Oral History

Hans Heimann describes Italian aid to Jews

The Germans annexed Austria in March 1938. In 1939, Hans fled first to Hungary and then to Italy. He and his parents were interned in various towns. Hans's father became ill and died in 1940. In 1943, Hans and his mother were warned of German plans to deport Jews from Italy to Poland. They moved to smaller towns until liberation by the British in August 1943. Hans worked as an interpreter for the Allies until 1945, when he worked for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and helped resettle Jewish refugees.


There was a train waiting for us, of, uh, six or eight, uh, railroad wagons. And, uh, they said, we'll take but four of you to into, into each compartment--European trains have compartments, uh, not open, um, coaches like the United States has, like Amtrak, for example--and, uh, two policemen, uh, uniformed policemen, Carabinieri, which is the Italian, uh, state police, federal police, I should say, traveled with us. And as we were all from, uh, Austria or Germany, we talked German to one another. And the policemen, uh, finally said, uh, "This is ridiculous. We don't understand you. Why don't we take a compartment for ourselves and leave you there?" And while they were still traveling with us, they took their guns out of their holsters and put it in the luggage compartment. They bought us, uh, from, uh, the vendors at the station in Genoa little baskets of, uh, food and drinks, and we traveled there, we traveled to a place called Campagna, a small town in the mountains, in the...a small town in the mountains, in the province of Salerno, which, uh, where eventually, uh, General Mark Clark landed in 1943. And we were there, there were, we slept in two, uh, monasteries that were converted for us. There were about two to four in a room and we had free run of the town.


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