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Emigration to Shanghai

We didn't have any homes. We had no food, we had no money, we had nothing. Luckily for us there was a Sephardic community there from the 1850s. The Sassoons, the Kadoories & the Hardoons, about 700 Jewish Sephardim there. They owned most of the Bund, a lot of the properties, they had palatial houses. They decided to help. So, they bought up empty warehouses in an area of Shanghai called Hongkew, bombed in ’32 by the Japanese. Cheap primitive properties known as 'Heime'. Families lived separated by blankets, very little privacy. But at least they were safe. They set up food kitchens. I remember the rows of taps for washing. We had the basics of life & we had the Jewish Kadoorie School & 6 synagogues. Gradually, they set up committees to help as well. So we survived. As far as I remember, I was never hungry in Shanghai.

Things went quite well. People started founding businesses, coffee houses. They called it Little Vienna. My father started making handbags. He managed to get a little shop in East Yuhang Road. He made masks: the Japanese all wear masks. They made bomber heads for the Japanese in leather. They managed to make a bit of a living. They used the sewing machine from Vienna.

And so my father decided that we are not staying in Europe. He’s included Britain in this. He said, “He’s too strong. Hitler’s too strong… He- he walked over Chamberlain, and Daladier, the French Minister”, and did everything possible to to leave. The only two places came, came up as possibilities were Uruguay and Shanghai. And Shanghai came up first. So, off we went. It was just around the Christmas holiday time and we went on a- to Marseilles. Oh, I have to say something. The Jewish community advised- got my mother to sign a piece of paper to say that she’s going to Shanghai against their advice. Because it’s a war zone. Which partly was true.

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.

It was easy to get matchbox covers because my father was a heavy smoker & my mother needed them to light the charcoal cooker.

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