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Voices from Shanghai: Jewish Exiles in Wartime China

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Voices from Shanghai

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Voices from Shanghai
Jewish Exiles in Wartime China
Edited, Translated, and with an Introduction by Irene Eber
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago: 2008
ISBN 10: 0-226-18166-9
ISBN 13: 978-0-226-18166-0.

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - December 29, 2008

The fact that Jews fled from the Nazi onslaught and found sanctuary in China is a little known or studied aspect of Jewish and Chinese history. Even less known about, is what life was like for these refugees in this diametrically opposed land from the one they came from. In Voices from Shanghai: Jewish Exiles in Wartime China, Irene Eber allows these refugees to speak for themselves via poems, letters, prose excerpts, and diary entries that speak of their experiences, their feelings, and their thoughts for friends and family that were left behind to endure the Nazi maelstrom.

Eber sets the tone for this book in her detailed and informative introduction that includes two maps and several illustrations. In this introduction she not only examines the history of wartime Shanghai, but also that of the Jews who were to make it their home. She also describes the various means by which they came to find themselves in China. The differences between the Jews who called Shanghai home before the war, and the thousands of German and Yiddish-speaking Jews that entered the city as refugees during the World War II, are also discussed.

In all, there are twenty-five entries in this book, all composed by Jewish refugees who found sanctuary in Shanghai. Most of these works where originally composed in Yiddish, and Eber has done an excellent job of translating these documents into English. When such information is available, Eber has included a brief biography of the writer, and when possible, their picture. She has also included brief comments about their work, at the end of each piece. Combined, these twenty-five entries serve to open a window into the lives and cultural experiences of these Jewish exiles and presents a compelling picture of a nearly forgotten aspect of Holocaust history and of Jewish literature.

A sampling of the works in this book include: Irene Eber is the Louis Frieberg Professor of East Asian Studies Emeritus at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and she is also the author of several books, including: Chinese and Jews: Encounters Between Cultures and The Choice: Poland, 1939-1945.

This book is ideal for both general readers and academics, and is well suited for use as a supplemental text in university level courses in Jewish and Chinese history, Literature, and Cultural Studies.

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