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Love lost down memory lane

By Shi Yingying | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-17 17:51
Love lost down memory lane

Gary Matzdorff meets media at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, the site of his wedding ceremony with his first wife. Photos by Gao Erqiang / China Daily

Gary Matzdorff, 92, found refuge in Shanghai during WW II and often nostalgically returns. Shi Yingying in Shanghai catches up with the American and his fond memories.

Greeting his old neighbors in fluent Shanghai dialect after leaving the city 65 years ago, 92-year-old Gary Matzdorff surprised residents of Hongkou district's Huoshan Road.

"I was shocked when the foreign face pointed to my house and told me that was his old home in authentic Shanghai dialect. He was talking to the journalist in English before he told me so," says the local surnamed Zhou, who holds an enamel bowl and stands in the middle of the shikumen (literally "stone gate") alley for lunch. Zhou says she has lived here for 65 years.

More than just an "old home", Shanghai is also the city that "saved my life and changed my life", says Matzdorff.

Among 25,000 Jewish refugees whom Shanghai received during World War II when it was an open harbor, Matzdorff arrived on the ship SS General Meigs in 1939, with his parents and grandmother.

In the late 1930s, when increasing Nazi pressure to rid their territories of Jews created waves of refugees desperate to emigrate, most Western nations, including the United States, wouldn't open their doors to Jews. Shanghai was the last resort.

The 92-year-old couldn't hold back his tears when he passed the old neighborhood in Hongkou on his sixth trip back to Shanghai.

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