William P. Schwartz
Farkas (Zev) Schwartz was a tailor who lived in Miskolc with his wife Celia Weiss and their children Jenny (born 1879) and Adolf (born 1880). When Farkas died in October, 1891, he was buried in the Jewish cemetery on Avas Hill. His impoverished widow decided to use what little money she had to buy shipís tickets to America for herself and her two youngest children, to join her son and daughter from a previous marriage. There was not enough money left to buy a stone to mark where her husband Farkas had been buried.
William Paul Schwartz, the son of Adolf Schwartz and grandson of Farkas and Celia, was born in 1907 in New York. He was given the Hebrew name Zev, in memory of his paternal grandfather Farkas (Zev) Schwartz. In 1937, William Schwartz took a grand tour of Europe and the Soviet Union. From Budapest, he took a trip to Miskolc, the native-city of his father Adolf. This is the letter that William wrote to Adolf after he returned to Budapest from Miskolc. None of the photographs that William Schwartz took in Hungary survived.
Envelope enclosing the letter from
William Schwartz to his father Adolf (1937)
Budapest, Hungary: August 3, 1937
Well, here is the report I promised you of my stay in Hungary. I arrived at midnight on Saturday. I am stopping at the Hotel Bristol, located on the Danube River, and it is considered one of the three leading hotels in Budapest. To give you an idea of its importance, the Maharajah (Prince) of India and his royal party have the whole first floor of the hotel. The location of the hotel is wonderful, overlooking the Danube, staring at the Royal Palace, and in between the Chain Bridge and Elizabeth Bridge.
Hungarian meals are delicious, service is most courteous and efficient (exact opposite of Russia), and the people, men and women are beautiful, gay, and well-dressed. It really is a pleasure to be amongst them. Budapest is a delightful city, especially at night. The lighting effects, white against black are gorgeous. I just canít describe the thrilling sights, so you will have to wait until I get home and see for yourself on the pictures I have taken and bought. The Royal Palace, St. Gellert Hill, statues, are lighted against black backgrounds. I eat my meals outside of the hotel in an open garden over-looking the Danube, while beautiful Hungarian and gypsy music is placed by a gypsy string orchestra.
I have told the proprietors of the hotel and many of the help about you and grandpa and my desire to visit Miskolc and they were tickled that I was part Hungarian. They made me taste so many different dishes. Well, I toured about the city and saw plenty ó let me leave that till I get home.
Adolf Schwartz (born 1880 in Miskolc)But here is the news you have been waiting for. Iíve kept my promise to you. After much effort, I had the help of the hotel write in Hungarian a letter which stated that I desired to locate the Jewish cemetery of Miskolc, to find the grave of Schwartz, Farkas. I wanted to be able to show this to someone in Miskolc. Well, today I left Budapest at 7:10AM and arrived in Miskolc at 10:15. On the train, I met a Hungarian Jew who could speak English. He was going to Miskolc on business. I explained to him what I wanted and he said he could help me.
When I got there, he put me in touch with the Jewish chevrah [the chevrah kadishah or burial society]. But at the chevrah, I was stuck until finally some woman of the town was summoned who could speak a little English. With the aid of the letter I had and this woman, we went deep into the books and located the record of your fatherís death and the place where he was buried.
Then they gave me a Jewish rabbi who went with me in a taxi to the cemetery and located the grave after much difficulty. I made him make sure he had the right grave because there wasnít any headstone. Then I had him say prayers for you, Ma, Ceil [his sister], Mel [his brother], and me. After the prayers, I talked to grandpa as best I could and then I put five stones on his grave. Finally, I took several pictures of the grave (it was in terrible condition) and I hope they come out OK. Iíll let you know later.
With this over, we went to 23 St. Peter Street and I took pictures of several old houses there. Iíll let you pick out your house if the pictures come out OK, for they are plenty old. My mission accomplished, I paid the rabbi and the taxi, then hurried back to town to catch the express train back to Budapest, which left at 1:40PM and got me back at 4:10PM.
Oh, yes --- the rabbi of the chevrah wanted some money from me for having cared for the grave, but I said Iíd mail him some when I got back to America. Then he asked me (through the interpreter) if I lived near Rockaway and I said yes. He asked me if Iíd call up his son who left Miskolc sixteen years ago and has never been home since and writes very seldom. I said Iíd be glad to and offered to take his picture with my camera and bring it to his son. He cried with joy and made me wait until he dressed up. Then he wanted his picture taken with his other son, under a tree planted by the son in America, in the garden in back of the house. I promised Iíd take the picture to his son and tell him about his father. He blessed me for this and so there Ė my job was finished. Are you happy? Ė well, I hope so, for I am, in having accomplished all this under very difficult circumstances (canít speak Hungarian, German, or Jewish).
So long, keep well and happy, and give my love to Ma, Mel, Ceil, Harry, and the kids and yourself.
Credits: Photos of Adolf and William Schwartz by Melvin C. Schwartz. All graphics, text, and page design copyrighted © 2008 by Helene Kenvin. Page created by Helene Kenvin. All rights reserved.