St. Louis’ stories from the Holocaust: Basia (Bess) Fiszel

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Basia (Bess) Fiszel

Since 1979, Vida “Sister” Goldman Prince has been Chairman of the Oral Histories Project, at the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum. The project is dedicated to recording and preserving audio interviews of not only Holocaust Survivors, but also liberators of Nazi concentration camps and other non-Jewish witnesses living in Europe during World War II.

The museum was one of the first to begin gathering oral history projects so  these voices and photographs will be displayed and future generations will continue to be witnesses to this catastrophic period of world history.

In partnership with the Jewish Light, The St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum is allowing us to republish a portion of these Oral Histories project as a celebration of life and a crucial part of honoring and remembering the past. Please follow the provided links to additional recordings.

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A Brief Bio

Bess Fiszel (née Basia Gurt) was born February 12, 1920, in Lodz, Poland. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, she was able to complete her schooling, which lasted through the seventh grade. She was also responsible for helping in her family’s store.

In 1939, her family was forced to relocate so that the Germans could isolate the city’s large Jewish population into a part of the city that became known as the Lodz Ghetto. Bess managed to secure a job in construction during her stay in the ghetto, which meant both long hours of hard labor but also a small daily ration of food. Even so, there was not enough food to go around, as is evidenced by her father’s death in 1944 caused by starvation.

In August 1944, Bess Fiszel was transported to Auschwitz, where she would only spend two weeks. She was then sent to the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen for a period of six weeks. Bess was in Zaltswedel, the labor camp, from October 1944 until April 1945 when the camp was liberated by the British army.

Of her immediate family, only one brother and sister survived the war. Her brother moved to the United States, and she followed soon after in 1950. She married Sam Fiszel, who was also a survivor of the Holocaust and with whom she had three daughters, Jacqueline, Rosemary, and Mimi.

Listen to Tape 1 / Side 1 of Bess’ Oral History

Click here to listen to the additional taped recordings of Bess’ Oral History

Oral HistoryDiscover more stories

To view the full St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum Oral Histories archive, click here.