Henry Haas was born to two Jewish families in Berlin Germany on April 8, 1938. In July, 1938, his parents Ivan Hans Haas (later John) and Gerda resolved to escape but had no way, literally, to immigrate to any country in the world. They fled for 12 months, traveling first to Slovakia, then the Czech Republic, Italy, Holland and France. Finally, in July 1939, with the assistance of a Jewish Refugee organization in Paris France, they were able to secure tickets on a ship to Shanghai, China. This was the only port in the world, which, from 1933 to 1941, admitted approximately 17,000 Jews. The Haas family ship journey took three weeks, traveling from Marseille, France to Port Said Egypt, through the Suez Canal to Djibouti on the horn of Africa, and eventually to the port of Shanghai. A city of 6 million at that time, the Haas family arrived in Shanghai without funds, in a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and encountered an entirely foreign culture.
The following eight years were spent under Japanese occupation, living in an area that became the “Ghetto of Hongkew”, with their home being a single small room – no bathroom, no toilet, and no kitchen.
In 1947, two years after the end of WWII, the family arrived as non-English speaking refugees, in San Francisco. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), helped the Haas family to come to America. First they settled in Portland Oregon, then Centralia Washington, and, finally, in Tacoma Washington.
Kate, Henry’s wife, born and brought up near London, England, came to Tacoma at age nineteen for a visit and stayed. Kate Haas has written the Haas family story in great detail. Together, Henry and Kate, with the use of photos, maps, and historic family documents, tell the story. Henry and his late mother Gerda, who lived to age 98, told this story for many years to school classes and other groups in the Tacoma area. Now, Henry has joined the speaker’s bureau to further share this memoir of anti-Semitism, during the Holocaust.
Henry graduated from the University of Puget Sound and obtained a law degree from the University of Washington in 1962. He continues practicing law to this day.
Andrea and Joanna D’Asaro and their mother Barbara Sachs D’Asaro tell the story of Barbara’s childhood in Nazi Germany, and her escape as a young girl.
Barbara was born Bärbel Sachs near Rostock, Germany on August 18, 1927. She was adopted by a Jewish couple, Erich and Johanna Sachs, who lived in Berlin.
When Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nazi regime made life increasingly difficult for Jews in Germany. As a result, Barbara’s parents bribed officials to destroy documents about her adoption, which noted that a non-Jewish child had been adopted into a Jewish family. Barbara lived a happy childhood as her parents attempted to protect her from the growing danger they faced. Despite their best efforts, Barbara was still exposed to Nazi propaganda. She experienced the rapid takeover of Nazi ideology and policies into everyday life, including schools and youth organizations.
With the escalation of persecution in Germany, Barbara’s parents decided that for their family’s safety, it would be best to leave the country. Although Barbara’s status, being non-Jewish by birth, may have been safe, her parents’ certainly was not. They were able to find two sponsors in New York City who would support them in their move to the United States.
The Sachs family arrived by ship in New York harbor in 1938 and began to build a life in New York City. Barbara attended Oberlin College in Ohio and later Cornell University. At Cornell, Barbara met her future husband Arthur D’Asaro, and they married in 1953. Barbara and Arthur had four children. Barbara used a master’s degree in Nutrition to direct health oriented classes, and Arthur used his doctorate in physics in his job at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. Barbara’s parents had some relatives who scattered all over the world due to the Holocaust, and others who were murdered by the Nazis.
In 2017 Andrea, a teacher, helped Barbara put her family story together into a presentation for classrooms. With the help of the Holocaust Center, Barbara, Joanna, and Andrea are now part of the Speakers Bureau to share Barbara’s unique experience during World War II.
Izzy was born in 1936 and grew up in Yampol, Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union. He was a young boy of five when the Germans invaded Ukraine in 1941. Not long after, Izzy and his family were forced to move to a ghetto in town. In September 1942, Jews from Yampol were rounded up and deported to a slave labor camp. Izzy and the other prisoners lived in primitive barracks made out of thin wood, with 35 people in one room. People were hungry and cold all the time, and the work never ceased. Izzy saw Nazis shoot and kill his own grandfather because he was unable to work.
The camp was liberated by the Soviet Army in 1944. Izzy returned to Yampol, but the war continued for several months, and then a severe famine made life very difficult. Izzy’s father returned from the front lines, but many, many men in the community had died or were seriously injured. Moreover, during this time antisemitism remained prevalent in the society and politics of the Soviet Union. The suffering of Jews during the Holocaust was not recognized, and Jews faced obstacles to go to school or get jobs.
Although Izzy went to school in Yampol, it lacked textbooks and even paper. Izzy loved to read and dreamed of being a teacher or doctor. Despite his high achievement and test scores, Izzy was not accepted at several choice universities. Instead, after being drafted into the Soviet Army for three years, Izzy was finally able to attend the State University in Moldova.
Izzy eventually completed two doctorate degrees and began a 28-year career as an economist with the prestigious Academy of Sciences in the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Izzy and his family immigrated to the United States the following year. They lived first in Rochester, New York, and since 2011 here in the Seattle area.
Izzy has been asked to lecture at the United Nations, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and other institutions. He has also written nine books, including a memoir and a book for children inspired by his granddaughters. Izzy is a current member of the Holocaust Center’s Speakers Bureau.
Ron Friedman is the son of Herbert Friedman, born in 1924 in Vienna, Austria.
“It is important to remember an event such as the Holocaust. It is a reminder to us all of the evils of bigotry and humiliation of others. Unfortunately, there are many holocausts in the world — both big and small — which have occurred since, and continue to occur. And it is left to ensuing generations to resonate the lessons of history.” – Ron Friedman
Herbert Friedman escaped from Vienna at age 14 aboard the Kindertransport. This event, and the ensuing years before Herbert’s emigration to America, were the defining moments of his life.
Herbert's family traveled from Radom, Poland to Vienna in the early 1920s. At the time, Jews played a central role in Viennese culture.
Herbert had a happy childhood. He attended public school during the day and Hebrew school at night. His mother stayed at home, and his father worked as a shoemaker. They lived in an apartment in a middle class neighborhood of Vienna and Herbert had many friends, Jewish and Christian. Herbert loved to swim, including in the Danube River in Vienna, known for its strong currents. At the age of 12, Herbert and another youth saved a young women from drowning in the Danube.
In March 1938, Austria fell under Nazi occupation and became part of the German Republic and the lives of all Jews came under threat. Herbert was immediately expelled from school by the Nazis, and Jews all over the region suffered. A particularly brutal act of anti-Jewish violence occurred in November 1938, Kristall nacht , when Jewish shops were smashed and looted, synagogues burned, Jewish businesses dissolved, and hundreds were arrested and taken away, never to be seen again.
Following Kristallnacht , Herbert knew there was no future life for the Jews of Vienna and he resolved at the age of 13 to escape. Through a series of unlikely events, Herbert was able was to meet an organizer of the short-lived Kindertransport (Childrens’ Trains) and to become a passenger on the first train of ten that left Vienna. The Kindertransport is credited with saving 10,000 children in Europe from facing a certain death in the gas chambers of Europe. Only 10 trains escaped before the Nazis ended the Kindertransport . Herbert was lucky to be among them.
In the end, 1,500,000 children are estimated to have died in the Holocaust. Nine out of 10 of the children who were fortunate enough to have escaped on the “Kindertransport” never saw their parents again.
Ron Friedman is now a second generation speaker and an attorney in Seattle.