While there is no comprehensive volume on the escape of 18,000 Jews to Shanghai during the Holocaust, there are about twenty memoirs by refugees who fled there. What sets this one apart is that the events are seen from the perspectives of two young children. Deborah was three and her brother Ilie twelve when their family fled Vienna for Shanghai, eventually ending up in America.
An employee of their father who becomes a Nazi warns the family of the approaching horrors and advises them to leave. They are fortunate to board the last ship to Shanghai, the port of last resort, where they arrive penniless, their steamer trunk lost. Uprooted, they leave behind the cruelty and the prejudices of daily life in Vienna even before the Nazis, and are transported to a new life. We read of sleeping in bunk beds with sheets on ropes for partitions, several hundred to a room. Sanitary facilities might be an out house or one toilet for four hundred. One child describes the filth, the diseases, and so many dead Chinese in the street as families could not afford the burial. Deborah remembers the songs of the coolie laborers as they carried their heavy burdens, which served as her lullabies. Children generally slept on the floor but bugs were eating her alive and a cot had to be found.