Local Red Cross Helps Holocaust Survivor

By: Kate Eckman
By: Kate Eckman

The Holocaust remains one of, if not, the most horrific chapter in world history.

The Nazis exterminated about six million Jews in their concentration camps, and those who survived saw their lives change forever.

However, the Central Panhandle Chapter of the American Red Cross has helped one Holocaust survivor restore a part of her life and her dignity.

"I haven't told many people about this experience,” says Nazi Concentration Camp Survivor Ms. Schwagger. “Most people probably wouldn't believe me. For them to say it never happened and all those people are suffering today just like I am, I think it's horrible."

Schwagger says she can't believe some people say the Holocaust never happened.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross did believe Schwagger when she said she was born in a Nazi concentration camp.

"She had been to a lot of places; spoke to a lot of attorneys,” said Bob Pearce of the local chapter of the American Red Cross. “She spent a lot of years and thousands of dollars trying to get this proof she was born in a Nazi Concentration Camp."

Schwagger was then separated from her mother. She spent the next 15 years in an orphanage.

The rest of her family members were killed in Auschwitz. However, she had no proof of this, only memories. Recently however, that all changed.

In August, the Central Panhandle Chapter of the American Red Cross received Schwagger's birth certificate. This was a moment she says she will always remember because it proved she was in fact born in the Decin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia.

"For you and I, it's hard to understand what it would be like to not have a birth certificate, and we take it for granted,” says Pearce. “But for her, that was really validation, validation that she even does exist, that she does know who she is, and it was an emotional moment."

Schwagger has history with the American Red Cross. Her mother worked for a local chapter in Berlin, Germany.

"I didn't have much to go on, but piece-by-piece they helped me, and I found out so much information from the very little I've given them. I'm still finding out, so I'm very grateful," says Schwagger.

"What an amazing story, what an amazing life she has lived, and to be able to be a small part of helping her really validate her own existence and prove that she was in that camp," said Pearce.

Schwagger says her unhappy childhood makes her grateful for her life in Panama City. "We're going to have to hope and do better for our children and grandchildren,” she says. “I have grandchildren, and I want them to be happy and have a happier childhood than I had."

"She's an absolute inspiration to all of us here, she really is," said Pearce.

It took the International Tracing Services of the American Red Cross more than five years to obtain Schwagger's birth certificate.

They are currently working to get restitution for her from the German government.

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