had three children.  I was born on Jan. 1 1942,  just before WWII.  My Dad left soon to become Eisenhower’s poison gas expert.  Stephanie, my sister, was born soon after my parents were again together in 1945.  Five years on, my parents had a surprise …  my brother Hugh!

Hugh, is the executor of my Dad’s estate.  My Dad chose Hugh, despite concerns about Hugh’s temper, because Hugh (unlike me) is a businessman.  Because I too was worried about Hugh’s ego and history of sibling rivalry, I refused an offer by my father that I be a co executor.

The estate should have been simple, but Hugh turned this into a vendetta .. directed first against Betty, the woman my Dad married after my mother died, and then against me when I tried to support my step mother.  Hugh called this “psychological warfare” and indeed turned what could have been a simple estate into a hugely expensive legal mess, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and now endangering a heritage that should be passed on to my Dad’s grandchildren … including Hugh’s own daughter, my kids and my grand daughter.

Hugh. expressing  sheer hate for me, has promised to let this heritage “rot” rather than allow me to make them public (see box to right).  Hugh has now had the materials secreted someplace undisclosed, refusing to allow them to be inventoried or preserved.  In harassing emails, he claims that I know that he did not mean his statement  about letting these fragile materials rot, but if that is true it would be a simple matter, and far less expensive than the estate funds he is still spending in court, to send the materials to the New England Document Center for Conservation.  Hugh has even refused to allow me to pay to have the NEDCC send an archivist to assess the condition of the materials now three years after he took possession of them! 

Wherever Hugh has secreted the materials, their fragility compares to this letter by a survivor of the Holocaust.  The letter by Tzipora Shapiro is one of thousands of scraps of memoirs written by the survivors after liberation.  These scraps, preserved in museums like Yad Vashem, are  being  searched by scholars for  clues to better understand that period of time … an era so unbelievable that even today it is meat for those who would demean the nobility of those who survived and those who fought for their survival.

So, what is next?  We are in court, asking for a simple injunction that would force my brother to send the materials to the New England Document Conservation Center for preservation, digitization and inventory.  Sadly, instead of simply working together to do this, Hugh, abetted by his wife, corporate attorney Janet Linn, has turned the simple request into an expensive  legal circus.  They recently spent a large a mount of money forcing the court to name my children as “defendants” even though my kids do not claim any ownership of the materials.  Attorney Linn, who is acting as an attorney even though she is not a member of the Mass. bar,  even sent a threatening letter urging that my kids hire their own attorney.

My hope is that Hugh will come to his senses.  If not, there is always the media.


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