Ralph Harpuder



    Of all the Jewish refugees who fled from Central and Eastern Europe to Shanghai, only a small percentage were successful in saving their precious heirlooms; at least for a while.

    Thanks to a German shipper who happened to sympathize with the Jews in Berlin, most of my parentís artifacts he encouraged my mother to ship ahead, arrived safely in Shanghai.

    At that time, when the influx of European refugees to Shanghai was the greatest, items of greater value could be traded for a fair price. This enabled my parents to sell their sterling silver place setting in order to live a more comfortable life for the two years that followed.

    Life, however, changed drastically after the war broke out, becoming more intense from one day to the next. Yours truly distinctly remembers the words spoken by my beloved father who passed away of malnutrition immediately after the war: "Where is our next meal coming from?Ē It was also a time when certain dealers, better referred to as opportunist, took advantage of the situation and cajoled my grandmother, and perhaps others, to sell their valuables for pitons. For example, a cut glass crystal vase sold by my grandmother provided at best two days worth of food. Objects that were handed on from one generation to another began to dwindle like hot cakes.

There were, however, three valuables worth mentioning here, that my parents were able to hang on to.

Figure one shows a photo of yours truly, whispering into my grandmotherís ear. The picture also shows one of the three objects, the menorah, in the background. The photo was shot in our flat, 737 Broadway East, shortly after arriving in Shanghai.

Figure two
shows my mother, grandmother, and again yours truly, sitting at the table in our flat, with the candleholders in the background.

Yvonne, my spouse, is proudly displaying, sixty-two years later, the menorah
and the candleholders on a recent photo shown in figure three. The two Shabbat candleholders stemmed from my parentís engagement in the early thirties.

Figure four shows an heirloom that was almost sold by my father for a next day meal. As my beloved father was walking along the streets of Hongkew, clinging on to this little package wrapped in Chinese newspaper, and trying to find a buyer, he was stopped by a close friend of the family who later became my stepfather. Upon learning about my father's intention to sell this little keepsake, and realizing how much this miniature set (Silbergarnitur) meant to my parents, he immediately took possession of it to save it from being sold, and gave my father the money needed to buy food. No need to emphasize that he promptly returned the set to my parents immediately after the war.
    The sentimental value of the three objects mentioned above, far exceed their monetary value
and can never be replaced. Perhaps more importantly, they will always remind me about my parents determination to save whatever they could from their generation while at the same time trying to survive from the hardships of Shanghai.

    Aside from a material aspect, the bottom line remains that most of us survived to which we can thank our parents. Their steadfastness and struggle to protect us and make ends meet under the most trying circumstances, shall always be remembered.