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A Hungarian Jew who survived the Holocaust will speak Sunday during two services at Grace United Methodist Church, Peru.
Agnes Schwartz, 79, of Skokie will speak at 7:50 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. services. The public is invited and can meet Schwartz before and after services. The Rev. Jennifer Wilson said the event will be an “intergenerational religious experience.” “She will be there the whole day,” Wilson said.
Sunday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Jan. 27 commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Schwartz grew up an only-child in Budapest, Hungary. Her family was “relatively affluent,” she said.
“Until the Germans marched in, everything was great,” Schwartz said. In 1944, Germany invaded Hungary and moved Budapest’s Jews into a separate neighborhood. “But it was better than the ghetto,” Schwartz said.
The 11-year-old girl lived in a five-story apartment. She wore a yellow Star of David arm patch. Her mother and father were taken away, to where Schwartz did not know.
“The Allies bombed so frequently that everybody moved into the basement,” Schwartz said.
Her father, perhaps aided by his fluent German, found his way back. “It was just a miracle,” Schwartz said.
Her family’s housekeeper, Julia, moved Schwartz to another apartment in Budapest, posing as the girl’s aunt to protect her.
Schwartz’s father became one of thousands of Hungarian Jews safeguarded by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.
Schwartz’s mother was deported and died Jan. 13, 1945 at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Germany. Soviet forces liberated Budapest in February 1945. In January 1947, at age 13, Schwartz immigrated with her father to the Chicago area. Schwartz has lived in Skokie since the early 1970s, she said.
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