Most of us Shanghailanders that are alive today were, as already mentioned
in previous reports, children or teens during the war years.
Some of our childhood
recollections of foods our parents could afford, and had put on the table,
may be recalled today by our readers. Much of the type and quantity of food
depended, of course, on their financial status, or their resources, i.e.
what heirlooms they were willing to sell to buy more food.
refugees that lived in the Hongkew Ghetto had to skimp, and did the best
they could to get by from one day to the next.
Many of our refugees lived in the Heime and had to be content with the usual
mundane food that was provided for them. A more taste appealing variety of
foods had to be purchased at delicatessen stores, better referred to at the
time as Provision Stores that were spread throughout Hongkew.
An advertisement of my parent’s provision store, Elite, in the early forties
prior to the Proclamation, is shown in figure one. A partial list of the
provision stores that were operated by Jewish refugees is illustrated in
Who remembers the following food items available in those days, and the way
they were sold?
a) Leberwurst (liver sausage) with a heavy layer of pork fat inside the
(An advertisement from one of the major sausage makers is shown in
b) Koch Käse mit Kümmel (processed cheese with caraway seeds) and
the more popular and affordable soya cheese. Some provision stores added
paprika to the soya cheese and sold it as Liptauer cheese.
c) Rollmops (pickled herring), available at Pinkus on Kumping Road.
d) Caviar, yes caviar, sold at the Russian provision store in the early
forties, also located on Kumping Road immediately outside the Designated
e) Hard Salami, preferred from Pikarski on Ward Road, because he had a
sharp knife to cut thinner slices then other provision stores were able to
(And speaking of Pikarski, who can recall when he meticulously balanced an
empty cup, brought from our home, on the scale, like it was gold, to weigh
1/4 pound of orange marmalade from a bulk container.)
j) Butter in a blue can, imported from Australia.
g) Swiss cheese, also imported from Australia, sliced from inside the
original can, sold at Hahn‘s Provision Store on Dalny Road.
h) Because refugees were unaware that eggs in a white shell came from
white chickens, and eggs in a brown shell came from brown chickens, and that
both types tasted the same, they only bought the later. Most provision
stores sold only the brown eggs. A typical Chinese straw basket used at the
provision store to display their eggs is shown in
i) A few other food products that were obtainable at provision stores
are shown in figure five.
Fresh butter was a rarity and was bought only for someone to regain
strength after a serious illness. It was handled like precious gold, and was
sold by the one-half ounce from a quarter pound stick.
A common substitute for butter was margarine, processed under the trade
name “Parrot.” The quarter
pound stick had the tropical bird illustrated on the package.
Although margarine was much less expensive then butter, it was still too
expensive for many refugees to buy. Because of the price difference,
margarine was sold more often and usually by the full ounce. A few other
brands of margarine are illustrated in figure six.
Fatty pork was readily available at the Chusan Road Market. The lard was
obtained by rendering the fatty pork and was commonly produced by the
consumer himself. It was often spread on bread and served well as a school
lunch. Not accepted by the Shanghai Jewish Orthodox community, it provided
one of the essential food groups that most probably helped many to survive.
A major supplier of bread that distributed their product to provision
stores was “European Bakery” in Hongkew, shown in figure seven. A few
smaller bakeries, shown in figure
eight, sold their bakery products independently.
Coffee was also a rare and expensive commodity, especially during the war.
Coffee drinkers had to re-brew their coffee grind several times to make it
last. An advertisement of a popular coffee producer in Hongkew at the time
is shown in figure nine.
Not all important food items such as meats and vegetables could be
purchased at provision stores. In figure ten we see two advertisements from
the Chusan Road Market, also referred to as “Die Markthalle, Chusan Road,”
where food items for the main course could be bought. Refugees in Shanghai
usually followed the European tradition, and ate their main course around
The dilemma of only dreaming about delicious food that we were most of
the time deprived of while living in Shanghai, did not escape us. Because,
in the meantime, medical research has proven that fatty foods can cause
heart disease and shorten our lives, we again cannot enjoy the morsels that
we so much yearned for in Shanghai.
Thus, Shanghai did not only save our lives, but for reason of the great
scarcity of rich food, and the absence of chocolate and other “goodies”.
Shanghai may have also extended our longevity.