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Oral history interview with Jack Bass

Oral History | Accession Number: 2016.155.1 | RG Number: RG-50.106.0236

Jack Bass (born Joachim Henri Bass on November 1, 1932 in Bern, Switzerland) discusses moving to Paris, France in 1934 with his parents and Orthodox grandmother because of father's practice as an accountant; relocating to Milan, Italy in 1937, where he saw antisemitic slogans and swastikas; moving to Genoa, Italy in 1938; speaking Italian and wearing a uniform as a member of the Italian Fascist Youth group, Balilla; attending public school in Genoa; being warned by his mother Eva to be careful about what he said to his Christian friends; being aware that families were disappearing; his father, Morris, being taken away; going to Potenza in 1941/1942; living in the Ferramonte internment camp; sleeping in barracks with 40 to 50 children; being confused with lack of food and seeing people being taken away; his mother being put in a women’s prison camp, where she was sexually abused and became pregnant; returning to Ferramonte with his baby sister, Yolanda; walking with his mother, grandmother, and sister for 100 kilometers north when the Allied bombing started; getting food from Italian farmers during their three day walk; his mother going by herself and returning with an American soldier who drove them in his jeep to Naples, where they stayed for five days; how the four of them were chosen to go to the United States in 1944 with Ruth Gruber, whom he got to know on the boat (the Henry Gibbins); his mother performing as a singer on the boat; the American staff being very respectful and compassionate; being elated and joyous though it was a dangerous 10 day voyage in the North Atlantic because of the U-boats; arriving in Hoboken, NJ and being disinfected with DDT powder; going by train to Oswego, NY; crossing the Rainbow Bridge to get to Fort Ontario (though Ruth Gruber in her book says they crossed the bridge later after they left Fort Ontario); living in barracks; townspeople bringing them food, blankets, and books; being transported to a school at a state teacher’s college; being sent after one year to a foster family in Philadelphia, PA, where he had his Bar Mitzvah; becoming Americanized; going back to Oswego after nine months; attending high school for six months; being given permanent US residency; living in a tenement on the lower East Side of Manhattan with support from HIAS; being a street vendor selling fruits and vegetables at age 16; becoming a limo driver, marrying, moving to Florida, divorcing, and remarrying; having two children; trying to get documents as proof he was in Ferramonte for restitution; and having mental scars from what he saw as a child.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Jack Bass
Gail Schwartz
interview:  2014 December 15
1 digital file : WAV.
Record last modified: 2021-02-22 10:47:24
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