Ivo Herzer

Ivo Herzer

Born: February 5, 1925

Zagreb, Yugoslavia

Ivo was an only child born to a Jewish family in the city of Zagreb. His father worked in an insurance company. Though blatant antisemitism was considered uncommon in Yugoslavia, Jews were barred from government and university positions unless they converted to Christianity.

1933-39: In Zagreb I studied at a public secondary school. The curriculum was fixed and included three languages as well as religion. My school was highly selective but I enjoyed studying and did well. Though I didn't personally encounter overt prejudice in Zagreb, some Croatian fascist groups were fiercely antisemitic and supported the policies of the Nazis. I was 16 when the war began.

1940-44: In 1941 Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis powers and split into occupation zones. Fearing the Croatian fascists, my family wanted to escape to the Italian zone. Using the only two Italian words I knew, "Jew" and "fear," I approached some Italian army officers. They understood and sneaked us into the Italian zone. We weren't the only refugees; the Italians were shielding many Jews. My family was even invited to one of their army concerts. How ironic that Jews were being protected by a German ally.

Italy, defeated in 1943, pulled out of Yugoslavia, and Ivo crossed the Adriatic to southern Italy, recently liberated by the Allies. In 1948 Ivo immigrated to the United States.