I have been waiting for this book for decades. The heroic escape to Shanghai during the Holocaust is the least known chapter of the Holocaust experience. Steve Hochstadt, the author of Exodus to Shanghai, does not merely cite statistic but provides a face to this remarkable experience. It is a collective memoir of one hundred interviews, a classic and pacesetter of oral history, told with drama and pathos. The German Jewish community is suddenly uprooted, losing home, job, possessions, and citizenship. But where to go is the problem. Surprisingly, the Chinese consul in Vienna realized that Shanghai, not China, had no immigration procedures, and offered everyone a visa to Shanghai, which could be used to obtain an exit visa from the Nazis. The welcome to Shanghai included unbearable heat, disease, filth, lack of hygiene, no toilets, language barriers, insects, polluted water, noise pollution, and dead bodies everywhere. In addition there was a civil war, and an invasion by Japanese forces.
Exodus to Shanghai: Stories of Escape from the Third Reich
From this welcome, and starting with zero, a community of average Jews pulled together, pooled their resources, and survived. They learned to boil water and boil everything, had a communal kitchen, staffed a refugee hospital, overcame obstacles, and produced a vibrant community. The magic of oral history, with excellent questions by the author, introduces the reader to the monthly opera and theater performances, daily newspapers of high quality, radio programs in German, English, and Yiddish, learning new trades, producing a Little Vienna of cafés, coffee shops and music, lending libraries, a refugee school of 600 students, comedy performances, refugee symphony orchestra, and even a magician. The author even accurately describes how children and teenagers survived. You will be surprised to read that teenagers were frequently the bread earners, and created a Shanghai Millionaire Monopoly game, and even wrote plays and read many books.
The author is to be commended for including a superb bibliography of primary and secondary sources, films, maps, charts, and photos. If there is one book to read about the Jewish experience in Shanghai, this is the one.
Related: Jews and China Reading List
Rabbi Marvin Tokayer served as the an English-speaking, university-trained, rabbi for the Far East, from India to Japan. Author of 20 books in Japanese on Judaica and Japan, Rabbi Tokayer draws on a half century of personal experiences in Asia and a wealth of knowledge about Jews and the Far East. He is skilled in weaving together colorful characters and captivating stories of Jews in China, Japan, India, Burma, Singapore, and beyond.
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