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Holocaust survivor recalls flight from Nazis

  • Published
  • By Benjamin Newell
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Fred Manasse fled Nazi Germany across five European countries and over the Pyrenees Mountains as a child and shared his experiences during Holocaust Remembrance Day here Monday.

Manasse spoke about his Jewish family’s persecution and the murder of his father, sister and several other family members. Today, the retired systems engineer is active in national Holocaust survivors groups, and also sculpts. He began sharing his experiences in 1990, upon realizing that he qualified as a Holocaust survivor.

“For many years, I never considered myself a survivor,” said Manasse. “I was never in a camp, I was just moving around as a child, so some survivors never counted us. When, in 1990, I realized I was, I started joining survivors groups and sharing my story more.”

Approximately 50 Hanscom military, civilian and dependent personnel attended Manasse’s presentation, which featured photos of his family and sculptures he completed memorializing family members and Holocaust victims. Following the event, 66th Air Base Group Commander Col. Roman L. Hund presented Manasse with a signed proclamation declaring April 23-30, 2017, Holocaust Remembrance Week at Hanscom.

Manasse was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1935. His family was upper-middle class, and his father, Alfred, owned a small shoe factory. Their uprooting began in 1938, with Kristallnacht. After attacks by Nazi sympathizers on Jewish neighborhoods, homes and businesses, the Manasses began separating and looking for safe countries to emigrate to.

“It’s so important to hear this story,” said Capt. Amber Gasparett-Bruning, a contracting administrator with the Battle Management Directorate here. “History, like this story, is part of everyday life. We have to remember this, or we’re always in danger of repeating it.”

Manasse related several instances of individuals who took risks to protect him as he fled on foot and by train. As a child aged, between three and nine during his flight from Germany, Manasse said he frequently had protectors in the form of older children or safe-house operators. These protectors helped him successfully navigate from Germany to Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal and finally the United States.

America offered Manasse a permanent home in 1945. He pursued an education, eventually working for Bell Labs and attaining a doctorate in theoretical physics. After stints as a professor, business owner and engineer for Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and the MITRE Corporation, Manasse retired to sculpt and currently lives in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Anti-semitism touched his life again when a sculpture he cast in memory of his sister and the other children killed in the Holocaust was stolen from a cemetery in Milton, Massachusetts, last fall. The sculpture, consisting of two bronze stars of David sitting atop a pedestal, was donated to the cemetery in 2012 and installed permanently about one year later. The bronze stars disappeared in September 2016 as a wave of defacements and thefts occurred at synagogues and cemeteries nationwide. Manasse said he believes the theft of the sculpture memorializing his sister, who was killed in a concentration camp, was a hate crime.

“I couldn’t believe this happened,” said Manasse. “But, once I began [planning how to replace the sculpture], I found that people will reach out and help. We’re in the process of having it replaced, thanks to a foundry and generosity of the community.”

Green Foundry in Eliot, Maine, run by Josh Dow and his wife, Lauren, cast the original sculpture. The Dows' foundry is in the process of replacing the sculpture with a duplicate. According to Manasse, supply costs will be provided by a local synagogue, while labor will be done at no cost.