The Secret History of the Jews From Shanghai
A small but important trail of refugees fleeing the Nazis took an unusual detour through China. A new exhibit in Brooklyn marks the journey.
Shanghai was the only option. That was what my parents discovered when they fled Hitler’s Germany. By the time they left, in separate journeys, they wound up in that international city in China, the last place in the world that would take in Jewish refugees.
It felt a little like sailing to the end of the earth, my father often said.
My parents became part of a community in Shanghai of some 18,000 European Jews who learned to live in barracks or crowded rooms, used chamber pots, sometimes ate only one hot meal a day from a communal kitchen and walked teeming streets filled with hawkers by day and, in the early hours, trucks picking up corpses. But they also had schools, cultural institutions and a thriving social life, complete with Viennese cafes. And they survived.