Irene Schwark

Irene Schwark Chronology

Schlesien (Silesia)

Irene’s grandfather’s family

Irene’s grandparents are Franz Szyma and Gertrud Dziallas. The German version of Szyma is Schyma. Franz was a Revierförster (a forester) for the prince of Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen. Franz had traveled with the prince when he was young. (There is a coin bracelet in the family that the prince gave to Franz). They had the following nine children: Ewald (Big shot in the mines, died due to kidney stone, lived in Beuthen, missed his mother’s birthday party due to a drinking problem), Margarete (lived at Ebersheide/Schwinowitz), Irene (died at three of scarlet fever – Scharlach), Wilhelm (died in WWI. Gertrud always hoped he would return), Franz (Pharmacist who lived in Oppeln, Irene vacations there), Alice (Irene’s mother), Gertrud (seamstress – lived with Helmut in West Germany) Helmut (teacher, who changed last name to Sigmar), and Walter.

When Franz died in 1911, his widow was only 42 with five children younger than 15. To support herself, she ran a boarding house. She had “Eleven” (Lehrlings). They were apprentices at the mine. The local prince and the “Eleven” helped her.

The prince would periodically stay at the Schloß in Tworog (Horneck).

At some point Gertrud may have lived in Ober Glogau. (Irene said she lived with her grandmother there.)

Irene is buried at Koschentin.

Sabine has Gertrud’s wedding ring which has her birth and marriage dates inscribed. The ring was probably given to Alice to Irene and then to Sabine.


Irene’s mother, Alice Szyma lived in Tworog, Kreis Tost-Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia (2,582 inhabitants in 1939). The Kreis was in easternmost Germany and bordered Poland.

During the summer of 1921, Alice Szyma moved in with cousins in Breslau in order to give birth to her daughter. Irene Margarete Szyma was born in Breslau (Wroclaw) on August 20, 1921.

After the birth, Irene and Alice returned to Tworog which is pictured below.

Irene’s aunt Margarethe and her husband Karl Schupke lived in Ebersheide/Schwinowitz (Świniowice, 529 inhabitants in 1939). Gerda and Hartmut traveled there 7 or 8 years ago. Their house is now ugly and is now Sozial Schwache Gemeinde Haus. She was 19 when she married. They had two daughters, Ursula and Maria and two sons, Albert (died in WWII in panzer unit) and Franz. He was a forester. Irene said they had “a lovely house in the woods.” Irene spent a lot of time with these relatives. Carl died of a kidney problem during the war. They did not have the medicines to be able to treat him.

Below is a picture of Ebersheide/Schwinowitz (Świniowice).

She did not know the political affiliations of her relatives.

She went to church every Sunday until she was 12.

On summer vacations, Irene visited Franz and Klara Szyma in Oppeln which she enjoyed very much. They had a garden on the Oder River.

Irene felt that her mother “dumped” her on her grandmother who had to raise her as well as her own children.

1927 – 1933

Irene attends primary school (Grundschule) in Tworog.

When she was nine she went into the woods alone looking for mushrooms. The prince came by and asked “Why are you alone?”


Attends Berufschule in Beuthen (Bytom). Beuten had a population of around 100,000. She took business courses there. She took the train to from Tworog to Beuthen. When she missed the train she would have to walk. (But it is 27 kilometer?)


Irene’s mother Alice moves to Berlin and finds a place in Hallensee (or was it really Grunewald or Dahlem?) She works as a governess for the Wiesenach family. He was connected with the Kühne pickle company.

Irene followed her mother to Berlin.

Alice accompanied the Wiesenach family on a trip to a mountain resort at Schreiberhau. The mountains are 1000 meters. Irene visited them there. There are photos.

Irene worked for a dentist, Dr. Zeletsky, for a while as a dental assistant. Zeletsky was a school friend of Alice’s. Because this was not putting her schooling into practice she went to the job placement office who got her a job with the legal publisher, Deutscher Rechtsverlag. The head of the publishing company is Hans Frank, Gauleiter of Poland. The company had about 50 employees and was located in a confiscated villa on the Lützowufer by the Tiergarten.

Irene was on the fourth floor. One time squirrels crawled in through the open windows and ran around their desks. They walked in the Tiergarten during lunch. At Christmas, Frank gave all of his employees a goose which was obtained in Poland.

At on point Irene met Artur Axmann (1913-1995) who was the head of the Hitler Youth. He flirted with Irene. It may have been Hitler’s birthday party on April 20, 1944.

One time she and her friend were given 40,000 Reichsmarks to deposit in the bank. The money was from membership dues for a legal group. They went to the café rather than directly to the bank.

Among her friends and co-workers in Berlin were Fraulein Pfeifer, Steffi Krause (later in Hamburg), Helma (a Dutchwoman) and Inge Brach-Muelm.

Someone wanted to match her mother with a landowner in Pommern.

Irene thought life in the big city of Berlin was very exciting. She has a wide circle of friends and enjoyed going dancing

It was a dangerous time in Berlin. One had to careful what one said. There was a Blockfrau who would keep an eye on people and report any irregularities. Irene went to one of Hitler’s birthday parades. She never went to any of the big Nazi rallies such as the ones held at the Sportspalast.

On one occasion, Irene and some co-workers were having an excursion in Berlin. Someone told a political joke about Hermann Göring and his uniform. This was reported to the police. The joke teller was then charged and tried in front of Roland Freisler.

Irene was evasive in her testimony and escaped punishment. She could have been sent to a concentration camp if she said the wrong thing.

One could not leave Berlin without permission. If one did, the person could be executed as a deserter.

Irene said that Dr. Zeletsky had said that Hitler would destroy us all. Her uncles also made anti-Hitler comments.


Gertrud Dzialias Syzma died of heat stroke. She missed a train connection and had to walk. Inconsistently, the story is told her son Helmut failed to pick her up because he was drunk and that is why she had to walk. She is buried in the church cemetery in Tworog. Someone said “I never forgave him.”

While she was in Berlin, she got packages of food from Silesia. Tante Gertrud Szyma sent cheese. Irene made a cheese sandwich and said down to eat it while she was reading a book. She did not notice the maggots in the cheese.


The legal publishing company was bombed out. Irene had been in Berlin about 5 years at this point. The publishing operation was weighing moving the operation to either Itzehoe in Schleswig-Holstein or Teplitz-Schonau in Bohemia. They decided to go to Teplitz-Schonau. The new building was on Hermann Göring Straße.

She had a beautiful summer. They had good food to eat. She was there with her friend and colleague, Inge Habel. (Note – the Schwarks visited her in Berlin in 1997.) While she worked in Teplitz-Schonau, she was able to travel to Prague for a visit. They had a Maikäferplage. They lived with a woman and they hiked in the woods.

At one point she was in Tarnowitz (Tarnowskie Góry), Upper Silesia near Kattowitz (Katowice) to attend her uncle’s funeral. Someone commented on the bad odor permeating the area. Someone said they were burning the “unclean.” (Kattowitz is about 25 miles from Auschwitz (Oświęcim)).

At other times people asked where all the trains were going.


Irene’s mother marries her cousin Conrad Bittner (Opi). He captained a U-Boot in World War I and was a instructor at the German U-Boot school in Kiel. When he refused to punish a subordinate he was exiled to Pillau (Baltisyk) in East Prussia. To while away the time he took frequent walks on the beach collecting amber.


In early 1945, Irene visited a relative in Dresden shortly before it was fire bombed.

On May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany capitulated. Within days, units of the Soviet Army arrived. The Czechs took reprisals against the Germans. Irene said the Russian soldiers protected her from the Czechs. Irene was afraid of the Russian soldiers, especially the Mongolian troops who looked very foreign to her.

In the fall, she and other Germans were expelled by the Czechs from Czechoslovakia. She traveled to Berlin mostly on foot, a distance of about 125 miles. Her feet were terribly swollen after the walk. Fortunately, she was able to travel part of the way by train.

She was worried that the Russians or Czechs would take her jewelry. She was especially worried about the coin bracelet that her grandfather had given her grandmother for an engagement present.

When she got to Berlin she worked for Dr. Zeletsky again. They told her she could stay, keep house and work. She helped with the dental work of a Soviet Officer who paid them in (probably stolen) jewels. They iced his gums and Irene held him down. The next day he came back with corned beef.

When she told Mrs. Zeletsky that she was fleeing west, Mrs. Zeletsky said she should come back and take care of her three children. Irene would never dream of returning to Berlin. (It was lucky for her she did not return since the Zeletskys were in the Russian occupation zone.)

Irene said the Russian soldiers were terrible. At one point, she ran from building to building to escape Russian soldiers. She said “I was lucky.”

In Berlin, the Russian would shout from the windows “Frau komm.”

Her friend Inge Brachmüller had a picture of Irene in her house. The Russians said “Frau, wo?” Inge said she did not know where Irene was.

The situation for Irene’s relatives in Ober Silesia was dire. Her aunt Margarethe and uncle Karl left the Försterei when the Russians came and hid with a farmer. Karl died there. He is also buried in the Tworog church cemetery.


Irene travels from Berlin to Holstein to join her mother who was living in Neustadt. She walked much of the way. Sometimes a truck would take her part of the way. At one time she got in a car with English soldiers. It took her 11 days. She slept in train station tunnels. This was very dangerous; she could have been murdered.

At Magdeburg she got in a cattle car with American soldiers. When she heard what they wanted from her, she grabbed her satchel and jumped out of the train.

Another time Irene said the Americans told her to jump in the train. She saw women lying on beds! The Americans said “No, you are ok. You are just girls.” And they did not touch them. Not clear in this story if she got on the train. (Irene had told similar stories about the Americans and it being a truck.)

She left the Soviet zone by train. The border between the Russian and British sectors was closed. She was in a compartment with English soldiers. She hid under the bed when the Russians checked the train.

Irene made it to her cousins Ursula’s residence in Germany, possibly Abensen, near Hannover. Ursula asked “Wo kommst Du hehr?” Ursula’s husband Herbert Reichelt took her to Lübeck. From there she got to Neustadt. (Sandbergerweg). (At some point Irene heard that Alice had left the Riesengeberge and headed to Holstein to marry Conrad Bitner. When was this?)

Alice was housing refugees in their home, sharing cooking space, toilets, etc. It was bad.

During the trip to Holstein, she got diphtheria. She thinks she got it from sleeping in train tunnels. The toilet-lady in Lübeck diagnosed her ill-health. When she got to Holstein, her mother was surprised she had made it. The local doctor, Dr. Sarnow, was able to secure some penicillin in Kiel, which saved her life. She did not have a period for nine months. She was in bed for either six weeks or six months.

Holstein was paradise for her after her experience in bomb-ravaged Berlin and in the Sudetenland since it had escaped the ravages of war. However, she had a lot of trouble understanding the local German dialect – Platt.

Dr. Sarnow told her to get out of the house and make friends. So, she joined a table tennis club in Neustadt. There she met Hans Lehmann, a young dentist, who fell in love with her. (His mother was a friend of Auguste Schwark.) He was a “nice boy.” They were close but not officially engaged. When the relationship ended, his father was angry with her. (Irene’s husband Hans said he never met his rival.) She also met Willi Lahmen in the club.

Gertrud Szyma was also living in Neustadt. She worked as a seamstress for a lawyer. This lawyer got Irene a job in an office in Oldenburg doing secretarial work in the de-Nazification office. She took the train from Neustadt to Oldenburg. Gertrud had a sleazy boyfriend and he wanted Irene to help him jump the line as far as getting a job. Gertrud thought her boyfriend liked Irene and she was furious with Irene and her boy friend and said “You should have died as a child.” Gertrud later regretted the statement later.

Hans Schwark would get on the train in Lensahn to get to his job in Oldenburg.

Irene noticed Hans reading Time magazine.

One day, he sat down across from her, even though the car was empty. Irene thought that was a little forward.


On July 15, 1950, Hans Schwark and Irene Szyma married in the Catholic Church in Neustadt, Schleswig-Holstein.


On February 18, 1951, Sabine Irene Schwark was born in the hospital in Neustadt. She weighed ten pounds. Irene said she “screamed the hospital down” during labor.

The United States government granted Hans Schwark’s application to immigrate to America. Irene’s mother was devastated when she heard that they were moving to America. She complained that Irene “took Sabine away from her.” Over the years, Irene’s mother visited them seven times in America.

When they arrived in America, Irene did not speak a word of English. She carried a small dictionary which she used to complete her sentences. (Sabine has this well-worn dictionary.) She was home alone with Marian Jones and had to learn to communicate. Marian had a staccato voice and Irene thought she was always angry.


Irene’s mother lived in Pelzerhaken.


Irene’s mother moves to Kamp Lintfort.