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Oral history interview with Hanna Cassel

Oral History | Accession Number: 1999.A.0122.154 | RG Number: RG-50.477.0154

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.

Hanna Cassel, born on December 6, 1914, in Berlin, Germany, describes her father Arthur, who owned a shoe store and her mother Rebecca, who helped run the store; her one brother, Werner, who was six years younger than her; her mother's parents, who were very religious, and spending during many holidays going to the temple with them; her parents, who were not religious; attending a private elementary school and then a girls' high school, which she was not able to finish because about a year and a half before she would have graduated, she lost her scholarship (because she was Jewish); her father's business ending because he was Jewish; not experiencing much antisemitism when she was younger, and how at first most people thought Hitler was crazy and he would never amount to anything; her very good non-Jewish friends, especially at school; her family home and her childhood and her love for reading; not having many options after she dropped out of school; her desire to go to Palestine with some of her friends, which her parents did not want her to do; moving to Rome, Italy and working as a nanny for several different families; how by 1939, Hitler had influenced Mussolini's policies and foreign Jews were required to leave Italy; the popular sentiment in Italy about Germany; the government-sponsored persecution growing worse; being arrested in December 1940 and put into a women’s concentration camp (she had avoided the first roundups); living with about 65 other Jews, Roma, and Yugoslavian partisans; conditions in the camp, the people there, and the flourishing black market; the German occupation of Italy and how the villagers in the town around the concentration camp helped free the prisoners because they knew the women of the camp would be killed or deported immediately by the Germans; hiding in the fields and then walking back to Rome, which took her about ten days; eating vegetables she took from nearby fields during her journey; being given fake papers by the police in the concentration camp’s town (the papers identified her as Anna Castelli; she told anyone who asked that she was an Italian fleeing the Allies); hiding with various friends in Rome; how most people at this time were surviving on the black market; the destruction of the synagogue in Rome right after she returned and the liquidation of the ghetto; the deportation of thousands of people; how several years earlier her parents and brother had gone to Shanghai, China, where her brother and father both died; having very little correspondence with her family while she was in Rome; getting some information from listening to the radio, which was illegal; living in hiding on the outskirts of the city when Rome was liberated on June 5, 1944; the euphoria at that moment and the difficulty of life after the liberation; how food was hard to come by; getting a job at the American Joint Distribution Committee; getting a visa to the United States and arriving in the US in December of 1948; her mother’s death and Hanna’s depression; working nights while taking classes at San Francisco State College; earning a BA and wanting to become a librarian; becoming a teacher after earning her Master’s degree; returning to Italy almost every summer once she was a teacher and visiting friends; returning to Germany for the first time in 1972 to visit a cousin; her hesitation to return to Germany; having a Bat-Mitzvah in 1983; experiencing antisemitism in the US, especially at the high school where she worked; and never marrying or having children.

Interviewee
Hanna Cassel
Date
1992 August 11  (interview)
1992 September 01  (interview)
Language
English
Extent
2 videocassettes (SVHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
Credit Line
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, acquired from Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties
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Record last modified: 2018-01-22 11:05:29
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn508214