Bass, Walter

Walter Bass wuchs in der Versorgungsheimstraße auf und emigrierte nach Australien.

We lived in Vesorgungsheimstraße in Lainz. My father, a civil engineer, was jewish, although not practising that religion; my mother was a German from Bavaria (non Jewish). After the „Anschluss“ my father was arrested by the Austrian secret police, not for being jewish, but for having clippings from the Arbeiterzeitung in his wallet which he dropped in the vestibule of our apartment block and which was handed to the police by a rather unpleasant woman in the flat upstairs. When the police found he was jewish they delivered him up to the Nazis and he spent a year as guest of the Führer in Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps. He was released half way through 1939. The reason he was released is a bit of myster. Either it was because typhus broke out in the camp, or as a result of representations by one of my mother´s brothers who was high up in the Nazi hierarchy and had connections, or it was because a friend in London had the Blue Funnel Line send my father a letter in the camp stating that there was a three berth cabin reserved for us on every one of their ships until 10 hours before their departure. The Blue Funnel Line belonged the Quakers who helped a lot of Jews to escape from the Nazis.

My grandparents
My grandparents weren´t so lucky. My grandfather, Alfred Bass, was a doctor. They lived in Mariahilferstraße. When the Nazis came they evicted my grandparents from their flat. They lived with friends until my grandmother died of pneumonia. My grandfather seems to have then gone to pieces. He went from friend to friend until the Nazis caught him. He died either in Lodz or in Theresienstadt, probably in 1940. My parents had done their utmost to get him out to Australia but he refused to leave Vienna. He was one of the many who had no real idea what the Nazis were capable of. While he was trying to evade the Nazis he gave a life-long friend a large sum of money, virtually his life´s savings to a non jewish friend to hold for him. When, some months later he tried to get some of it back for his own use, his good friend denied ever having had it. There was a saying at the time that „he Germans made good Nazis but lousy anti-semites, and the Austrians made lousy Nazis but marvellous anti-semites,“ I guess my grandfather was a victim of that.

We arrived Australia
Anyway, we arrived in Australia six weeks before the war and, even though we were classed as enemy aliens, we were treated with great kindness here. My father resumed his work as an engineer and lived happily until his death in 1959. He refused ever to return to Austria, saying that „they´d thrown him out once and they weren´t going to get a second chance.“ My mother died in 1978. I´ve been back to Vienna a couple of times. The last time We went I was walking behind a couple engaged in earnest conversation. Suddenly the man threw his hands up and said: „Well he´s a Jew, what do you expect!“ As the English say, „The more things change the more they remain the same.“ I am now retired. My working life was spent as a Surveyor with the New South Wales public service. I married to a New Zealander. We have three sons and two grandchildren.