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Fred Schwartz was born on October 10, 1931 in the Tremont section of the Bronx. His father, Samuel, was a third-generation furrier. Samuel Schwartz, an immigrant from Poland, "had no idea what went on in the classroom because he had never sat in one all his life," Fred Schwartz told The Times in 2003. "So for him to allow me to go to school was an intuitive sense that this was probably a very good thing for me."

Fred graduated from William Howard Taft High School in the Bronx and from City College in 1953, where he majored in social science.

He married Allyne Kalmus and together they have four children and seven grandchildren. 

Mr. Schwartz was founder, chairman and CEO of The Fur Vault, which became the preeminent retail fur company in the United States. While he was active in many philanthropic endeavors, he took great pride in his founding of the Raoul Wallenberg Scholars in 1984 and his participation on the boards of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Hebrew University.

After retiring from his company, he founded the Auschwitz Jewish Center and restored the only remaining Synagogue in Oswiecim, Poland (known in German as Auschwitz,) which thrives today as a vibrant study center. "Our goal is to recreate a permanent structure symbolizing Jewish life in a place that, for too many years, has only represented Jewish death," Mr. Schwartz said. "I felt that until we can attach human characteristics to the people who perished there, we won't understand the horror."

 Fred's vision for the AJC led to his creation of the Auschwitz Institute for the prevention of Genocide in 2005, now based at Auschwitz and in New York City, with worldwide symposiums and seminars, teaching mid-level government officials and military officers how to prevent genocide.

Mr. Schwartz was awarded the 2013 Townsend Harris Medal for outstanding post-graduate achievement by the alumni Association of The City College of New York. He died on August 7, 2016 in Great Neck, NY at age 84. He is survived by his wife, Allyne, four children, Steven and Elizabeth, Amy, Gary Schwartz; and Anni and Michael Kluger; seven grandchildren, Casey, Gavin,  Dustin and Max Schwartz; Caitlin, Spencer and Eden Kluger.