Shanghai Escape (Holocaust Remembrance Series)
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Shanghai, China, seems an unlikely destination for Jewish refugees trying to escape the cruel anti-Semitic laws of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party before the Second World War. But while most countries were unwilling to give refuge to Jews, China was one place that did. More than twenty thousand European Jews found refuge in Shanghai between 1937 and 1939.
Lily Toufar and her family arrive in Shanghai in 1938, having fled from Vienna on the eve of Kristallnacht. Shanghai is a strange place for this bright young girl. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and under pressure from Hitler, the Japanese government in Shanghai has ordered Jewish refugees to move into a ghetto in an area of Shanghai called Hongkew. There is little food to eat and poor sanitation, and disease is rampant. For Lily, life becomes grueling after her family is forced into the ghetto. Lily endures the difficult conditions, always hopeful for an end to the war and a return to normal life.
was always the same. “The family is together and that’s all that’s important,” Pop would say. “You mustn’t worry, Lily,” Mom would add. “We’re fine, aren’t we? And nothing is going to change that.” Lily didn’t believe that anymore. At least here at Mother Lawler’s, she could eavesdrop on the conversation, unnoticed. Susie nudged her again, but Lily shook her hand away. Just then, Mother Lawler glanced up. “I think it’s time for the young ones to go into the main salon,” she said. “This
at how calm her mother sounded. Her voice was confident and controlled. Ghoya stared down at the pass card and then up at Mom. Then he caught sight of Lily and he curled his lips into a sinister grin. Instinctively, she moved back behind her mother. Her head, which had been aching all day, was throbbing. Finally, after what felt like the longest pause, Ghoya reached for his stamp and pounded it down hard onto Mom’s pass card. “Pass for you!” he shouted as he tossed the card back to Mom. She and
worried that here, where the building walls were paper thin and there was no heating whatsoever, the winter would be brutal. The milk containers bounced up and down inside the brown paper bag. Lily’s stomach was growling more than usual, and without thinking, she reached into the bag, pulled out one of the little cartons, popped open the lid, and drank the milk down in one quick gulp. It was delicious, and, for a moment, Lily closed her eyes and allowed herself to enjoy the creamy flavor. There
curtains and the scrolls likely came from Europe before the war. Here, in the Hongkew synagogue, they were a reminder of the religious life that Jews had left behind. Lily and her mother climbed to the second floor of the building, a section that was reserved for women. The men worshipped below them. Lily peered over the railing and sought out her father, sitting in the third row next to Willi, Walter, and Poldi. Pop turned around and looked up, as if he could sense his daughter’s eyes on him.
injured area and peered at the gash. He stood a few minutes later and looked into her eyes. “That’s quite a cut you have,” he said. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to stitch it.” There was something about the doctor’s tender touch and easy manner that calmed Lily even in the face of this verdict. “Will it hurt?” she asked. Dr. Didner adjusted the black bow tie that he always wore and cleared his throat. “I won’t lie to you. It’s going to be painful and you’re going to have to be very brave.”