18 January 1941

Mariiampil, Poland (today Ukraine)

"It is a pity that I cannot be with you now, and I am even more upset that once again you are going off into the wide world without me."

Last letter from Yaacov Schwartz

Yaacov Schwartz, a member of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement in Sosnowiec, wrote these words in his last letter to his sister, Rachel.  Yaacov was sent by the youth movement to Lvov, and vanished without a trace.

Aharon Schwarz, his wife Alta née Zilberberg and their six children – Yaacov (b. 1917), Menachem, Luba-Shprinze, Rachel, Abramek and Motek – lived in Sosnowiec, Poland and were religiously observant. Aharon only just managed to make a living, and the family lived in poverty.  After the war broke out, the family split up.  Menachem, who was in a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz in Radom, fled to Vilna together with his kibbutz comrades.  Yaacov, who wanted to enlist in the Polish Army, waited at home for a call-up.  The rest of the family left Sosnowiec and wandered from place to place, ultimately returning home.  Eventually, Yaacov was sent by the youth movement to Lvov where he remained, planning to go to Russia. Luba and Rachel went to Vilna, where they were reunited with their brother Menachem.

In 1941, Rachel obtained an immigration certificate.  She immigrated to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine), carrying in her suitcase family photo albums and a sheaf of letters, and settled in Kibbutz Ein Hashofet.  Her sister Luba remained in Vilna, joined the partisans, survived the war and immigrated to Eretz Israel.  Menachem also survived, and immigrated on the ship "Exodus".  Those members of the family who stayed in Poland – Aharon, Alta, Yaacov, Abramek and Motek – were all murdered.

18.1.1941, Mariiampil

My beloved Rochcze [Rachel]!

The Japanese say: "Keep the sweetest for last", meaning you are my sweetest now.  I gaze at your photograph and I don't recognize you.  I read your letters, and feel as though someone else is writing them, someone mature and serious, not the little girl I left at home.  Every word of your letters reflects your serious attitude, and in the same way, every facial feature reveals how much you have grown up.  I am really proud of you and of your independence.  I don't know if your journey [to Eretz Israel] is happening now or will happen in the near future, but I'm sorry that I can't call you on the telephone from where I am living in a small village, and I can't travel to Stanislavov to call you. Be strong always, and you know yourself what to say to Necha [Necha Fergricht, a member of Hashomer Hatzair in Sosnowiec and a friend of Schprinze's, immigrated to Eretz Israel in early 1939, and became a role model for the Hashomer Hatzair members].

It is a pity that I cannot be with you now, and I am even more upset that once again you are going off into the wide world without me. You should have waited and we could have gone together. You are probably laughing at me and saying: "One doesn't give a sausage to a dog" [Polish saying meaning: One doesn't give nuts to someone who doesn’t have teeth].  I don't want to even consider the idea that your plans will go awry.  I know that that would be a great blow. But remember that even if they do, you should accept the situation gracefully. You know, after all, that this stormy war raging in the world has overturned many people's plans. 

Did it ever occur to you that you would be in Eretz Israel so soon? I didn't meet your friends, Genia Gottfried, Aharon Vladimirsky, Moshe Beri and Klasner.  Moshe is far away [Siberia] and is suffering greatly from the cold.  You've been lucky so far.

Be healthy and remember to write often.
Sending you a heartfelt kiss,
Yours, Yaacov

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