1923 - 2010

Jack Bass


Born in 1923, Jack was subjected to antisemitic name-calling in school even before Hitler came to power. His mother hoped he would become a doctor like his father, but Jack’s schooling would become a series of interruptions.

Following his father’s death in 1932, Jack, his sister, and his mother moved to Trier, then Cologne, and finally to Berlin, each time moving to a larger city in an effort to remain anonymous, each time forced to attend Jewish schools. Jack’s mother remarried, and recognizing the bleak future, Jack’s step-father left for the U.S. in 1938 to arrange the family’s emigration. During Kristallnacht in Berlin, Jack was almost killed in the streets. His step-father did not return to Germany.

Two months before the war started, Jack’s sister left for England, taking a job in a children’s hospital. With school no longer an option for Jack, forced labor became his education. Jack and his mother made leather knapsacks for the German troops, paid only half the wage of non-Jewish Germans. In mid-1942, Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda, promised to make Berlin “Judenrein” (free of Jews) by Hitler’s April birthday. Jack and his mother were arrested in late 1942. Separated during deportation, he was sent by railroad cattle car to Auschwitz; his mother was sent to her death.

Because he was young and strong, Jack was selected for slave labor in five different camps: Auschwitz III (Buna or Monowitz), Auschwitz I, Dachau, Gross-Rosen, and Mühldorf. Each move was hastened by the approaching Russian forces. Jack worked building factories and sorting human hair to be used in the manufacture of mattresses. On May 8, 1945, Jack was liberated from Mühldorf by American troops. Now twenty-two, he weighed only sixty pounds.

After liberation, Jack searched for his family with no success and immigrated to New York in 1947. His family in Atlanta and a cousin working for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in New York were instrumental in his immigration. Jack has said that he could not have lived in the South during that period because the Jim Crow Laws were constant reminders of the persecution he had endured. With the ability to speak German and some French, English, and Yiddish, Jack wasted no time finding work.

Jack met and married his wife, Phyllis, in New Jersey. In 1994, they moved to Adamsville to be near family and escape the cold northern winters. 

Darkness Into Life

Claritas est etiam processus dynamicus, qui sequitur mutationem consuetudium lectorum. Mirum est notare quam littera gothica, quam nunc putamus parum claram, anteposuerit litterarum formas humanitatis per seacula quarta decima et quinta decima. Eodem modo typi, qui nunc nobis videntur parum clari, fiant sollemnes in futurum.

Online Exhibit

More Information

Name in US
Jack Bass
Name at Birth
Jürgen Jakob Bassfreund
Married Name
Jack Bass
Parents' Name

Irma Bodenheimer (Schindler, Rehfield)

Dr. Manfred Bassfreund

Date of Birth
September 30, 1923
Date of Birth - Note
Although born in Bernkastel, Jack was raised in nearby Mülheim.
Country of Birth
City of Birth
Sibling(s) Name(s)

Ilse Bassfreund
Born 1921

Spouse(s) Name(s)

Harriet Boxer
Married 1950-1976
2 children: Irma, Susan

Vivian Ryan
Married 1979-1986

Phyllis Sherman
Married 1993-2010

Children's Names

Irma Bass (Carrano)
(Born 1954)

Susan Bass (Whalin)
(Born 1957)

Religious Identity (Prewar)
Orthodox Judaism
Religious Identity (Postwar)
Reform Judaism
Camp(s) / Year(s)

Auschwitz III (Buna) / circa March 3, 1943
Tattoo #106377 ∇

Auschwitz I / June 1, 1943

Gross-Rosen / January 1945

Dachau / January 28, 1945

Mühldorf (subcamp of Dachau) / February 1945

Forced (Death) Marches

January 18, 1945: Auschwitz to Pless to Loslau to Gross-Rosen to Regensburg to Dachau. Arrived Dachau January 28, 1945.

Liberated By / Date
US Army / May 2, 1945
Location of Liberation

Mühldorf (subcamp of Dachau)

DP Camp(s) / Year(s)

Funk Caserne, Berlin

Other Experiences

Jack was arrested in Berlin on February 27, 1943, during the Großaktion Juden

Joined National Guard in 1947

Interviewed by David Boder (1946), SHOAH (1997), USHMM (2003), AHEC (2007)
Personal memoir available from AHEC Library

Year / City / Ship to US
December 13, 1946 / New York City / SS Ernie Pyle
Date Moved to Alabama
Alabama City of Residence
Date of Death
May 3, 2010
City of Death
City of Burial / Cemetery
Birmingham / Temple Emanu-El Cemetery
Dates Lived in Alabama