The Guild of Craftsmen

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In Shanghai

Helped a Young Jewish Refugee
Get started in his New Country

by
Ralph Harpuder

Born 1929 in Berlin, Gerhard Heimann fled with his parents in 1939 from Nazi Germany to Shanghai. By the time he was a young teenager, Gerhard, like so many other youths in the Shanghai Ghetto, had completed only elementary school and was unskilled or too young to take on a job.

Although some training in the various trades had been previously offered at Pingliang Heim and perhaps in other Heime, it had not been too successful. In a photograph of 1940 shown in Figure one, we see apprentices in a workshop at Pingliang Heim getting acquainted with some special tools. A photograph published in the Shanghai Jewish Chronicle in March of 1940 and illustrated in Figure two, shows a group of young men being retrained in barbering.

Because the importance of productive work was realized during the start of the ghetto years, and not pure academia, a large number of youths, especially between the ages of 14 and 21, applied for training with ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training,) an international Jewish organization. ORT, in cooperation with the Guild of Craftsmen, established in 1943 a Complementary School at the ORT center which the 14 year old Heimann attended. The school, located at 475 Jansen Road, and later on Dalney Road, supplied the theoretical knowledge in a chosen field, a schooling apprentices could not obtain where they were employed in practical work only.

Heimann completed his apprenticeship in barbering while serving the Guild’s Masters, and later joined the Guild of Craftsmen which placed him in different jobs. His membership card is shown in Figure three. The Guild of Craftsmen, yours truly may add, was organized primarily to secure jobs for its members when the stiff competition with Chinese labor became evident. The Guild also controlled wages and prices, and established standards for training and licensing.

After the arrival of Allied troops in Shanghai, many of the Jewish craftsmen were employed in their respective trade with the US Forces. Gerhard who had completed his apprenticeship earned thirty-five US dollars a month in a shop operated by the US Armed Services, cutting hair and shaving beards. That was an impressive salary at the time which placed plenty of food on the table for his family. A passport photo of Gerhard shown on an International Certificate of Inoculation and Vaccination is illustrated in Figure four. The certificate was issued shortly before he emigrated to America.

After he left Shanghai and settled in Los Angeles, Gerhard was licensed by the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology and subsequently, after a few trials and tribulations, opened his own barber shop on Alvarado Street in the heart of the city.

Thanks to his earlier training and the help from the Guild of Craftsmen, Heimann generated enough money in his new country to support his family and to prepare for a new career in law-practice.

References:
Japanese Nazis & Jews, Kranzler, 1976
Escape to Shanghai, James R. Ross, 1994
Aufbau, Unserezweite Generation, July 30, 1965
Almanac Shanghai 1946/47, Published by Shanghai Echo
All Documents, courtesy Andreas Heinsius