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Klara Sharp

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
15 May 1905
Experiences:

Interview Summary:

Klara Sharp (née Wittenberg) grew up in Berlin. Her parents had come from Poland and were stateless. Her father had a knitwear factory. Klara went to Theodor Herzl school and later learnt hat-making. The family sailed to Shanghai on a boat run by the Italian Lloyd Triestino lines in 1939. When the Japanese occupied the city, the Jews were interned in a part of Shanghai called Hongkew.

 

Klara married in 1946 to a fellow refugee and had a daughter in 1947. In 1948 they emigrated to Israel, and in 1952 moved to the US. After her husband died in 1962, Klara came to the UK where her sister had settled, and married again. She has kept in touch with other people who spent the war in Shanghai and has attended several reunions. 

My father, strangely, like some others, thought that Hitler wouldn’t last, you know, it would be a passing thing. So then they waited and waited, which was of course not very clever.

When we arrived in Shanghai there was really nothing. They had what they call a Heim - a home. You didn’t get hardly anything to eat. I had to immediately start to make some money. I talked to someone and he said that there is a Russian bakery which has shops all over Shanghai always looking for salesgirls. … ‘You can start tomorrow.’

At that time we thought, ‘Now the war’s over - everything will be wonderful’. But it wasn’t really. Because we couldn’t leave Shanghai. The American and British had all been evacuated. The Communists were just outside Shanghai. There was no resistance.

And in the nightclub where I worked as a waitress…, the Lambeth Walk was popular in those days you know. The thing was we had a very good band which was a well-known German band – a Jewish band [called Weber]. And he used to call us in the middle and we used to dance and we all wore uniform. And we were about 12 waitresses you now. We had to dance with the Lambeth Walk. That was the show – the entertainment show. Yes and you know we had terrific tips because they felt so sorry for us – you know - that German girls have to be waitresses and so on. I helped my parents quite a bit with that.

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@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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KS: In a New York nightclub with her husband and friends. "In the middle is me and my first husband and there is another two couples which are our friends.  It must have been between – well we were ten years in America - so it must have been somewhere in the middle between ’52 and ’62. In the middle."