Ivo grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in Zagreb. He experienced little overt antisemitism until the Germans and their allies invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941 and installed a fascist Ustasa government in Croatia. The Ustasa regime began killing Jews, Serbs, and Roma (Gypsies). Ivo's family escaped to Italian-occupied territory, where the Italians tried to protect Jewish refugees. Ivo lived in Italian internment camps, including the Rab island camp, before moving to mainland Italy in 1944. He worked for the Joint Distribution Committee for a time, then moved to the United States.
At one point, I don't remember the exact date, in July, that same year, a transport was being formed. In other words, again Jews were being arrested, to be transported to an island where they all perished. I was arrested on a certain day, and I was then 16 at the time. The agent, detective who came to arrest me, the Croatian, had my name on his list, not my father's name. This was unusual, and my father protested and said that it must be a mistake. He wanted to substitute himself for me, saying that, "You probably mean me, and not my son." The detective insisted, "No, it says Ivo Herzer and I have to take him." So my father said, "Well, I'll come with you." Of course, he couldn't go into that transitory camp. And so I was taken there. This was on the outskirts of the city of Zagreb, where fairs were held usually. And there were several hundred Jewish families with babies, complete families, pushed against the wall. And machine guns--heavy machine guns--were manned by the Ustasa, aimed at this mass of Jews who were...we had to respond to a roll call about every hour. We didn't know at all what would happen. Now we know what happened to that transport. As I said, they were taken to the island of Pag, P-A-G, and they all perished there under horrible circumstances. I was just lucky, because during the evening roll call, when my name came up, the Ustasa officer in charge said, "Are you here alone?" since they had families. I said, "Yes." He said, "Take your things and go home." Just like that. He could have easily said, "Bring his family." He didn't. Now this was past curfew time. I had no paper in my hand to prove that I had a right to be anywhere. And so I ran home. And I wasn't...no patrol found me. I was lucky. My parents thought they had lost me already, and they couldn't believe their eyes when I just burst in upon them.
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