Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shanghai Diary by Ursula Bacon

This was a random find on the non-fiction shelves in the library. The subtitle is "A Young Girl's Journey from Hitler's Hate to War-Torn China." I had read bits before about the Jews of Shanghai, a group of refugees who sought haven there because no where else would admit them. They were confined to a ghetto, but it wasn't a ghetto like those of Europe; they lived along side impoverished Chinese and enjoyed relative freedom of movement. They were extremely poor, lived in awful conditions, with rampant disease and hunger, but most of them lived through the war and they were safe from outright murder. Ursula Bacon's family traveled to Shanghai in the late 1930's and spent more than 10 years there before finally gaining entrance to the United States.

I couldn't exactly figure out her family. Originally from Breslau, they must have been highly assimilated and were also quite affluent before the war. The book is sprinkled with references to silver trays, stately homes, and governesses. Most of the holocaust era stories I have read have been from the point of view of poorer folks. I wish Bacon had written more about their earlier life but perhaps that would have shifted the focus too far away from the Shanghai story.

Bacon's writing is a bit young with a certain amount of adolescent philosophizing and "Oh, dear God, what to do!" kinds of interjections. She is overly fond of adjectives. But these are minor complaints. I was never bored reading this and my curiosity about this topic is renewed. While reading the Wikipedia entry on the Shanghai Ghetto I came across a reference to a documentary film with the same name. I see that Netflix has that so I am going to request it.

(Book 6, 2009)


Anonymous said...

Becky, If you go to NPR's Morning Edition dated 02/11/2009, you will find a story titled " Historic Jewish Haven in Shanghai Faces Demolition."

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