Camp doctor Fritz Basch

Although Fritz Basch was active as a camp doctor in the Dossin Barracks, he could not protect his family from deportation.

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Fritz Basch (°04/12/1900 in Berlin) and Hanna Lilienthal (°17/12/1904 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf) married in Berlin on 20 April 1927. From this marriage two daughters were born: Laure (°07/06/1928 in Berlin) and Gabriella (°30/01/1932 in Berlin). Fritz and Hans first came into contact with the Belgian authorities when they wanted to visit Hanna’s brother in Antwerp in May 1934. They receive a 14-day visa for this purpose. After Kristallnacht (the night between 9 and 10 November 1938) Hanna and Fritz go on the run. The family arrived in Belgium in the course of the month: Fritz on 19 November, his wife and daughters on 24 November. While waiting for his family to be reunited, Fritz stayed at Hotel Old Tom on the Keyserlei in Antwerp. When registering as a refugee, Fritz indicates that he fled because of the prevailing anti-Semitism and defines himself and his family as political refugees. He states that he only intends to stay in Belgium for two months, as they are planning to travel on to Portugal. After their arrival in Belgium the family lived in the Dodoensstraat 37 in Antwerp. In February 1939 Laure and Gabriella moved to Belgiëlei 15, where they went to live with their grandmother Louise Lilienthal. One month later Fritz and Hanna also moved to Belgiëlei, albeit at a different house number.

In Germany, Fritz worked as a doctor, specialising mainly in tuberculosis, blood diseases, X-rays and ultraviolet radiation. He publishes several works on these subjects. In 1939, it becomes clear how eager Fritz is to leave Belgium with his family. He considers moving to the Belgian Congo as there is a shortage of doctors in Congo. In November of the same year, together with his lawyer Pierre Beltjens, he tries to convince the Public Security Department to extend his travel pass so that he can leave Belgium. Fritz also makes an application to the Notgemeinschaft der Deutscher Wisschenschaft in London: this society is concerned with the emigration of intellectuals fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany. They also try to give these intellectuals a new job abroad. In addition, he tries to get himself hired by the Bolivian army as a doctor and looks for representatives in El Salvador and Australia. But all these attempts fail.

During these attempts to leave Belgium Fritz and Hanna move to Haringrodestraat 75. When Germany invaded Belgium in May 1940 the whole family moved to Quellinstraat 17 in Antwerp. In 1941 the family moves for a short time to Liège, to Rue Douffet, where Fritz works as a doctor. In Liège the family registers in the Register of Jews on 3 March 1942, together with grandmother Louise. This Register of Jews was an anti-Jewish measure of the German occupation authorities. Jews were obliged to register from the age of 15. Fritz and Hanna’s family only stayed in Liège for a short time; in August 1942 they registered again in Antwerp, where they moved back to Quellinstraat. On 1st October 1942, the JVB (Association of Jews in Belgium) recruits Fritz as a Lagerartz, whereby he works as a doctor in the SS-Sammellager Mecheln at a monthly wage of 3000 francs. It is not known whether he ended up in the Dossin Barracks through arrest, after which he was recruited from among the prisoners, or whether the JVB appointed him to work there. In the Dossin Barracks, he belongs to the Stammpersonal. Here Fritz is in charge of the medical team, where as a doctor he makes requests for more medicines, supplies or food. At the end of 1942, for example, he asks for more baby food and rice because of the prevailing intestinal diseases in the barracks. While Fritz worked in the barracks, Hanna moved to Plantin en Moretuslei 90 in April 1943, where her daughters joined her a month later. This is their last known address.

Although Fritz’ salary is gradually increased to 6,000 francs in 1943, fate takes a turn for the worse. Camp commander Frank discovers that the doctor is corrupt. Fritz organises a trade in prescriptions in the camp. He promises wealthy prisoners a release in exchange for a large sum of money. As a result, in September 1943, he was put on transport XXIIA, together with his family and everyone suspected of collaboration. Hanna and her daughters were only held in the camp for a short time because of this; they arrived in Mechelen on 5 August 1943. None of the Basch family survived the war.

Source: Laurence Schram, Dossin: wachtkamer van Auschwitz, Lannoo, 2018, 123-178.

Kaatje Langens