MY BROTHER solved my problem. He had filled the precious center-spread of my autograph album with a drawing of a pile of garbage being blown up by TNT. On top of it all was a caricature of Adolph Hitler. Johnny had signed his full name: John S. Potter, omitting the Jr.
Ignorant of his deed, I shyly gave the album to my adored Hans, the blond muscular Hitler Jugend boy, hoping for some sweet words.
The next morning the Headmaster called our home before breakfast. He ordered my father, mother and me to appear at the school immediately. What had I done? I didn’t know. None of us knew what was wrong, and Johnny had already left on his bike for school. the Shanghai American School.
When we reached the school the Headmaster displayed my autograph album on his desk. It was open to the centerfold. He pointed angrily to the precise, deliberate, insult to Hitler.
My idolized Hans, like a good Nazi, had turned me in to the Headmaster. I almost laughed, but also felt like crying. My first betrayal by a man.
The Headmaster thought that my father, also John S. Potter, was the artist responsible.
Thus the Kaiser Wilhelm Schule ended for me. In the fall and for part of 1940 I attended the Shanghai American School.
It became clear, after terrifying and wrenching experiences with the Japanese conquerors that, even though America was not at war with Japan, we had to leave for our safety. Once again, my father was left behind to manage somehow. Johnny had already gone to school in America.
It was hard to leave everything I loved. This time, possibly forever. Like a robot I packed up what I could that was transportable of my life. I knew that it was too dangerous for me to stay because the Japanese liked to hurt young girls; I was now a shapely thirteen-year-old.
We fled to America in November 1940.
I LEAVE CHINA.
THE NAZIS, JEWS AND JAPANESE REMAIN.
We lost touch with the Resek family. My father wrote that Erika found a good job with a Portuguese company not at war with Japan or Germany.
Many years later I was thrilled to receive a phone call from Erika Resek, now married and living in California. She told me that she had a little daughter whom she had named Patricia after me. We remained in occasional touch; then our lives fell apart in different ways, and we communicated less frequently.
One day her daughter called me. Erika had died. I was angry at myself that I had not kept in touch. Pat kindly sent me a memoir that Erika had written about escaping from Austria, living in Shanghai, and going to America.
Her life after we had left interested me greatly. But I began to have trouble taking in a part of what I was reading:
In May 1943, The Japanese published a decree ordering all “Central European Stateless Refugees” (Japan’s euphemism for Jewish people) to move to Hong Kew (Hong Kou). The area designated was about twelve blocks of mostly run-down houses, some of which were already occupied by European refugees who, because it was the least expensive area, had moved there immediately upon arrival. Some 20,000 Central European Refugees were affected by the Japanese proclamation.”
I hadn’t heard about any of this and became increasingly angry as I read.
Then came words that made me shake.
“After the war we learned that the German government wanted the Japanese to follow their example. Namely, to build concentration extermination camps.
Fortunately the Japanese did not follow their plan.“
It took some days for me to steady myself enough to consider Erika’s words. Then I determined to find out more about the ghastly suggestion. Was it possible?
I began by looking for authorita- tive information on Nazi-Jewish activities in Shanghai after I had left. Tina Kanagaratnam, CEO of AsiaMedia in Shanghai, said that she had been told as a fact that a proposed extermination camp area was Pudong.
Her Chinese source said that, as a teenager, an adult had told him this, pointing his finger across the river toward Pudong. “Over there,” he had said. I became cau- tiously fascinated. Was it possible?
In another publication I found confirmation that “over there” meant, the east side of Pudong. And then in another I found the specific location: the site for the extermination camps was to be Chong Ming Island in the Yangzi River. Yes, it was possible.
INEXT INSTALLMENT: HITLER’S “FINAL SOLUTION” IS PLANNED FOR JEWS WHO ESCAPED TO CHINA