Henry Haas, 6 years old, Shanghai 1944
Henry Haas, 6 years old, Shanghai 1944

Henry Haas was born to a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany in 1938. In July of that year, his parents, Ivan (later John) and Gerda, resolved to escape – but no immigration destination was open to them. For a year they sought refuge in various places, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Holland and France. Finally, in July 1939, with the assistance of a Jewish refugee organization in Paris, they secured tickets on a ship to Shanghai, China. This was the only place in the world that admitted Jewish refugees without visas.

Henry and his parents boarded a ship in Marseille, France on July 7, 1939, and traveled to Shanghai via the Suez Canal and Horn of Africa. Three weeks later, without any funds, the Haas family arrived in the 105-degree summer weather of Shanghai and encountered an entirely foreign culture. The following eight years were spent there under Japanese occupation, living in an area with other Jewish refugees that became known as the “Hongkew Ghetto.” The area was very crowded and the family lived in one small room that had no bathroom, toilet, or kitchen. Between 1933 and 1941 at least 17,000 Jews like the Haases, mostly from Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, lived in Shanghai.

In 1947, Henry and his parents arrived as non-English speaking refugees in San Francisco, thanks to the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). They settled in Portland, Oregon, before moving to Centralia, Washington and finally to Tacoma, Washington.

Henry graduated from the University of Puget Sound and obtained a law degree from the University of Washington in 1962. He continues practicing law to this day. Kate, Henry’s wife, was born and raised near London, England, and came to Tacoma at age nineteen for a visit and ended up staying. Kate Haas has written the Haas family story in great detail.

Henry and his late mother Gerda, who lived to age 98, told their family story for many years to school classes and other groups in the Tacoma area. Henry is a member of the Holocaust Center's Speakers Bureau. 


More About This Survivor:

A Global Journey to Safety with Holocaust Survivor Henry Haas (1:01:06)

Full Testimony Part 1 - Henry Haas (2022, 2:35:58)

Full Testimony Part 2 - Henry Haas (2022, 3:25:28)