Much has been said in recent months about how Jews survived the Shanghai Ghetto, and how they built a new life by transplanting their communal institutions. Little, however, has been mentioned about certain individuals who served their fellow refugees unselfishly and with untiring devotion during those long treacherous years of deprivation and suffering.
One such person was Gerhard Gottschalk who by way of his great talent as an administrator and entertainer, has helped to lessen the misery within the Hongkew Ghetto. A portrait of Gottschalk, drawn in pencil, is shown in figure one.
The continuation of this report includes several documents hand signed by people that were important during that era, along with some rare photographs of Gottschalk, his colleagues, and some other Shanghai Jewish refugees.
We begin by first mentioning his accomplishments as an administrator.
Born in Berlin in 1899, Gerhard Gottschalk arrived in Shanghai in November 1938 when he participated in the foundation of the Juedische Gemeinde (Communal Association of Central European Jews), and became one of its first members. In a letter of recommendation written in 1948 by the president of the organization, he stated: "A true social official with high ideas; on account of his compassionate nature, he gained the respect of all local refugees."
A letter of appreciation to Mr. Gottschalk sent by Laura Margolis for supporting a benefit concert is shown in figure two. The program of the concert held at the Doumer Theater is illustrated in figure three. Margolis, as we may remember, who came from America, saved the lives of some 4000 Jewish refugees at considerable personal risk to herself before she became interned by the Japanese authorities.
Gottschalk‘s main function as an administrator was with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), where he served from December of 1938, to January of 1948. There he held the important positions as head of JDC Relief Department, and head of its Welfare Department, which cared for the relief and rehabilitation needs of at one time, 15,000 displaced persons. In a letter of 1948, seen in figure four, Charles H Jordan, representative of JDC stated: "Gerhard Gottschalk always commanded the respect and admiration of the community at large. As to our relief clients, he was a sympathetic, understanding, and able administrator on all matters pertaining to their needs." Jordan, who also arrived from America to replace another familiar social worker, was a major figure in the relief effort for thousands of needy Jewish refugees.
An accolade with a photo of all of Gottschalk’s colleagues is shown in figure five. The staff of the American Joint presented it to him in 1947. Another small photo with Gottschalk and his colleagues in the office is shown in figure six.
We now direct our attention to the activities of Mr. Gottschalk in his capacity as an artist.
His wit, gaiety, and cheerfulness, which delighted his audiences after a day of toil and trouble, have proved extremely helpful in enduring more easily the unfortunate fate in Shanghai. His popularity and participation in almost all the performances presented at the Hongkew Heime, and in the theaters, are shown in figures 7, 7B, 7C, 7D and 7E.
In figure eight, we see two photographs taken in 1940 of Mr. Gottschalk mingling with his friends and fellow performers at a bar and in a garden restaurant in Hongkew. A photo in figure nine, shows a group of performers on stage during a 1940 musical, "The Merry Makers".
One of many benefit concerts he directed and participated in, shortly before his departure to America, was a major Chanukah celebration shown on a photo in figure ten.
The Jewish refugees frequently patronized a popular Hongkew nightclub on Broadway East called Tabarin, which was synonymous with Gottschalk. In figure 11 and 11B we see Mr. Gottschalk doing his very popular comical routines.
It remains a fact that often funny sketches and jokes
originate when a homogeneous group of people are clustered together under
primitive and trying circumstances. Gottschalk using his wit and talent,
took advantage of which surrounded him in the Hongkew Jewish Ghetto and
produced skits that made us laugh and forget our miseries.
Gerhard Gottschalk continued to delight his audiences after he left Shanghai. He made his new home in San Francisco where he hosted a "Simchas-Torah Ball and Cabaret" shortly after his arrival, shown in figure 14. A true legend to all who remember him. He passed away in San Francisco in 1974.
Thanks to Irene Heiman and Andreas Heinsius for donating most of the material to my Shanghai Archives so that I can share them with others.