Veteran to Discuss Experience Serving in Segregated Army and Liberating Nazi Concentration Camp
Dr. Leon Bass, an African-American World War II veteran who helped liberate the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp, will speak at The University of Scranton’s McIlhenny Ballroom of the DeNaples Center on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. The presentation is open to the public, free of charge, and will be followed by the launch of the “Honor Roll Reading,” which is part of the month long community project, Heroes of Combat, Heroes of Compassion.
Dr. Bass will speak about his experiences as a young African American sergeant serving in the segregated army and helping to liberate the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp. After the war, like many others, he tried to repress his memories of the horrors that he saw and “never talked about it all.” Later, while involved in the Civil Rights movement and teaching during the 1960s, he was moved to testify about his experiences, particularly those in Buchenwald, in order to be an agent for positive change. He has spoken ever since.
Dr. Bass was born and raised in Philadelphia and volunteered for the U.S. Army during World War II. He served with the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion in the Third Army. After the war he graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania and went on to receive his doctorate from Temple University. He then became a teacher and a principal at the Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia. Dr. Bass also served as the co-chair of the Philadelphia Interfaith Council on the Holocaust, educating about the universally destructive nature of prejudice.
Since retirement, Dr. Bass has lectured extensively on racism and the Holocaust, bringing his unique perspective as a witness of many forms of oppression. He was awarded the Pearlman Award for Humanitarian Advancement from Jewish Women International in 1996. He is a widely sought-after presenter at major national and international conferences including the prestigious Belfer Conference at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Dr. Bass appeared in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II,” in Facing History’s “You Are Free” and several other documentaries, including “Looking Into The Face of Evil.”
The program is a partnership of the Weinberg Judaic Studies Institute and the Holocaust Education Resource Center of the Jewish Federation of NEPA. It is purposely scheduled to overlap as a remembrance of the Kristallnacht riots of 1938, which are seen by many historians as a watershed event in the development of the Holocaust, and the eve of Veterans Day, in honor of the American soldiers who helped bring about the end of World War II and the Holocaust.