Gerald Schwab papers

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2002.327.25
  • 2002.327.1
  • 2015.513.1
1 Jan 1885 - 31 Dec 2012
Level of Description
  • English
  • German
  • French
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium


oversize box

oversize folders





Biographical History

Gerald (Gerd) Abraham Schwab (1925-2014) was born in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany to David and Paula Kleefeld Schwab (d. 1995). His father owned an international plumbing supply company with a branch in Basel, Switzerland. Gerald had a sister, Margot, born in 1920. The family was somewhat observant Jews who attended synagogue on holidays, and Gerald was Bar Mitzvahed in 1938. He attended the local primary school in Freiburg. In January 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor, and there was a Nazi-led boycott of Jewish businesses. The Schwab family left Germany for Switzerland, but the Swiss authorities would not permit them to settle in Basel near their business. The family moved to St. Louis, a town just over the French border from Basel. For the next two years, David commuted to the office daily. In 1935, the French implemented a measure stipulating that refugees could no longer reside within 100 kilometers (60 miles) of the border with Germany. Not wanting to abandon the Basel business, Gerald’s parents decided to move back to Germany. They settled Lörrach, which was just over the German border from Basel, and continued to run the company. Sometime in 1937 or 1938, David’s permit to travel was revoked by the Nazi government. He began the process of liquidating the business and applying for American visas. The Schwabs received an affidavit of support from a relative in the US and were put on a waiting list of would-be immigrants. After the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9-10, 1938 and Gerald’s subsequent dismissal from school, the Schwabs focused all their energy on emigration. Gerald’s mother heard about a Swiss organization willing to sponsor refugee children to live in Switzerland. She submitted an application, and Gerald became one of only 300 Jewish children to be selected for the program. Gerald’s sister was not living with the family by this time. Shortly before the Schwabs moved back to Germany, she went to live at a French boarding school in Remiermont. A few years later she was able to immigrate to the U.S. Gerald left for Switzerland in March or April of 1939. He stayed first on a small family farm in Moenchaltdorf and later moved to Huetten ob Waedenswil, where he lived in the home of a florist, who was probably an adherent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the spring of 1940, Gerald received word from his parents that their visas had come through and were ready to be picked up in Stuttgart. Gerald rejoined his parents in Germany, and the three secured their visas on May 10, 1940, the day Germany invaded Belgium and Holland. Barred from leaving Germany through the Low Countries, Gerald’s father applied for a transit visa at the Italian consulate. A well placed gift secured the visas, and they proceeded to Genoa. There they boarded the SS Washington bound for New York. After a period of transition, the Schwabs purchased a poultry farm in Cranberry, N.J. In May 1944, Gerald was drafted into the U.S. Army. He joined the 10th Mountain Division and was sent to Italy in October of that year. At the end of the war he was transferred to an intelligence unit and assigned to the U.S. Detailed Interrogation Center (USDIC). At this facility, where high level German captives were being interrogated prior to being sent to trial, Gerald worked as a translator and interpreter. He remained at the USDIC until May 1946 when he was discharged from the army. Gerald immediately went to work for the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in Nuremberg. There he served as a translator and interpreter for the commission hearing evidence on the seven Nazi organizations that were under indictment by the IMT. In particular, he was involved in hearings about the German High Command and General Staff of the Wehrmacht. Gerald remained in Nuremberg until the day the IMT defendants were executed. He then moved to Berlin where he worked for the U.S. Chief of Consul responsible for trying the Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings. Assigned the position of junior research analyst, Gerald sifted through the collection of Nazi files stored at Tempelhof airport and made abstracts of relevant documents for specific cases. His research focused on material for the Justice Trial. In May 1947 Gerald decided to return to the U.S. to pursue his higher education. He studied political science at the University of Chicago and Stanford before launching a career in the American foreign service. He was married on December 25, 1949 to Ingeborg (now Joan) Nussbaum, a German Jew from Berlin who had escaped from Germany on a Kindertransport to Great Britain shortly before the war. Both of her parents perished in the Holocaust. Gerald Schwab’s book The Day the Holocaust Began: The Odyssey of Herschel Grynszpan was published in 1990 and his book OSS Agents in Hitler's Heartland: Destination Innsbruck was published in 1996.


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Gerald Schwab

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Susan Schwab and Teresa Marshall

Funding Note: The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Gerald Schwab and his daughters Susan Schwab and Teresa Marshall donated the Gerald Schwab papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2002, 2015, and 2016. The accession formerly cataloged as 2015.513.1 has been incorporated into this collection

System of Arrangement

The Gerald Schwab papers are arranged as thirteen series: Series 1: International Military Tribunal, Trial documents, 1934-1947 Series 2: International Military Tribunal, Photographs and illustrations, 1946-1947 Series 3: International Military Tribunal, Personal documents, 1935-1947 Series 4: International Military Tribunal, Correspondence, 1946-1995 Series 5: Herschel Grynszpan book, Correspondence, 1950-2009 Series 6: Herschel Grynszpan book, Publishing and production records, 1982-1998 Series 7: Herschel Grynszpan book, Research files, approximately 1966-1994 Series 8: Herschel Grynszpan book, Writings, 1951-approximately 1980s Series 9: Operation Greenup records, 1945-2013 Series 10: Restitution paperwork, 1924-2001 Series 11: Biographical and genealogical materials, 1885-2011 Series 12: Photographs, approximately 1916-1971 Series 13: Audiovisual and electronic records, 1994-2012

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions on access

Conditions Governing Reproduction

No restrictions on use

No restrictions on use


Corporate Bodies



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.