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Shanghai Escape

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Shanghai Escape

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Shanghai Escape
Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers
By Kathy Kacer
Second Story Press (2013)
ISBN-13: 978-1-9275-8310-4

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - January 29, 2016

In 1938, Lily Tourfar and her family were living in Japanese-Occupied-Shanghai, China. On the surface this does not sound like a strange fact until you consider that Lily was a young Jewish girl who had fled, with her family, from Vienna, Austria when it became apparent that Hitler and the Nazis represented a threat to all Jews. In Shanghai, the Tourfar family joined thousands of other Jewish refugees from Europe, in setting up a new life in this, for them, strange and exotic land. For few years, while life might have been hard, it was not terribly unpleasant, but all that changed in 1941 when the Japanese suddenly ordered that all Jews in Shanghai had to move into a ghetto created out of a one-square-mile area located Hongkew, a slum located in southern Shanghai. Like the ghettos in Europe, this one was overcrowded, food was in short supply, and disease and death lurked around every corner. This was a fate that the Jews shared with their Chinese neighbors who remained in the ghetto, for unlike European ghettos, the local residents where not forced out to make room for the Jews. In addition, unlike the ghettos in Europe, this one was never walled in, although the Jews did have to obtain special permission to leave the ghetto. The Shanghai ghetto also was known by the rather ubiquitous name of the "Restricted Sector for Stateless Refugees."

Jews found sanctuary in many areas throughout Asia during the Holocaust, and some even found their way to Japan. For some reason, this aspect of the Holocaust is not very well known, which is unfortunate. However books, such as this one, Shanghai Escape, by Kathy Kacer, are helping to inform a new generation of the history of Jews in Asia during World War II. Shanghai Escape is part of Second Story Press's Holocaust Remembrance Series. This series has been especially designed for middle grade readers ages 9-13. While Shanghai Escape is a work of fiction, it is based upon the real-life experiences of Lily Tourfar, who was only four when her family arrived in China and it follows her through till 1948 when the family sailed from China bound for South America - and it includes a brief twist, for they ended up in Toronto, Canada where the family finally found a permanent home.

Shanghai Escape is an excellent book with which to introduce middle grade readers to a little covered aspect of the Holocaust, and to do so in a non-threatening/scary way. The book is filled with pictures of Lily, her family, and scenes from Shanghai. It also includes a brief forward that provides an historic overview of the events leading up to the Tourfar's flight to China, and it includes an afterword that brings the story to a satisfying close. This book would make an excellent addition to both public and school libraries that cater to middle grade students.


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