When the war had finally ended in 1945, Shanghai Jewish refugees were always
waiting with bated breath and anticipation for the postman to arrive in
front of their door (Figure one), and bring a letter from a close relative
not heard from since the immigration (Figure two).
There was not always good news since many of their loved ones could not get
out in time from Nazi occupied territories and therefore perished in the
Holocaust. In Figure three we see such a letter declaring the person missing
and deceased as a result of atrocities committed during the war.
The joy and excitement to hear again from a mother and sister after being
separated in war-time for six years without any contact, is described in a
letter shown in Figure four. Note that the letter was written in English and
not, as would be expected, in German. Because in 1945, Man‘s Inhumanity to
Man that occurred in Germany was very fresh in the minds of Jews living in
America, every effort was made to circumvent the German language. A mailed
envelope containing a letter to my uncle in New York, informing him of my
father’s death during expatriation, is shown in Figure five.
Jewish refugees also approached impatiently the postman for that promised
affidavit from a brother or a sister who were still able to choose their
destination before it was too
late (Figure six), or that long awaited call from the American Consulate to
appear (Figure seven)
And speaking of affidavits and the American Consulate, there was a poem
written by a talented thirteen year old girl by the name of Edith Stern that
was published in the Shanghai Jewish Community Centr‘s club newspaper,
shown in Figure eight. The poem describes the first step for obtaining a
visa for America (Figure nine).
The whole immigration process, beginning with the interview to the arrival
in America, is illustrated in Figure 10. The cartoons depicting the process
were created by “Less” (probably a member of the club), and also appeared in
the club‘s newspaper in June of1947.
Waiting to be called for an interview by the consul was not always easy, and often caused headaches and anxiety. A comical skit recited by Gerhard Gottschalk during a night-club performance in Shanghai explains it in the following way:
And with regards to those letters we spoke about earlier, that were written
by hand and mailed at the post- office; we now call it “snail mail.” We seem
to have become accustomed to all the modern innovations including the use of
the computer and the communication by email.
Let us also appreciate that families are, or can be, united again, and live
as citizens in a country of their choice with all those modern conveniences
at hand, however, let us not forget where we came from.