Vicenç Villatoro, El retorn dels Bassat [The Bassats’ return], 2016, 592 p.
In the life of Lluís Bassat [Barcelona, 1941], one of the most prestigious publicists in the world, there come together two errant families and a lot of journeys over the centuries. The Bassats, sephardites, after being forced to leave Spain in the 14th century [sic; this blogger thinks it’s probably the 15th – 1492], during the 19th and 20th centuries they roam through Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria, Germany and France, before returning to Spain. The Cohens, Romaniote Jews established on the Greek island of Corfu, are also forced during the 19th and 20th centuries to emigrate to Italy and France, before one of their members arrives in Barcelona in 1905.
Vicenç Villatoro, together with Lluís Bassat, investigates this extraordinary tour of return to Sefarad, and he takes us to a world that has already disappeared, woven over all the ends of the Mediterranean. Sewing narration, testimony and literary reflexion, El retorn dels Bassat is also a thread that traces the splendour and tragedy of the Jews from the old continent. And, ultimately, the history of Europe itself.
Vicenç Villatoro (Terrassa, 1957) is a writer and journalist also very active in (culture) politics.
Somewhat related, La Vanguardia commemorated the 75th anniversary of the infamous Wannsee conference (“the final solution”) with an article on German Jews who fled Nazi Germany (and later the annexed/occupied territories) and came to Barcelona, around 10.000 in total, a lot of them in transit to a safe third country, especially after the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s cooperation with Hitler. Most of the refugees were poor, and many at first slept on chairs on the Rambla (the so called “Hotel Catalonia”). But some became very successful in what they did and are presented in the article: Kurt Kauf, a JD who made a fortune as a salesman of Adler sewing machines; David Oliver, a movie producer who later went on to Hollywood; Bernard Hilda, a music who led an orquestra that played at “La Parrilla” del hotel Ritz and at “La Rosaleda” – at the same time he worked as a spy for the Allied forces; Artur Kaps, who came with his theatre company “Los Vieneses”; in 1959 Kaps began to work for the newly created Spanish state TV, and together with his compatriots Franz Joham and Herta Frankel he developed entertainment shows.
SOURCE: La Magrana (RBA, publisher); Santiago Tarín, La Vanguardia, Jan. 21, 2017, “Viure”, p. 6 [printed edition]