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Ralph Harpuder

Most, if not all Shanghailanders, who are still alive today will undoubtedly recall the ship that took them to Shanghai in the late 30‘s and early 40‘s. For them it was a strange and faraway place somewhere in East Asia. Some of those ships will be discussed and illustrated further in this report.

When entry visas, mainly for North and South America became more difficult to obtain, and after November 9th, (Kristallnacht), impossible, remaining Jews were trapped and in desperation. The only place where they could possibly emigrate to was Shanghai where no visa was required. A passage ticket from Lloyd Triestino, bought for my stepfather by his sister, was sufficient proof for the Nazi regime that he was going to leave Austria; thus his release from Dachau Concentration Camp. In order for him, and other remaining Jews, to embark on ships sailing to the Orient, they had to take a train over the Brenner Pass, located between Austria and Italy, to Genoa. The entrance to the Brenner Pass was the final Nazi checkpoint that Jews were nervously hoping to cross.

At that time, Lloyd Triestino was the largest Italian steamship company that had a regular line of steamers sailing to the Far East. Its ships were renowned for their luxury and speed. A picture postcard of the Conte Verde, an 18,765 GRT liner is shown in figure one. Originally built for the Lloyd Sabaudo Line, the Conte Verde came under the Lloyd Triestino flag in 1932. Family photographs, including of yours truly, taken on this ship en-route to Shanghai, are shown in figure two. Several ports along the route to Shanghai allowed passengers to disembark for sightseeing. A German passport (Kinderausweis) of yours truly, illustrated in figure three, shows a rubber stamp from the Harbor Police in Colombo that allowed passengers on shore. Colombo was located in Ceylon, now, Sri Lanka. Figure four shows the Conte Verde in Colombo, docked at sea, away from the peer.

Passengers fortunate enough in getting out from Germany their Leica or Rolleiflex, took photographs of cities and ports that were included on the Conte Verde itinerary. The following shots were taken on March of 1939 on the way to Shanghai: The photographs in figure five were taken in Bombay. Photographs in figure six and figure seven were shot in Colombo and Singapore respectively/

The Conte Rosso, a 15,000 GRT luxury liner, not shown in this report, was referred to as the sister-ship of the Conte Verde. It was seen many times docked at the Hongkew wharf near the Bund. Figure eight shows a list of ships, including the Conte Verde, arriving and departing from Shanghai.

As an added note: On September in 1943, after the Italian capitulation, the crew of the Conte Verde sank their ship on the Whangpoo River near the Bund before the Japanese could take possession of it.

The Conte Biancamano, a 24,416 GRT vessel, sold to Lloyd Triestino in 1937, also carried Jewish passengers from Europe to Shanghai. It is shown in figure nine. Another ship, built originally for the Lloyd Sabaudo Line that later transferred to the Italian Line, did the same. It was the Conte Grande, a 25,661 GRT ship illustrated in figure 10.

Figure 11 shows a message on a radiogram from relatives in Europe to the family Goldmann that had already previously arrived in Shanghai. The message conveyed their departure date from Genoa on the Conte Grande.

The ship’s line emblem of Lloyd Triestino and Lloyd Sabaudo are shown on their respective envelops in Figure 12.

Not all refugees that left Germany and Austria during the last moments before the war came to Shanghai on Italian luxury liners. A smaller contingence of refugees also booked on Japanese passenger and cargo ships. An example was the TSS Hakone Maru that sailed from Naples, a city and port in southern Italy. The Hakone Maru is shown in figure 13.

Of course, once the luxury liners and other vessels that brought stateless refugees to Shanghai arrived, stark reality set in. Most came stripped of their belongings and had to rely on Jewish charitable organizations to help them to set foot under most primitive and  deplorable circumstances; the rest is history.