Klaus Zwilsky papers

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2010.200.1
1 Jan 1930 - 31 Dec 1946
Level of Description
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium




Biographical History

Klaus Werner Max Zwilsky (1932- ) was born in Berlin, Germany on August 16, 1932. He is the only son of Ruth Herzberg Zwilsky and Ehrich Erich Zwilsky. Ruth Herzberg (later Ruth Zwilsky, 1910-1985) was born in Breslau, Germany on May 11, 1910. She was one of six children of Mayer Martin Herzberg, who owned a dry goods store and Elsbeth Förder Herzberg. Ruth attended pharmacy school in Breslau but was not licensed to practice due to anti-Jewish legislation enacted in the fall of 1935 restricting the practice medicine by Jews. Ehrich Zwilsky (1896-1961) was born on August 23, 1896 in Landsberg, East Prussia, Germany (today: Górowo Iławeckie, Poland), 77 km south of Königsberg (today: Kaliningrad, Russia). He attended Gymnasium in Osterode (today Ostroda, Poland) and at age 18, in 1914 he fought in WWI in the German Army. Upon his release from the military service he attended Königsberg University from which he graduated with a pharmacist degree. In 1931 Erich Zwilsky moved to Berlin. He married Ruth Herzberg on August 30, 1931. This was a double wedding ceremony for Ruth and Ehrich, her sister Gisela and Phillip Kozower. The Zwilsky family resided at 10 Krausnickstrasse, in the Mitte district of Berlin and later they moved to 52 Klopstockstrasse in the western part of the city. In November 1936, Klaus Zwilsky started his education in a kindergarten and in April 1938 he continued at a Jewish elementary school located at 58 Klopstockstrasse. The Zwilsky family received their permit to come to India in July 1939 and they were supposed to sail on October 1, 1939. The outbreak of the war wiped out this plan and the Zwilsky family remained in Berlin. In October 1940, Ruth Zwilsky was conscripted as a slave laborer for the Siemens Company in Berlin. Her workday lasted 12 hours a day. In 1941 Klaus was accepted to a Jewish Gymnasium in Berlin, but by June 1942 all Jewish education ceased to function. After the closure of the Jewish schools, Klaus spent many days and nights at his maternal aunt’s apartment. Gisela Herzberg Kozower was married to a prominent Berlin lawyer, Phillip Kozower. They had three children: Eva Kozower (b. May 20, 1932); Alice Kozower (b. June 19, 1934); and Uri Aron Kozower (b. November 13, 1942). Klaus spent most of his time with his cousins until late January 1943. On January 27, 1943, the Kozower family was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp the next day. Erich Zwilsky worked in “Adreas – Apotheke” in Berlin until January 31, 1939. At that point Jews were not allowed to work in non-Jewish pharmacies and Erich Zwilsky applied for a job as an office worker in the Jewish Community of Berlin. A year later he transferred to the health department of the Association of Jews in Germany Reichsvereinigung, located at Oranienburgerstrasse. Dr. Walter Lustig was the head of the health department and in 1942 he became the director of the Jewish Hospital located on 2 Iranischestrasse. He had two principal assistants: Selmar Neuman was responsible for the affairs of the hospital and Erich Zwilsky was the principal aid running the Reichsvereinigung. On February 27, 1943 the letters protecting Jewish forced laborers (Schutzbriefe) from deportations, ceased to be valid. Ruth Zwilsky and many others were arrested during the factory arrests action (Fabrik-Aktion). Ruth was released on March 6, 1943 because her husband Erich was the Jewish Community employee. On that day Ruth became an employee in a sewing and repairing military uniforms company located in the Jewish Hospital. About the same time the Zwilsky family had to move into the Jewish hospital – they were not allowed to reside in their apartment anymore. Most of the people living, working and hospitalized in the Jewish Hospital in Berlin in the years 1944 -1945 were either in mixed marriages with non-Jewish Germans or their children. Klaus Zwilsky and his parents were an exception to this rule. Ruth Zwilsky even clandestinely baked matzoth for Passover in the hospital. At the beginning of 1945 air raids on Berlin became a nightly occurrence. The Jews housed in the hospital were aware that their end might come anytime. They believed that the Germans would not allow Jews to survive the war. On April 24, 1945 the Soviet troops reached the Jewish Hospital and to their amazement they found some eight hundred Jews. On July 28, 1945 or 18 of the month of Av 5705, Klaus Zwilsky celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in the hospital’s synagogue. Dr. Lustig was arrested by the Soviets never to be heard from again. Erich Zwilsky became the director of the hospital. On August 25, 1945, The New York Times published a short article about the improving conditions for the Jews in Berlin, mentioning that Erich Zwilsky was the director of the Jewish Hospital. Irma Goldstein, Ruth’s sister, was able to re-establish contact and started the efforts to bring the Zwilsky family to the United States. Klaus and his parents continued to live on the premises of the Jewish Hospital. Ruth worked in the hospital pharmacy, but she insisted on leaving Germany. With the help of the Red Cross the Zwilsky family received papers to go to Sweden, to Erich’s cousin, Else and Adolph Hirschfeldt. The Red Cross bus transported the Zwilsky family to Southern Sweden and from there they proceeded to Stockholm. Ruth and Erich Zwilsky worked as pharmacists in Stockholm and Klaus dedicated his time to English lessons. In January 1947 the US immigration visa were granted and the Zwilsky family sailed to New York on board SS Drottningholm. Immediately upon arriving in Lakewood, NJ, where they joined Irma, Kurt and Carl Goldstein, Klaus re-started his interrupted education. He graduated in 1950 and was accepted at MIT where in 1959 he earned the Ph.D. in metallurgy. On June 17, 1956 Klaus Zwilsky married Roberta Allen. They have two children; Mark David and Ellen Dana Zwilsky. Roberta Zwilsky died in 1999 and Klaus married Roberta Safer. They live in Port Republic, MD. Erich Zwilsky died in 1961 and Ruth Zwilsky died in 1985. Ruth Zwilsky’s younger brother, Salomon Sally Herzberg was born on December 7, 1911 in Breslau. He studied medicine in Breslau and Berlin and worked in the Jewish Hospital since 1937 as an internist. Sally met Gerta Golly Grünberg, a nurse in the pediatric ward of the hospital and the two fell in love. Dr. Sally Herzberg was arrested in the Gestapo hospital raid and was held for a few weeks in an arrest (Sammellager), on Grosse Hamburgerstrasse. Golly joined him there voluntarily. They both believed that as young professionals they would survive the war in Theresienstadt. On May 19, 1943 Sally and Golly were deported from Berlin to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Rabbi Leo Baeck married the young couple there. On September 28, 1944 Sally Herzberg was deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and was murdered in a gas chamber on arrival. Golly again volunteered to be deported hoping to be reunited with her husband. When she arrived in Birkenau on October 9, 1944 she found out that he was already dead. Golly Herzberg survived the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, death marches and other camps. Moritz Mohr Herzberg, Ruth’s oldest brother was born on January 21, 1902. He attended medical schools in Berlin and Edinburgh and practiced in Berlin. In 1936 he left Germany for England and together with his wife Dr. Liesel Apple served in the British Army in India. Mohr sent affidavits to his sister Irma Herzberg Goldstein in Breslau to come to Madras, India. Irma, Kurt and their son Carl managed to leave Germany on February 18, 1939. Ruth’s parents: Meyer Martin Herzberg, born on April 11, 1870 died on November 15, 1940 and Elsbeth Herzberg, born on August 3, 1881, died in Berlin on August 7, 1941. Both were buried at the Weissensee Jewish cemetery in Berlin. After the war Ruth Zwilsky added a plaque on her parents’ gravestone commemorating their children and her siblings who were murdered during the Holocaust. It lists: Gisela Herzberg Kozower, her husband and three children, Sally Herzberg and Hilde Herzberg Burstein, her husband Sally and their children: Inge and Herbert.

Archival History

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Klaus M. Zwilsky

Klaus M. Zwilsky donated the Klaus Zwilsky papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2010.

Scope and Content

Collection of documents and photographs relating to the Zwilsky family's experiences in Berlin, Germany.




This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.