A series of communications covering the period February 21, 1938 to August 25, 1939, from the Schwalb family in Rozhnyatov, now in the Ukraine, to their daughter and her family in Chicago.

These letters, reflecting deep familial devotion, also provide a glimpse into the conditions and concerns of a family aware of the gathering storm. Powerless to protect themselves against the impending catastrophe, their chief joy lies in the fact that their daughter and her family are safely in the United States.

That the devotion is not one-sided is evident in the Schwalb letters. The American family members are deeply concerned about their European kin. We are impressed by such devoted concern for their welfare, and by the familial reverence that moved the second generation of the American family to preserve and cherish these documents.



[IN YIDDISH] Rozhnyatov, February 21, 1938

My dear ones,

We received your precious letter along with the newspapers, and we read it with much pleasure. I am writing to you in Yiddish because Yiddish is easier for us than German, although I can write German too. But this is my preference.

Now, dear ones, I want to inform you that Shimon is away so he has restored permission for me to write to you once more at length. So I ‘m happy to write in good health. May God grant that we hear the same from you. Dear ones, you’ll have a lot to read since I’m writing a whole "megilla" because I’ve received unlimited rights from my brother Shimon.

I want to describe for you something about my life. I am at the business all day long and in the evening I go out in company a little. In the winter I go out for sports, skiing and other winter activities. Things are going quite well for me, but when I take a newspaper and read about the persecution of Jews, I become depressed. Things are not as they used to be when I used to talk to a customer. Today, he talks to me. You can’t raise your voice at all. One is considered bold to answer them back. Regarding the overall situation, you know very well how it looks to be.

Now I want to answer your question about Uncle Boruch. He hasn’t become a rich man yet; he barely makes a living. Toybe, Chaim’s wife, has the same little commission sales business and, as usual, manages all right for herself. If only she had fed Chaim properly he would be alive today.

I have answered all your questions and now "answer my answer." Be well and strong, all of you. Best wishes to you [in Hebrew] wherever you are, may you prosper.


Aaron Schwalb

[Same letter continues]

Dearest children, Shlomo and Clara!

With you Shlomo, I see it’s no joke- - you want to initiate a regular correspondence. You’re a gay young blade! I took your picture to show around and no one recognizes you. Every girl fell in love with you. Write to me sometimes and I’ll answer you promptly. I envy you more than myself. Be well, dear Shlomo. Grow up to be a great philosopher.

I greet you and kiss you a thousand times.

From me,


Dearest Clara,

How are you? Do you think of your Uncle Aaron sometimes? If I had you here, I’d really kiss you good. But I must greet you and kiss you from a long way off. Be well and strong, and be a source of good mazel for your mother.

Again, with kisses from me,




[IN YIDDISH]Rozhnyatov, November 15, 1938

My dear children,

First I want to inform you that I am, thank God, in good health. May God grant that we have good and healthy reports from you.

Now I want to notify you about the news from Germany, although you know from the press better than I know. But I want to inform you that in one night they drove out 17,000 Jews over the border into Poland, (including) nearly everyone from Rozhnyatov. I will tell you what ones from Rozhnyatov are already here: Kalman, Horwitz, Sarah Esther Zien, the Volvoch’s daughter and her husband Yossel, Haskell’s daughter with two children, Benjamin Stern’s daughter (the one who lived in Gladbeck), Rose Horwitz’s son-in-law, Laytze’s husband. Two people from Rozhnyatov died at the border, Pinkas Joseph Friedler and Saul Horwitz. All those they put down over the border were practically naked and barefoot, with only 10 Marks in their pockets, no more. They complicated everything, so no one was able to take anything along. I can’t begin to write you all that went on there because the heart bleeds over it.

Now I will tell you about Vienna and what is happening there. They arrested 10,000 Jews and burned many synagogues. They burned lots of Jews and killed many more. In Dortmundt they also killed a lot of Jews.

But now I want to say that you should not be too anguished about what I’ve written. When a person unburdens his heart a bit it’s a little easier. What can we do? It’s (in Hebrew) "a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be rescued from it." What is happening here you can read in the newspapers. You foresaw in advance what is going on now.

Next, I want to ask you to write me about how things are going with you, if you are earning a living, whether you are in good health, and whether the children are learning well. Our business you already know about. A livelihood for the time being is here, thank God. God should only help so we can remain well and enable us to live quietly without problems.

For now, I know no further news to write/ be well and strong. Regards and kisses to you, one and all. From your father,

Yitzhak Schwalb

Special regards to my grandchild Bobby and for my grandchild Clara, from your Zayde Yitzhak Schwalb.


Many regards and kisses from me,



Many greetings and kisses for all of you from me,

Esther Schwalb


My dear ones,

I waited. I wanted to write you some good reports but, unfortunately, a time has come when every demon goes around like crazy. What Heir Hitler has brought upon the world is happening to everyone big and small. Dear sister and brother-in-law, you are the luckiest ones in our town. Many here envy you. Even the bravest would trade places with you. God grant that you all be well and strong, with good fortune and a livelihood. Amen.

Many greetings and kisses to the dear children, Shlomo and Clara. Stay well and be strong.

From Aaron


Many kisses for the darling children and for all of you,

from Grandma Dvoyry


My dear ones,

Don’t be angry with me for not writing you for so long. Nonetheless, you are all in my heart. I think of you constantly, how you are, whether you are all well. Praised be God, I am well, as are all of us. Herio attends school and learns well. I am occupied somewhat since I am in business. I deal in geese, sell some meat and earn a moderate income. There is nothing new with me. We are all well, thank God. With many regards and a thousand kisses from us all,

Your sister, Ruchyl

Special kisses for the beloved children,

Please write more often.



[IN YIDDISH]Rozhnyatov, April 12, 1939

My dear children;

First let me tell you that I am well, thank God. May God grant that I hear good news from you and word of good health/

Then, let me tell you that I received your letter of March 22 on April 8, and your March 27th letter, I received today, on April 12. I received the ten dollars on April 6.

Now, my dear children, I have asked you many times to write me about what your business is, how much you earn by the week, what you sell, and how much you gross each week. I ask that you write me about it in detail.

From here, whether we make a living? Let me tell you that we have a livelihood, thank God. You know very well how earning a living is over here: the local populace has turned ugly; let that be enough for now. So long as things do not get any worse. Conditions here are pretty good, returning to normal.

Now, I want to notify you that Menasha the carpenter, our neighbor, died April 9th, that is Everv Yom Tov (Pesach).

For now, I have no further important news to write. Greetings and kisses to you all.

Your father, Yitzhak Schwalb

The child’s name, as I wrote you in my previous letter and now write you again, is Yehuda Yosef. About the newspaper, I wrote in the preceding letter. Regards again, from me,

Yitzhak Schwalb

[Added in a different Yiddish Script]

Dearest ones,

I want to report I am well, thank God. God grant that we hear good news from you.

Dear ones, the political scene is very bad here now. Every passing day here is like a gift. I’ve come from listening to the radio and I have an English language broadcast. It explained the morrow might bring good news or possibly something else. In any case, it’s not good. May God help that everything comes out right, because everyone is waiting expectantly, just like waiting for the dance to begin.

There is much more of importance to write, but right now I don’t have the patience. In my next letter, I’ll write more, I close with regards and kisses.

From Aaron



[IN YIDDISH]Rozhnyatov, June 5, 1939

My beloved children,

First let me tell you that I am well, thank God. May God grant that we hear good and healthy reports from you.

Then let me inform you that I have received your two letters, one from May 15 and the other from May 17. It makes me happy that you and the children are well, thank God and that you are making a living. But one thinks I am anxious to understand: How long are you going to be homesick? And what is there here to long for? Our good fortune here in Europe? You know very well what great good things await us her in Europe. In Palestine it is certainly "good," with constant terror and killings. You ought to thank God every morning and night for taking you out of these lands. You should realize that many are envious of you that you are in American; and you have a livelihood, too, thank God, so it’s very good. So what if you long for the family? That has to be set aside sooner or later, because this has been the Jewish way of life for a long time now. Because the Jew must pick up and wander, away from family far across the sea, because he has no firm land under his feet. So, I’m trying to explain why you shouldn’t be homesick any more.

Now I want to tell you that the Mothers Day that you celebrate in America pleases me a great deal. It is very nice. I read in the paper how it all started, with an elderly woman and her daughter, and in what year it was established as a day for mothers.

From here I can tell that you that we are making a living, thank God, and may God help that it should stay at least this way. We are all well, thank God, except that we grow older every day.

I end my writing now, Regards and kisses to all of you together, from your father and grandfather

Yitzhak Schwalb

I receive the newspaper every week.

[All notes below are in GERMAN]

Many regards and kisses from me,


My dears! I greet and kiss you all. Special regards from my mother. Extra special greeting for Solomon and my dear Clara. From Aaron.

Many greetings and kisses for all of you,

from Chaya.

Hearty kisses from me to all of you,

Your sister Rachel.

With kisses for you.

Herio and Yudi Yosef.



[IN YIDDISH]Rozhnyatov, June 6, 1939

My dear ones,

We have read your precious letters and read with pleasure that you are, praised God, well and that in "parnusse" things go well. Dearest sister, brother-in-law and dear children, you shouldn’t be concerned about us. We are, all of us, in good health, as is dear Ruchly, Meyer and the children. From one subject to the next:

You write you are very lonesome for us. I can well understand that because on our side the same is true; and even though your father writes you that you have not real object in being homesick and scolds you about it, and he’s quite right, still in reality, I can tell you that not a minute passes that dear father, like the rest of us, does not have you in mind.

In the present critical situation, whenever we think about it, we consider how fortunate it is that you, at least, are not here. On the other hand, the feelings from your side are understandable; but so God wills it, and we live in hope.

My dear ones! Anlis is sending you a need affidavit in care of Charny Tillie’s address, that is the package that you will send should be to the address of Chana Geller and Rozhnyatov, etc.! And whatever you will send dear Nettie, make a list of everything and send a letter enclosing the list. But absolutely no new things should you send. Everything must be used. But I want you to take note of one thing; do this only if it is possible for you, of course; for Mayer’s suit, and for Ruchly also a used coat. All the others you know yourself.

I actually have nothing more of importance to write today. So all of you stay well and strong. Countless regards and kisses for you all.



Special kisses many times over for the beloved children.

As soon as you send out the package, you must write immediately that it has been sent.



[IN YIDDISH]Rozhnyatov, June 13, 1939

My beloved children,

First let me inform you that I am, thank God, in good health, and hoping to God to hear good and healthy reports from you.

Now I want to tell you that today I received your letter of May 29. It aggravates me very much that you have to become involved in family problems. What do you mean the aunt wants you to support her! How is it possible to ask such a thing of you there when you yourself must work so hard to sustain yourselves? How do you come into the picture when you never took anything from the aunt? I see from your writing that you are quite agitated. But you needn’t be agitated over this; I believe they can’t force you to support her. One’s own life has priority. First you must provide for yourselves and your children. Then if a dollar is left over in your pocket, you must put it away because one doesn’t know what tomorrow may bring. Hard times may come when a person needs that extra dollar. Don’t make anything out of the whole affair. Listen to no one and do only what will turn out best for you. One must listen politely to everyone, but act according to your own judgment. I believe you will understand what I’m writing to you. Do not permit yourself to take such a step, to help someone while hurting yourself. Don’t listen to them with their arguments. America is still, thank God, a free country. Especially since no one of the family contributed toward your coming to America.

Now, dear daughter, I wish to reply to your questions. What you write that you have no pleasures, I see that very clearly from your letter. I can read between the lines, the same as if you were here speaking directly to me.

About a livelihood, we have it, thank God. Concerning the rents, I receive that each month. Till June 7 I was receiving 49 zlotys per month. Since June 7, I have been receiving 30 zlotys each month; this is also all right.

I sent out a need affidavit on June 6 and Chana Tillie’s name.

For now I have nothing more of importance to write. So stay well. Regards and kisses for all of you together.

From your father and Zayde,

Yitzhak Schwalb.



[IN YIDDISH]Rozhnyatov, July 13, 1939

My dearest children,

First of all I inform you that I and the entire family are well, thank God. May God grant that we hear good and healthy reports from you. I received your letter of July 3rd an a little post card too.

You mention that I don’t write you very much. Well, I’ve written you two letters, one after the other, just eight days apart. Now you are writing in answer to my second letter which means to both.

Now I want to tell you that I am pleased that you write that you are making a living, thank God, and that you are well, thank God.

Now, my dear daughter, I want to write a few words about Herman’s side of the family might say that you’re mean. Don’t pay attention to these things. You have to think about how it will work best for you. Remember, the first "mad" is the best one. I know for sure that I can rely on you to know what to do.

I end my writing for now. Regards and kisses to all of you.

Your father and grandfather,

Yitzhak Schwalb


My dear,

At this moment, when I want to write to you, we have received a letter from you. So your wish is fulfilled, as I’m writing to you immediately. Many regards and kisses, with extra greetings for Shlomo and Clara.


[IN GERMAN]Rozhnyatov, July 13, 1939

To my dear ones,

We have received your letter of July 3rd and read with joy that both you an everyone are well, thank God, and this in "parmusse" things go well.

Now, then, dear sister, you write that it is your wish that we may all one day see each other again. Believe me that this is the very same wish we all have about you. May God grant that it becomes realized and that one day we will all rejoice together in this life. Until that time, pray God, may all go well with you and may we have good news from one another.

I had great pleasure reading the messages of your beloved children. The card from little Clara made me very happy. I hope your dear children are learning well and that you derive much joy from them. Hopefully, by the time this letter arrives dear Clara will have recovered from the sunstroke and will have returned to her good health and beauty. Since dear Shlomy will be leaving, please write to us and he too should write a card from there.

You write that not a day passes that you don’t long for home. I sense this intuitively too, because I know that you both have the home (land) of Grandpa, and you will well remember it forever, so you and dear Herman feel longing.

I really have no more news to report for now. But I can tell you that all the imported from Germany who were in Zbgvyn many are already in Rozhnytov. The younger daughter of Yossel Laufer is in Rozhnyatov, also Chaya Menashes with her two children, but not yet her husband. And so many others are still wandering. You can just imagine how it is.

Many kisses to you all.



Dearest darling Clara,

Your precious card from camp we received with appreciation and it truly made us rejoice to get your writing. It is our hope that you are now well, and that you have now returned home. Please write us often, since we have such pleasure from it. We send you countless kisses and wish you the best of everything.

We also send many special kisses for dear Shlomy and wish him all the best.




[IN YIDDISH]Rozhnyatov, August 7, 1939

My dear children,

First of all I can tell you that I am well, thank God. May God grant that we have good reports from you.

Now I want to report that I have received your letter from July 17 with the photograph of Clara. She is already a young lady! You can begin to think about a few thousand dollars for a dowry for her!

Next, I want to tell you that nearly all the Rozhnyatov people who were driven out of Germany are now in Rozhnyatov. A few came with money, but most arrived poor. I can tell you that Benjamin Kanar’s sister came from Germany and he threw her out of his house.

I receive the newspaper regularly. Dear Herman, you inquire how it goes with Ruchyl and Mayer. It goes like in Rozhnyatov; it wouldn’t hurt if it was a little bit better. She makes a living with great difficulty.

Now I must tell you that about one thing you have acted foolishly. What that is (the aunt) you understand what I mean.

I end my letter with regards and kisses to you one and all.

Your father and grandfather,

Yitzhak Schwalb

Many greetings and kisses from me,




[IN GERMAN]Rozhnyatov, August 8, 1939

My dears!

We received in good order your letter from July 17 and July 24. The picture of beloved Clara is very lovely. She is a truly beautiful young lady. May God grant that her mazel will shine brightly like the sun, that you may live to have much naches from your beloved children. Amen.

And the other two pictures that you enclosed. The one of dear Herman looks very good, but in contrast you both very bad. It is actually so? Why is it, dear Netty, that you look so bad? Do you work too hard? We are greatly perturbed seeing the picture for which you sat. You must write what it’s all about.

I can inform you now that the Rozhnyatov German refugees who were in Zbgynn are nearly all back in Rozhnyatov. Several are here who have some money but the majority are very poor. Yossel Laufer and his wife from Gladbeck are naturally, in Rozhnyatov too. Just imagine for yourselves: She was nothing special in Germany and especially so in Rozhnyatov. She is at her father’s Ephraim Rechtschaffen, and he at his brother’s. They aren’t at all settled. One daughter is in the U.S., one still in Germany, and the youngest with her youngsters in Kronen. The youngest is an electro-technician and learns well. And so it goes, so what I’m not even able to pit it all down in writing. But you can well imagine. Samuel Nemlich also arrived last week with his wife and three children, and also many others.

Dear Herman writes that you are having very hot weather. Here too the entire month of July was very very hot. Such heat is not within memory. It was actually impossible to stand it. It is just several days now that it has become cooler.

For now I really have nothing further of importance to write so I great you and kiss you many times.



Please write soon.



[IN GERMAN]Rozhnyatov, August 25, 1939

My beloved children,

First I inform you that I am well, thank God. May God enable us to hear reports of your good health.

Now I want to inform you that I have received your letter, my daughter, which you wrote on August 5th. Now, my beloved daughter, I wish to tell you about our weather. Our summer here is beautiful and plenty hot, but it’s a heat one can survive. But now another kind of "heat" has come; if we survive this heat it will be good. Compared to these times the year 1914 was good. May God’s mercies be around for us, especially for Jews. We are now confronting a great danger.

I want to tell you that the refugees from Germany are all nearly all here now. Ephraim Rechtschaffen’s daughter and her husband Yosel Laufer are already in Rozhnyatov. She sends you regards and at the same time envies you for living in America.

This week I received two newspapers at the same time.

I have nothing more to write today. Regards and kisses for all of you.

From your father and grandfather,

Yitzhak Schwalb



[IN GERMAN]Rozhnyatov, August 25, 1939

My dears,

We have received your dear letter of August 5, which made us very happy because a long time had passed since we had had any correspondence fro you.

Now, dear Netty, you ask me whether Meilech Wasserman is in Rozhnyatov. No, he is still in Germany and his son Joseph has been in Zbgoyn and didn’t come to Rozhnyatov. He had papers for America and he left from there for America. I doubt whether there are five Rozhnyatov families remaining in Germany. Moreover, everything is to be found here in Rozhnyatov – many youngsters were separated from their parents and sadly, have left for foreign lands. Naturally, it is those who have the means. For those who arrived poor, it understandably goes badly. They live on public welfare. Those who organized their finances in Germany have what to live on.

Betty Itziks is in Lodz while one of her children is in Rozhnyatov. Chaye Menasches with the children are in Rozhnyatov and he is in Krakow. Dvorhy Gelobter with her family is in Rozhnyatov. Kalman Lury Esthers with his family is in Rozhnyatov. So, in brief summary, more or less 80% of Rozhnyatovites have arrived and all (may you never know of it) in "tzuries" (distress).

Gershon Schneider is in Bolechov since January. He has his in-laws’ house there. Yossel Laufer is "nebbish" in deep trouble. She is at her father’s house and he hangs around his family. In one word, it’s not good. We consider ourselves lucky that God has helped you to be properly saved from this Hell and that you are in the United States. Especially because of what is going on now. I don’t have to describe for you what you certainly read in the newspapers, May the Almighty help that this fire will be extinguished with good consequences,

I can report to you that two weeks ago I was in Stanislow and on the street, in passing, I saw Mrs. Margulies. But I didn’t want to engage her in conversation because he husband, may it never happen to us or to any of you, is now the second year in Lemberg in a mental institution. Someone from Bohorodnyony told me about this a few months ago. For as long as I had know him, he was never completely stable, but the times have disturbed him still more and he lost his mind, may God protect us. He is by now completely unresponsive.

I have nothing further to relate today so I greet and kiss you countless times. May the Almighty grant that we may hear good reports from each other.

[NOTE: Handwriting is Shimon’s, but no signature]



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