Cover photo for J. Henry Schwartz's Obituary
J. Henry Schwartz Profile Photo
1929 J. 2022

J. Henry Schwartz

June 11, 1929 — August 14, 2022

J. Henry Schwartz died peacefully in Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 14th, 2022.

Born Josef Henryk Kruk in Warsaw, Poland, on June 11th, 1929, to Szmuel and Regina Kruk, he was always known as Henio to family and friends in Poland.

He remained in Warsaw with his mother in the immediate aftermath of the Nazi bombardment and invasion of Poland in September, 1939. In January of 1940, with the Soviets also invading Poland from the East, they escaped to the city of Vilnius in Lithuania, where his father, a journalist who had been reporting on the fighting, had found refuge with his brother Hermann (see footnote 1) . He and his mother were detained by both German and Russian soldiers along the way but were allowed to continue. His aunt, who was travelling and detained with them, was deported to Siberia by the Russian soldiers.

In Vilnius, the family obtained visas with the help of friends in the United States, but those visas were issued under one of Szmuel’s pseudonyms: Samuel Schwartz. Josef Henryk became Joseph Henry Schwartz.

There was no way, however, to get to the US directly from Lithuania or Russia, so they needed transit visas from another country. They obtained them from Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who is known as “The Japanese Schindler” (see footnote 2) . By this time, Russia had invaded Lithuania, and they were able to get to Moscow by train. From Moscow, they took the trans-Siberian railroad to Vladivostok where they boarded a ship to Japan. After a short time in Kobe, they boarded the S.S. President Pierce for the journey to America and arrived in San Francisco on November 19th, 1940. The family completed their journey by traveling across the country and settling in New York City.

Speaking no English when he arrived as a ten-year-old in 1940, Henry nevertheless graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1947, and then enrolled at Cooper Union, a small but prestigious engineering school in New York. After two years, however, Henry determined that his lack of enthusiasm for partial differential equations suggested that his talents would be better suited to Civil Engineering instead of Electrical Engineering, so he transferred to New York’s City College where he earned his BSCE in 1952. That would eventually be followed by his PE license, and an MS in Industrial Engineering from NYU.

Through an introduction by mutual friends, Henry met Alma Cohen, a native of New Hampshire who was a graduate student at Columbia University at the time. They were married in August, 1952. And after living in Georgia for two years, where PFC Schwartz tested weapons for the US Army at Fort Benning (and suffered partial hearing loss – for which, many decades later, the VA would give him hearing aids that never quite worked), they returned to New York City and had two children: Elizabeth Schwartz Calkins, now of Indianapolis, and Richard Schwartz, now of Nashua, New Hampshire. The family moved to Somerset, New Jersey in 1966, where Alma became a school teacher and administrator, and then to Darien, Connecticut after the kids had graduated from college and settled down.

Henry spent his Civil Engineering career working for construction firms based in the New York metropolitan area including, Bechtel, Cayuga, Schiavone, and Perini. He supervised bids and managed many major projects across the Northeast, including work on highways, airports, bridges, subways, and sewage treatment plants. He retired from Perini in 1998, and he and Alma moved to Indianapolis in 2002, in order to be closer to family during Alma’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alma passed away on January 1st, 2007. Henry is survived by his daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Dr. Paul M. Calkins, his son Richard and his wife Beth Chiaet Schwartz, and his grandchildren Avery and Eli Calkins, and Shaina and Leah Schwartz.

A recording and transcript of an interview Henry gave about his life for the Veteran’s History Project of the Library Of Congress can be found at by Clicking Here .

Calling will be at Aaron-Ruben-Nelson Mortuary from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 20, 2022.

Elizabeth and Richard request that anyone wishing to make a memorial donation in Henry’s name consider one of the following charities:

World Central Kitchen

World Central Kitchen, Inc., Attn: Donor Services Team, 200 Mass Ave NW, 7th Floor, Washington, DC 20001.

United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)

World Food Program USA, PO Box 37239, Boone, IA 50037-0239

Feeding America

Feeding America, P.O. Box 96749, Washington, DC 20090-6749

1. Hermann Kruk did not leave Vilnius with Henry’s family, choosing instead to remain in Vilnius as head of the Jewish library there. His diaries, which were unearthed after the liberation of a concentration camp in Estonia and were later translated by Szmuel, have provided valuable source material for Holocaust scholars. The last entry in his diary was written on September 17th, 1944. He and all other prisoners were murdered on the 18th. The Red Army arrived at the camp on the 19th. Hermann’s story was the inspiration for and namesake of a character in Joshua Sobol’s play “Ghetto”, which came as a surprise to Henry when he and Alma saw the play performed in London in 1989.

2. Sugihara was the Japanese Imperial Vice Consul in Lithuania. Acting on his own authority, he issued thousands of transit visas to Polish and Lithuanian Jews, granting them the right to enter and stay temporarily in Japan while awaiting visas and transport to other countries. In many cases, he knowingly issued these visas to refugees who did not meet Japan’s requirement that refugees must already have visas to their destination country and enough money to pay for their own transport. Estimates of the number of visas granted by Sugihara run from 2,100 to about 6,000. Sugihara has been honored by the Israeli Holocaust Memorial (Yad Vashem) as “Righteous Among The Nations”, and posthumously by the governments of Poland, Lithuania and Japan.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of J. Henry Schwartz, please visit our flower store.

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Saturday, August 20, 2022

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