In memory of Eugene Black
Holocaust survivor Eugene Black died on September 26, 2016, in Leeds, West Yorkshire, at the age of 88. Through his work for the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association and visits to Bad Arolsen, a close bond was forged between Eugene Black and the International Tracing Service (ITS) team.
Eugene Black was born Jeno Scwarcz in 1928 in the town of Munkacs, in what was then Czechoslovakia (later Hungary). He had four siblings. After Germany occupied Hungary in March 1944, the Nazis began to systematically murder all Hungarian Jews. On May 14, 1944, Eugene Black was deported with his sisters and parents to Auschwitz-Birkenau by the SS. This was the last time he saw his family. He was selected for forced labor and sent via Buchenwald to the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, where he had to work in tunnels on the production of V1 and V2 rockets. After months of malnutrition and exploitation, he fell seriously ill. He owed his survival to a sympathetic German doctor.
After further degrading and tortuous ordeals, he was finally liberated by the British Army in Bergen-Belsen. At the age of just 17, he faced a life with no family and no prospects. He began to work as a translator for the British Army, where he met his future wife. In 1949 he moved to England, found a job and began his professional career. He married and had four children with his wife, Annie. It was not until the 1990s that he began to grapple with the Holocaust and his own experiences. Together with his daughter Lilian, he became involved in the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association. Eugene Black felt an urgent need to bear witness to young people and explain the consequences of exclusion, discrimination and racial hatred.
Lilian and Eugene Black visited the ITS to view the documents the Nazis had kept on him. He later said, "It made such a big difference to me to see that what I have been living with is true. Because it's there in black and white. I can’t explain what it means to close at long last this terrible experience in my life.“ At the ITS, Eugene Black also found documents about the fate of his two sisters. He had assumed that they had died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. But the documents revealed that they had been selected for forced labor and sent to a satellite camp of Buchenwald in Gelsenkirchen. They died there in September 1944 with 150 other Jewish women from Hungary in an Allied bombing raid on Gelsenberg Benzin AG, because the SS had refused to allow the women into the air-raid shelters. The circumstances of their death weighed heavily on Eugene Black, but this knowledge was important to him, and he subsequently attended memorial ceremonies for the victims.
The ITS researched a number of fates for the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association. Regarding the significance of the documents, Eugene Black said, “When our members show their documents during their presentations, people are simply astounded by the detailed records kept in the camps, the prisoner registration cards, the transport lists and even medical records. This prompts the young people to stop and think. They see the scope of the Holocaust, how it could happen, who carried it out and why. Being able to use these documents has given the presentations a different and very important conclusive force.”
In keeping with the wishes of Eugene Black, the ITS will continue to work with his daughter Lilian and support the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association. The ITS employees who knew Eugene Black personally will always remember him as a sincere, dedicated man with a positive attitude toward life.