Henry Haas 720x720Henry 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-Englis h 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 live d 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.