THE SECOND INSTALLMENT FROM MY BOOKLET NAZIS VS JEWS IN JAPANESE-OCCUPIED SHANGHAI
THERE WAS A group of notably creative and courageous Jewish business leaders in Shanghai. Of these, one, Sir Victor Sassoon, gave fabulous costume parties for children in the international community. My brother and I were lucky enouh to be included and looked forward to receiving his engraved invita- tions.
I still didn’t know what a Jew was any more than a Christian; I learned about Moses and the Ten Commandments and could recite the names of the first chapters of the Old as well as the New
Testament. And I, as most of the world, was not aware of the on-going persecution of the Jewish people in Austria.
One day a close friend of my father’s, Eduard Kann, like Sir Victor a Jewish builder, sought out my father.
“John,” he said, “there have been terrible events in Austria.”
“More than Hitler’s military moves?” Father asked.
“Much more. They are secretly rounding up Jews, forcing them to leave Europe or be sent to a Concentration Camp. More like a Death Camp.”
“Don’t you have Austrian relatives?”
“Yes. My cousin, Mr. Resek and his wife and daughter have just arrived. They had to give up their beautiful home and were allowed to bring with them only a very limited amount of money. We found and furnished an apartment for them; she is a teacher of operatic voice, he is a designer, and their daughter is just 18 and lovely.
“John,” he added, “I think she would be a delightful governess-companion for Patty.”
I loved her from the first moment I saw her, and she genuinely cared about me as well.
From Miss Erika I learned about the Hell that Jewish people were being put through in Austria and Germany, and then Poland and Hungary. They were round- ing up any Jews they could find, corralling them like cattle.
During my 12th birthday party, November 9, 1938, a phone call for Miss Erika came from her parents. I watched her become weak and pale and suddenly sit down.
Between sobs and gasps for air she told me what she had just been told — about Krystall Nacht, the night of the broken glass, when Jewish store windows all over Germany were smashed in, the contents destroyed, the owners carted off. She told me later that some 20,000 Jewish men disappeared forever that night.
Secret Anti-Jewish Rallies at School
By January 1939, there were substantive changes at school. There were evening events from which I was excluded. One day another of my favorites, David, came to school with a bandage around his head. He avoided us, just silently went to and from the classrooms.
At first no one would tell me what had happened to him. Then one friend whispered that he had been attacked at the rally the night before.
“What rally? Was I supposed to be there? I didn’t know about it.”
“No, it was just for the German kids and parents.”
“Why was David hurt?”
“Patty, he is half-Jewish.”
“So what? Why does that matter?”
“They were showing anti-Jewish movies and giving anti- Jewish speeches.” She stopped a minute to breathe. “They got some of the kids so worked up that they ganged up on David. Patty, they tore his ear off!”
I gasped. “There was blood all over his face. And what will they do next?
“You mustn’t tell anyone I told you,” she whispered. “This anti-Jewish stuff is supposed to be secret.”
“Poor David.” I was shocked and bewildered. I didn’t know what to do. As promised I didn’t tell anyone about it. I tried to understand but was unable to see why wonderful people like David and Erika were being hurt by the Nazis.
In May 1939 at a classroom ceremony I was awarded a prize for hard work and cooperation: a copy of the book Abenteuer um Saratow. A Nazi swastika was stamped inside; and the date, May 20, 1939, written in. A book-plate showed a spread-winged eagle perched on a swastika and the words “Gabe des Deutschen Reichs” ( Gift from the German Reich.)
While I was proud to be recognized for being a good student, my feelings were deeply mixed. I didn’t know what to do about the school now.
What had been an open, innocent, happy school had become a place of whispers and men with hard eyes.