Survival in Shanghai

The Journals of Fred Marcus 1939 -- 1949

By Audrey Friedman Marcus / Rena Krasno
with a foreword by Deborah E. Lipstadt








(254 pages)

Fred arrived from Berlin with his father with the last ship available. They had waited till his mother had died a heart condition refusing to leave her behind. The scene on the Shanghai dock shocked him and when they arrived in the Heim, prepared for penniless refugees, he wrote in his diary: “The tears ran down my cheeks and mingled with the thin tea as I was absolutely and suddenly overwhelmed by my situation. At that moment, the fact of my refugee status became a reality to me.”

“The tears ran down my cheeks and mingled with the thin tea as I was absolutely and suddenly overwhelmed by my situation. At that moment, the fact of my refugee status became a reality to me.”

During Fred’s lifetime, Audrey, his widow, learned about the diaries he had kept in German as a young refugee in Shanghai. Intrigued, she frequently suggested to Fred that he translate the diaries. However, he kept putting it off, and in 2002, he died without having done the translation.

What, Audrey wondered, could the diaries reveal about Fred’s life as a young man in a strange land? What were the enormous challenges and difficulties he and the other refugees had to face? How did he make enough money to survive? Who were his friends, his confidants? What was Jewish life like in Shanghai? What were his wartime experiences? What did he do after the war? Why did he remain in Shanghai until 1949, leaving just ahead of the Communist takeover? And, perhaps most puzzling, why did he resist translating the diaries? 

It was indeed a great mystery, and one Audrey wanted very much to unravel. She felt that the diaries, which were written by Fred solely for himself, would be the key to his past, about which he had spoken only in general terms. Further, it would be one of the very few day-to-day records of refugee life in Shanghai during the 1940s and therefore a true historical record of those tumultuous times. She decided to seek a translate someone with a broad knowledge of history in general and of the wartime years in particular, a person who was compassionate and able to envision the translation as both a contribution to family history and refugee Shanghai lore. 

In January of 2003, Audrey attended a talk on Shanghai by Rena Krasno, a well known lecturer on the subject and author of Strangers Always: A Jewish Family in Wartime China. In the course of her lecture, Rena mentioned that she spoke six languages, among them.. .German. She also revealed that she had done simultaneous translations for a number of international organizations. What could be more perfect, thought Audrey; there before her was her translator.

Shortly after that, Audrey wrote to Rena about the diaries and about Fred, his early life and later accomplishments. The idea of reading and translating a young man’s diary that contained daily short notes on the events through which both of them had lived fascinated Rena. Surmounting the difficulties of Fred’s hard-to-read handwriting and the often faded ink in the diaries, Rena completed the task in a little over a year and a half. During that time, the idea was born to collaborate on a book based on Fred’s diaries. Both Audrey and Rena did serious research on conditions in Shanghai at the time.

Fred Marcus’s diaries were written solely for himself. With rare exceptions, he wrote without emotion about the events through which he lived, reporting in a matter-of-fact manner an account of each day’s happenings. Because these diaries were written at the time rather than many years after the events took place, they form a remarkable historic document. They also demonstrate the human capacity to adapt to difficult and unfamiliar circumstances. Through it all, Fred never lost his courage, never complained, and, in spite of increasing pressures, injustice, and cruelty, ploughed forward, attempting to maintain intellectual and moral standards.

Survival in Shanghai includes 50 photographs from Germany and China,

Early Praise:

“Aided by a crisp commentary that is at once informative and colorful, SURVIVAL IN SHANGHAI -1939-1949-THE JOURNALS OF FRED MARCUS is a vivid portrait of the times. Few works provide as comprehensive an account of daily life in the Chinese city occupied by Japan and few offer as deep an insight into the maturation of an orphaned exile and his life of tragedy and turmoil, but also his achievement and leadership.” 

(Michael Berenbaum, Director, Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring Ethical and Religious Implication of the Holocaust; Professor of Theology, The University of Judaism; Executive Editor Encyclopedia Judaica, Second Edition)

“SURVIVAL IN SHANGHAI is in a class by itself. The reader will be mesmerized by this incredible Holocaust story of the human spirit coping, against all odds. This is probably the first time that the day-to-day life in Shanghai’s wartime ghetto has been so accurately chronicled.” 

(Evelyn Pike Rubin, Author Ghetto Shanghai, lecturer, featured in the award-winning documentary “Shanghai Ghetto”)

“History is written from both the “macro” and “micro” perspective. We must know the “big” picture, but it is the small details which give that picture depth and texture. Fred Marcus’s diary together with the commentary and elaboration provided by his widow Audrey and Rena Krasno opens a window into the life of a Jewish refugee in Shanghai during the dreadful years of the Shoah.”

(Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies Emory University; author of My Day in Court with David Irving)

“A touching story.” (Michael Medavoy, Phoenix Pictures)

“The story of Fred Marcus’s deeply ingrained dedication to Judaism and its philosophical principle of “to life” make the story of his difficult early years a must reading for Jew and non-Jew alike. Those who believe in plowing ahead and never giving up will find a soul mate in the words of the late Fred Marcus.” 

Eugene DuBow, Founding Director Berlin Office of the American Jewish Committee