They came not as stateless refugees, but as proud citizens
During a walk on the famous Shanghai Bund with its European architecture
from the 20’s and 30’s, Ruth Spiegler, 71 explains to her daughter,
Barbara that this area along the waterfront was off-limits to her mother
and grandparents during the war and to all other refugees that
immigrated in the late 30’s.
During their visit, they gathered at a previously erected monument, dedicated to the former Jewish Ghetto in Hongkou, to sign a proposal calling on UNESCO to ensure the area that was home to approximately 20,000 Jews during WWII, will be preserved by granting it heritage status. It has been referred to in the past by historians and Shanghailanders (Jewish refugees from Shanghai) as “The Designated Area” and consists of approximately 69 acres.
The Hongkou district which was located north of the Suzhou Creek in the Settlement of Shanghai was a thriving community created by Jewish refugees in the early to mid 40’s in spite of the hardships that were associated with the war. This included living within the confine of a ghetto that was imposed by the Japanese military authority. Trying to survive within a culture that was strange to them, they built cafes, schools and cultural
institutions, and maintained hospitals and clinics for the sick. Several newspapers in their native language were also in circulation during and after the war.
Ruth Spiegler fled with her parents from Nazi Germany in 1939, spending ten years of her childhood in Shanghai. She loves to reminisce about all her experiences of growing up in the ghetto where she was living in propinquity with thousands of other stateless Jewish refugees. Dubbed by yours truly the “Hongkew Encyclopedia”, Ruth remembers many names of her peers and elders that were living in the “designated Area” during that particular era, and can make a connection with almost any name mentioned today by a Shanghailander.
Brief biography of the author:
Ralph Harpuder resides in Los Angeles in the North Miracle Mile district. He was among the 20,000 Jewish refugees that immigrated to Shanghai in the late 30’s when he was only four years old. Harpuder is a retired environmentalist, having worked for the Los Angeles County for 26 years. He is a freelance writer for several philatelic journals and local newspapers.