Making Contact Again
With the Outside


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Ralph Harpuder

When the war had finally ended in 1945, Shanghai Jewish refugees were always waiting with bated breath and anticipation for the postman to arrive in front of their door (Figure one), and bring a letter from a close relative not heard from since the immigration (Figure two).

There was not always good news since many of their loved ones could not get out in time from Nazi occupied territories and therefore perished in the Holocaust. In Figure three we see such a letter declaring the person missing and deceased as a result of atrocities committed during the war.

The joy and excitement to hear again from a mother and sister after being separated in war-time for six years without any contact, is described in a letter shown in Figure four. Note that the letter was written in English and not, as would be expected, in German. Because in 1945, Man‘s Inhumanity to Man that occurred in Germany was very fresh in the minds of Jews living in America, every effort was made to circumvent the German language. A mailed envelope containing a letter to my uncle in New York, informing him of my father’s death during expatriation, is shown in Figure five.

Jewish refugees also approached impatiently the postman for that promised affidavit from a brother or a sister who were still able to choose their destination before it was too late (Figure six), or that long awaited call from the American Consulate to appear (Figure seven)

And speaking of affidavits and the American Consulate, there was a poem written by a talented thirteen year old girl by the name of Edith Stern that was published in the Shanghai Jewish Community Centr‘s club newspaper, shown in Figure eight. The poem describes the first step for obtaining a visa for America (Figure nine).

The whole immigration process, beginning with the interview to the arrival in America, is illustrated in Figure 10. The cartoons depicting the process were created by “Less” (probably a member of the club), and also appeared in the club‘s newspaper in June of1947.

Waiting to be called for an interview by the consul was not always easy, and often caused headaches and anxiety. A comical skit recited by Gerhard Gottschalk during a night-club performance in Shanghai explains it in the following way:

“Kinder, Kinder, was sind das für Zeiten,
Stets erfaehrt man neue Schwierichkeiten.
Kennen Sie denn die Geschichte von dem Affidavit schon,
Und die Antwort des Herrn Konsul an den Emil Lewwinsohn?
Lass Dir Zeit, lass Dir Zeit,
Ihr habt alle zu vie! Eile,
Ihr habt alle zu viel Hast.
Ich hab’ mir vorgesteilt, ich komm hier ‘raus
Doch merk ich jeden Tag, ‘s sieht anders aus.”

Today, we Shanghailanders are scattered in different parts of the world, and live in a particular country we call our home. Although a few of us made aliyah to the Jewish State, for most of us, emigration is history.

And with regards to those letters we spoke about earlier, that were written by hand and mailed at the post- office; we now call it “snail mail.” We seem to have become accustomed to all the modern innovations including the use of the computer and the communication by email.

Let us also appreciate that families are, or can be, united again, and live as citizens in a country of their choice with all those modern conveniences at hand, however, let us not forget where we came from.