1935 Freiburg, Germany
Hidden Child: Gurs And Rivesaltes Concentration Camps
Fred Jarvis was born Manfred Judas in Freiburg, Germany. He had one brother, Irving Joseph Judas, who was nine years older than him. His mother was Hilda Judas. His father, Leo Judas, was a horse dealer and a World War I veteran. Fred spent time sledding in the winter and playing with neighbors in the spring and summer. His family was middle class, and they were observant Jews. He was a happy child and one of his favorite toys was a pedal car.
Fred’s brother, Joseph, was sent on one of the last Kindertransport trains from Germany to England. He survived there without his parents.
At the beginning of the war, Fred, his parents and grandmother were forced from their home at gunpoint by the Gestapo (SS or Secret State Police). Fred’s grandmother flushed their money down the toilet so that the Gestapo wouldn’t get it. His family was allowed to bring a single suitcase per person and the equivalent of ten dollars. That evening they were put on a cattle car with several other German Jews. They were taken to the Gurs Concentration Camp in France. They lived in wooden barracks, and there was mud everywhere. His father was held on another side of the camp, separated by barbed wire from Fred and his mother and grandmother. His father’s brother, Leopold, and his wife, Carrie, and son, Kurt, were in Gurs, too. Fred’s grandmother, Bernadine Sussman, died at the age of ninety while at Gurs from disease and starvation. She was buried in a cemetery there.
After a year at Gurs, Fred and his family were sent to Rivesaltes Concentration Camp, close to the Mediterranean Sea. Several times a day, they had to fall out for appell (head count) to see if everyone was present. Fred would squeeze under the barbed wire to see his father. Fred began speaking both German and French. His father was in charge of the horses, and regularly was sent to Perpignan to pick up mail at the railroad station.
Fred’s cousin, Erik Forst, began visiting the camp to see Fred and his family. He came to the camp and bribed the French guard with cigarettes. When the guard turned away, the family slipped under the barbed wire and got into the car waiting for them. They hid on a farm in Caussade, France near where Erik lived. There they lived for seven months and helped with the farm. Kurt and Fred would drive the horse and wagon into town each morning.
French police arrived at the farm, and his father and mother told Fred to hide in the corn. Soon after that, the Gestapo rearrested them and sent them back to Rivesaltes. Erik escaped over the Spanish border and was never seen again.
Fred and his family lived in a more restricted part of the camp in barracks, where they slept on straw on concrete floors. They survived on a cup of milk and two ounces of bread every other week.
June: His father and mother were sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp via the Drancy Concentration Camp.
Fred and Kurt escaped from Rivesaltes with the help of a seventeen-year-old girl who worked for the Organization to Save the Children (OSE). The OSE was a French humanitarian organization that saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust. Fred and his cousin, Kurt, spent several months at an orphanage housed in a castle in the mountains of southern France. Fred learned Spanish, since that was the main language spoken there. They were then concealed at Montgantan, in the Limoges region of France with 500 other children.
Fred and Kurt were sent to live on a small farm in a town called Neyron, about ten miles from Lyon, France. They were taken care of by a Christian lady who called herself Madame Burra, which was not her real name. She and her husband hid them for two years. Fred was given a new name, Maurice Julian. The boys attended church with Madame Burra on Sundays and were sent to the local school. The boys told people that Kurt and Fred were born in the north near Dunkirk, but because of fighting were sent to their aunt (Madame Burra) for safety.
September: Fred was liberated when the American military came into Neyron. They were given canned food, chocolate, chewing gum, and one great phenomenon, peanut butter. Fred saw Germans fleeing ahead of the liberators. After liberation the OSE sent him to the orphanage, Hotesowa, in La Chaumiere, France to recover from a respiratory ailment. Kurt went to Lyrondell, an orphanage in Lyon, where he had a bar mitzvah, a Jewish ritual that marks the coming of age. Eventually Fred joined his cousin Kurt there and learned Hebrew and Judaism.
Fred’s brother, Joe, in England, wanted to bring him there, but Fred chose to go to live with his paternal aunt, Hannah Ramsfelder in the United States.
May 20: Fred and Kurt boarded the Ile de France, France’s largest luxury liner and six days later landed in New York City.
May 26: Fred arrived in New York City and met his aunt. She was the only one of his father's twelve brothers and sisters who survived the war. He met his cousin Inga Furlish, who had survived the war in Switzerland. A week after he arrived, Manfred “Fred” Judas was sent to school; his uncle changed the boy’s name to Fred Jarvis. Fred spoke only French when he arrived, and his cousins spoke German, but he quickly learned English. He finished school, learning how to be a pastry chef and baker.
Fred had a bar mitzvah at Shaare Hatikvah Orthodox Synagogue in Washington Heights, New York.
Fred joined the United States Marine Corp at the age of eighteen. He changed his name to Fred Judas. He served in the artillery unit for four years. Fred was sent to Korea and worked as a chaplain’s aide. He returned to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina as a sergeant and served as a Jewish chaplain for 2,000 Marines.
After his military service, Fred returned to New York City. He worked as a baker and then as a photographer. He spent another ten years in the Reserves. He met Ruth, and they married.
When Fred Judas left the Marine Corps, he changed his name back to Fred Jarvis, because he was afraid of discrimination.
1974-1981: Fred moved to North Carolina, where he bought a bakery and restaurant. Fred and his first wife were divorced.
Fred moved to Rockville, Maryland and met and married Mary Louise Gregory.
Fred learned in a book about Auschwitz that his parents were gassed on the same day that their transport train arrived at Auschwitz.
Fred Jarvis moved to Wytheville, Virginia, then to Bristol, Tennessee to be near his wife’s family. He worked for King Pharmaceuticals for the next 18 years.
Fred returned to France to visit his grandmother’s grave in Gurs. He wasn’t able to go to Rivesaltes at that time, but did see the farm at Caussade.
Fred began speaking about his experiences during the Holocaust.
Fred flew to Perpignan and then to Rivesaltes because they were building a memorial there and he wanted to see it in the original state. When he arrived, though, nothing looked the same. The camp had been used for other prisoners. Fred took thousands of pictures. Fred also went to Auschwitz in Poland to see where his parents were murdered and took photographs.