Let us think of the alternative

Not having left Nazi Europe

Ralph Harpuder

the following report represents only a brief summary of the Heime in the former Shanghai Jewish Ghetto, without a detailed discussion on its origin, funding, or the many trials and tribulations connected with them. For those who survived the ghetto years, it does present a few memorable highlights of the camps, derived from some relatively rare paper memorabilia, never published before.

The old, the sick, and the needy, that were completely dependent on the relief committees, found refuge in the Heime.

A typical Heim, at the beginning, housed up to 150 men, women and children in one large room, divided by sheets strung on ropes and furnished with steel double-decker bunks. In figure one, we see a photo of residents of Pingliang Road Heim constructing the above mentioned bunk beds for a large contingency of incoming refugees in need for a shelter. Each personal area in the Heime was no larger than the aisle in front of the bed

A cartoon depicting the deplorable and primitive conditions in a Heim is shown in figure two. This rare cartoon, created by Fritz Melchior, shown in figure two, has a caption that reads “Ich habe geträumt ich wäre allein” (I dreamt I was alone).

The sudden transition from a luxurious cabin on the Conte Biancamano, to a large over-crowded dormitory without privacy, was for many too much to bear. On a personal note, I remember my grandmother‘s words after she arrived at the Heim by cattle truck with her Pelzmantel (fur coat) tucked under her arms: “If I have to stay here more than one night, I will commit suicide. “Being four years old at the time, I slept between my mother‘s cousin and her husband in a “real” bed, at aflat outside the camp.

Many refugees residing in the Heime also worked in the camps. In figure three, we see an illustrated newspaper article telling about the daily work activities at the Pingliang Heim. Figure four shows my stepfather, Victor Stummer, working with his colleagues at a workshop located in the Helm.

The first permanent Refugee camp in the Hongkew Ghetto was located at 138 Ward Road, with a kitchen that provided food for the refugees living in the Helm, and for those outside. A central management later operated the kitchens in all the Heime in addition to the one on Ward Road. On a recent note to yours truly, Siegmar Simon, a Shanghailander, recalls the following:

 “I and two friends delivered “Hirse” and “Kartoffel Gulasch” in two large kettles that was cooked at the Ward Road Helm and distributed at Chaoufong Heim. We pushed a big two-wheel cart daily over a well known as “Misthaufen” located between the two camps.”

 A Kitchen-Fund committee was established to raise funds from the more prosperous and already established refugees, to feed the poor. Its mission was succinctly explained on a program for a musical at the Eastern Theater, in figure five.

An official letter from the Kitchen —Fund Koratorium (later changed to Kitchen-Fund), located in the Alcock Helm, is shown in figure six. The letter, addressed to Gerhard Gottschalk, extends appreciation for five years of untiring service and caring of refugees that were in need of assistance.

The first health establishment was also set up at the newly established Ward Road Heim on January 1939. This followed shortly by outpatient clinics at the Chaoufoong, Kinchow, Alcock, and Pingliang Road Heime. Those that were residing in the Heime had free medical treatments along with room and board.

To safeguard against the spread of disease common in tropical regions, and by mandate from the Shanghai Quarantine Service, there were 12,000 vaccinations administered by the clinics that year. An International Certificate of Inoculation and Vaccination is shown in figure seven. Until December1939, all major operations were performed at the Shanghai General Hospital, shown on a postcard in figure eight.

A complete system of medical care finally became available at the Ward Road Helm with a hospital that included 100 beds. An admitting form used at the SR Hospital is illustrated in figure nine.

To conclude this portion on medical availability, we turn our attention to a Relief-Telegram from the Hospital (Patient) Relief Organization via the Jewish Welfare Organization, again addressed to Gerhard Gottschalk. The telegram sending best wishes, shown in figure ten, was sent on the occasion of his fifth anniversary as a public servant, and for the personal attention he has given to all the patients in the Heime, as illustrated on a photo in figure 11.

There was an attempt by the Committee for Assistance of European Refugees (also referred to as the COMAR Committee or CFA) to provide recreation for the residents of the Heime. Figure 12 shows a photo of a group of soccer players at Chaoufoong Road Helm. In figure 13, we see a schedule of various forms of entertainment at the Heime including Bingo.

The Seward Road Helm, located at 961 East Seward Road had a canteen where residents could gather for parties and Kaffee Klatsch. Figure 14 shows a photograph taken at the Seward Helm Canteen where a group of friends was celebrating a special occasion.

For evening entertainment, there were low priced-entrance variety shows played by refugee performers at the Akock Helm Theatersaal, and at the Ward Road —Büne at Ward Road Helm. The Alcock Helm with its theater stage is illustrated on a photo from an unknown source in figure 15. Two programs, the first of a comedy performed at the Alcock Heim, the secon4 of a musical variety show presented at the Ward Road Heim, are illustrated in figure 16 and figure 17 respectively. Another program for a Gala Fundraising Garden Fest, held at the Ward Road Helm is shown in figure 18.

The Heim population varied with time. Those that could afford it rented a private room in a lane. Like most people, my parents valued their privacy, therefore, they rented a one room flat in a Chinese lane that became our bedroom, kitchen, and toilet, with a cold-water faucet downstairs, shared with three other parties.

Some who could afford to leave the Helm were afraid of loosing their free supply of food and medical care. Others who had lived in rented rooms and then lost their jobs or had sold all their heirlooms with no money left, moved back into the Heime.



Kranzler, Japanese, Nazis, and Jews

Almanac, Shanghai 1946/4 7, Published by Shanghai Echo

Personal documents of Gerhard Gottschalk, courtesy Andreas Heinsius

Personal Collections, Victor Stummer

Ralph Harpuder’s personal archives