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Oral history interview with Werner Barasch

Oral History | Accession Number: 1999.A.0122.392 | RG Number: RG-50.477.0392

Werner Barasch, born in May 1919 in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), describes growing up in a wealthy Jewish family; his father (Arthur), who had founded the first mass merchandising firm in Eastern Germany; moving to Berlin with his family circa 1921; living in a beautiful house and receiving a great education; participating in a Jewish boy scout organization; celebrating Jewish holidays with his extended family and occasionally attending synagogue; going to Italy in 1933 to continue his education; graduating in 1938; the arrests of Jews in Italy; going to Switzerland; his mother and sister who were in the United States, while his father was still in Berlin; going to Paris, France in July 1939; passing a teacher's certificate course; the beginning of the war; being arrested and sent to camp Ruchard for six months; the liquidation of the camp and fleeing to Southern France; going to Marseille in the hopes of getting a visa; bring rounded up by the Germans; being sent to camp Les Milles; deciding to escape when he heard they would be transferred to camp Gurs; escaping over the walls and crossing the border into Switzerland on a bike; being arrested in Geneva and extradited to France; being sent to camp Argeles in Southern France near the Pyrenees Mountains; escaping from the camp and walking to Spain; being arrested and sent to prison for 100 days; being sent to camp Miranda; conditions in the camp; working many different jobs in the camp, including the censorship office and being able to feed information to the British; being released in 1943; working in an office organizing papers for prisoners and trying to get his visa for the United States; being refused many times because his story was not credible and he ended up staying in Spain for two years after his release from Miranda; securing his visa and sailing from Lisbon, Portugal to the US in 1945; landing in Philadelphia, PA on VE day; staying with his mother; his sister who became a psychiatrist in California; learning that his father died in Sachsenhausen in 1945; attending UC Berkeley, MIT, and Colorado University; working as a chemist in California; never getting married; his mother’s death at age 92; crediting his survival throughout the war to his attitude of never giving up and not accepting being a victim; his lack of emotional attachment to his experiences; his fluency in German, English, Italian, French, and Spanish; and the book he wrote about his experiences (he shares photographs from his book at the end of the interview; the book is titled “Survivor: autobiographical fragments, 1938-1946”).

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Barasch, Werner
interview:  2001 November 14
Oral histories.
1 videocassette (SVHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties
Record last modified: 2022-06-24 20:30:07
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