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Holocaust survivors recall sheltering in Shanghai

World War II refugees recount the Chinese city that offered hope

By Minlu Zhang | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-04 10:08
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Ellen Chaim, who later changed her name to Ellen Kracko, received this teddy bear when she was 2 years old.[Photo provided by Minlu Zhang/China Daily]

Jerry Lindenstraus is a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives in an apartment in Manhattan's Upper East Side in New York. People around him sometimes find it odd that the elderly Jewish man can speak a few Japanese words.

Whenever the topic arises, Lindenstraus tells the story of how his family fled Germany and traveled to Shanghai in 1939 to escape the Holocaust.

After Japan fully occupied Shanghai, all schools in the city were obligated to teach Japanese, and the Shanghai Jewish Youth Association School where Lindenstraus was living was no exception.

In 1939, one month before the outbreak of World War II, the 10-year-old Lindenstraus arrived in Shanghai from Gumbinnen, a small German town in what was then East Prussia.

Stepping off the boat, the young boy was sweating profusely under the layers of his heavy German suits and shirts. More than 80 years later, he still remembers Shanghai's brutally hot and humid summer.

Arriving with Lindenstraus were about 18,000 Jewish refugees who fled Nazi-occupied areas of Europe, settling in Shanghai from 1933 to 1941 to escape the Holocaust, as the Chinese city was among the few places that Jewish refugees were guaranteed acceptance in the early days of the war, according to the Shanghai Jewish Museum.

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