Many families were left speechless at the end of the Second World War. In some cases, this inability to talk about their experiences continues to this day. Marianne Kiss ended the silence and wrote a book about her family history.

Marianne was nine years old in 1944, when her mother Ilona last heard news of her husband, Marianne’s father Arpad. Later, the family assumed that Arpad had been deported to the Bor labor camp in what is now Serbia. Ilona did everything she could to search for him. Marianne descirbes her efforts as follows:

“That you did not just wait idly, but actively searched – letters, documents testify to that. (…) You knew one thing for sure: if Arpad is alive, he will move heaven and earth to make his way home to his family. But he never arrived. The Red Cross sent you an answer on May 27, 1946, telling you that no definite information had arrived yet. The Vatican Information Office also wrote the same in German.”

Marianne’s parents at their wedding, 1934. © Marianne Kiss

Die Schwarczmanns on their honeymoon. © Marianne Kiss


Research in the Arolsen Archives

Many decades later, Marianne found out that the Nazis had deported her father to various concentration camps, including Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, and the Buchenwald sub-camp Ohrdruf. On January 15, 1945, Arpad Schwarczmann’s name still appeared in a change report from the Buchenwald concentration camp about prisoners assigned to the Ohrdruf labor detail. After that, all trace of him was lost. In 1985, Marianne contacted our archives for the first time, wanting to learn more about the fate of her father.

In addition to grief, there was also a kind of anger at her father. She puts it like this:

“Father was a taboo subject, because whenever we mentioned him, the pain of talking about him only in the past tense was too great. Later, I (secretly) resented him for not trying to hide, to escape, despite his great love for us.”


Arpad Schwarczmann, 1942. © Marianne Kiss
The Buchenwald prisoner registration card of Arpad Schwarczmann. © Arolsen Archives

From Hungary to Ohrdruf

The Nazis deported Arpad from Vienna to Sachsenhausen concentration camp on November 13, 1944. On November 24, 1944, they sent him on to Buchenwald concentration camp along with 499 other Sachsenhausen prisoners, the overwhelming majority of whom were taken to Buchenwald’s Ohrdruf sub-camp that same day – including Arpad Schwarczmann.


Even today, at the age of 87, Marianne is still working on coming to terms with her family history, and she began to write it all down in 1997 – after the death of her mother. How important this writing process was for her comes through very clearly in the first lines she addressed to her mother:


»Dear Mom! It is to you that I write and to you that I address my letter, which for the most part contains what I know about you, yet I feel it is important that we clarify some things between us. Unfinished business that we have never talked about, either because we did not want to do so or could not do so. Now the time has come. I’m trying.«

Marianne Kiss, Author and graphic designer


Childhood memories of Hanukkah

In her book, Marianne also describes her own childhood memories. Beautiful memories of Hanukkah, for example: “A Christmas celebration was out of the question for us, Hanukkah was the festival in winter, close to Christmas, that’s when we children got little presents.”

In the same paragraph, she describes what a shock the persecution of the Jews must have been for her grandfather:

“I only ever saw my grandfather Hajnal with a prayer shawl and prayer straps on his arms when he was in the synagogue; on ordinary weekdays it never occurred to him to pray. He was an enlightened man, the concept of assimilation could have been invented for him. The anti-Jewish laws must have hit him like a cold shower.”


»How could it be that he, such a far-sighted, well-traveled man, had never heard of all the atrocities that were going on in Germany? Like many others, he had not taken the approaching danger seriously.«

Marianne Kiss, Daughter of Ilona and Arpad Schwarczmann


Surviving in the air raid shelter

Marianne herself survived the Holocaust in her hometown of Budapest as a child in air raid shelters, and to this day, she helps preserve the memory of the Hungarian victims of the Shoah. Because education, in her opinion, is the key to combating antisemitism.


Read the interview with Marianne Kiss

In the interview, Marianne talks about the silence in Hungary and how she got the idea to write down her family history.


Marianne’s notes were published in 2015 in “Yellow-Star Houses, People, Houses, Fates.” The text has been translated into German, but Marianne is still looking for a publisher who would like to publish it. If you are interested, please send an e-mail to

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