A Supplement to my new book Tea on the Great Wall, this 5,000 word illustrated document presents in detail the ghastly events that befell those Jews in Europe who were able to evade Hitler’s death camps and escape to Shanghai–open-hearted China was the only place in all the world that would accept them quickly and provide safety from Hitler’s persecution.
On this 70th Anniversary of the liberation of the death camps survivors in Europe, it is fitting that those Jews imprisoned in a ghetto in Shanghai until liberated by the U.S. Marines in 1945, should also be acknowledged and remembered. Starvation killed off 2,000 of the 20,000 refugees.
So I turned from writing my memoir to researching every avenue open to me to get at the whole story.
I am posting it in five installments during the next few days. Please share it with others who would want to know about the near-holoaust in Shanghai, 1938-1945. An electronic version can be obtained by leaving a comment to me or by writing to the publisher of my book, Graham Earnshaw of Earnshaw Books. We want the story known and are distributing it at no cost.
From the Supplement:
WHAT KIND OF JUICE DON’T THEY LIKE?”
Sometimes a person is nudged, nudged again, then needled, finally forced, to follow and act on a path they had had no intention of pursuing and not of their own choosing.
I certainly did not choose to be diverted from writing my memoir about growing up in China, into writing about Nazis, a secret submarine trip, poison gas, extermination camps. But in my research, one reference after another about Nazis maltreating Jewish refugees in Shanghai jumped out at me. They interrupted my progress. Finally, I just had to follow where they led me.
I knew about the refugees; one was my governess. I knew what happened at the German school I attended that caused me to leave the school. But I didn’t know what had happened to them after my mother and I left.
I grew up in what seemed to me a normal household, not knowing any other. My father, mother, brother and I lived in a large house with a separate smaller attached house for the Chinese staff. Father was in business, mother was a journalist and society lady, my brother Johnny was a favored tyrant, and there was me.
We had a Butler, Ah Kung, and a Number Two, Lin Sing. Cook had Learn Pidgin Cook to help him. Two coolies,
Fo Sun and Elder Coolie, did the dirty work like carrying out trash. Chauffeur Ah Ching and Tailor were indispens- able; how else would we get anywhere or have clothes to wear? There were two gardeners: one for the garden around our house, and the other for a farm garden out of town where we grew clean fresh vegetables. There was our beloved Amah named Chiao Kwei who mothered and managed us.
And there was a series of governesses
for me. First Mlle. Matrushka, a pretty young Russian refugee who had escaped from the Communists. Then a Frau Neis- ser, who smelled unwashed and had dyed crimson red hair. She was followed by Frau Zinner, a crumpled, bad-tempered old lady from whom I learned that some Germans don’t like juice.
Every now and then a bundle of newspapers would arrive for her from Germany; after she read them she would cackle with joy because the Germans were getting rid of the juice.
One day I told my brother that they had some really dreadful juice in Germany; what kind of fruit? I wondered.
“Don’t be so dumb, Sis,” Johnny replied. “It’s the German way of saying ‘Jews.'”
“What’s Jews?” I asked.￼
￼The Kaiser Wilhelm Schule
I attended the Kaiser Wilhelm Schule from pre-Kindergarten until I was twelve. I loved my school and had many friends. Nina and Renata and I were especially close, playing with our teddy bears dur- ing recess. In sports I liked Hans and David. Our Heidelberg-trained teachers loved teaching and were patient with the little American girls –there were two of us. There were beautiful sweet Christmas programs.
∫The Hitler Jugend Changes my School
In 1932 the school began to change. Somehow it was less sweet and warm. Then our Headmaster was replaced by a harsh younger man who immediately taught us to say Heil Hitler with our arms raised. We learned a new song: the Horst Wessel Lied. I learned that it was the anthem of some group called Nazis:
Die Fahnen hoch. Die Reien fest geschlossen
S. A. marchiert Mit ruhig festem schritt.
(The flag high, the rows tight, S A marches with calm firm steps…)
I learned that S A meant Sturm Abteilung, or, Storm Troopers. A Hitler Jugend was formed. Now in addition to regular play and sports in the schoolyard, the boys and some girls wearing the Nazi banners on their arms marched around to military songs and slogans. One of my favorites, blond muscular sassy Hans, be- came leader of the Hitler Jugend. I asked my parents if I had to Heil Hitler; they suggested that I go along with it and not make trouble unless it became too hard for me.
“Maybe it’s like the political parties in the States,” one suggested, “where people support one party or another.”
Taking their advice, I waved a feeble Hell-Hitler when necessary.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: JEWISH REFUGEES ESCAPE FROM EUROPE to find a Haven in Big-hearted Shanghai.