We, at the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center mourn the passing of Dr. Leon Bass, a true giant in the mission of educating young people about the Holocaust and intolerance. For decades, Leon shared his story as an African American liberator of Buchenwald not only in his beloved Philadelphia community but throughout the world. His life long work as a remarkable Philadelphia school teacher and High School Principal was followed by his dedicated pursuit of bringing his World War II experiences to tens of thousands of students everywhere. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know him, understood that we were graced by his very presence. Our founder Yaakov Riz would have told Leon that he was one of the "lamed vov tsadikim", one of the handful of righteous people God allows us to have on the earth at one time. We will miss him and we pledge along with our other survivor and liberator heroes to continue his and our good work.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer
March 30, 2015
Leon Bass, Holocaust liberator and educator, dies at age 90
As a 20-year-old U.S. Army soldier in the all-black 183d Combat Engineers Battalion, Leon Bass arrived at the Nazis’ Buchenwald extermination camp just one day after it had been liberated in April 1945.
Bass saw the living skeletons of those who survived. The camp reeked of burned human flesh. The torture chambers were still covered in blood.
After the war, Bass left the Army as a sergeant, returned to Philadelphia, and eventually became principal of Benjamin Franklin High School. He earned a doctorate in education from Temple University.
He somehow put the horrors of Buchenwald behind him for 23 years.
But in 1968, a woman who survived the Holocaust spoke to his Benjamin Franklin students, who were less than attentive. Suddenly, Bass ordered the students to listen, telling them he also had seen the horrors the woman was describing.
Afterward, the woman thanked him, and later he received a request to speak publicly about what he had seen as a liberator.
Mr. Bass, 90, who died Saturday at Pennswood Village in Newtown, Pa., where he had lived for 17 years, continued to speak out decade after decade, regularly appearing at Holocaust remembrance events honoring survivors and liberators.
“The last time he spoke was in October in Washington,” said his daughter, Delia Bass-Dandridge. “He was pretty remarkable.”