Have you ever had a moment where everything seemed to fall into place? I’m not talking about the day to day routines, but the larger picture.
On Friday night, a genealogist cousin e-mailed me about our relatives who left Germany in the late 1930s. She mentioned one named Julius Kohlhagen who in 1939 sailed to Shanghai.
I had a relative who fled Nazi Germany for Shanghai?
So I did a little internet research and found his ship’s log. The boat sailed from Bremen, Germany on June 13, 1939 with Shanghai as its final destination. Julius was 29 years old, unmarried, a merchant, and was the only Kohlhagen on that ship. He traveled first class and came from Kassel in the Hessen-Nassau province. And of course his religion was listed as Jewish.
My genealogist cousin wrote that Julius lived in Shanghai until the war was over (so 1939-1945) before he moved to Savannah, Georgia. He passed away in 1982. From looking at an old family tree, it appears that Julius was either my grandfather’s first cousin or perhaps a first cousin once-removed.
My immediate relatives on my mom’s side didn’t know we had a relative who fled to Shanghai during the war. And now we’d like to learn more about Julius Kohlhagen, who, like most Jews who sailed for Shanghai during the war, were desperate to leave Germany and had no where else to turn. Shanghai was the only place in the world that let Jews in without a visa. More than 30,000 Jews lived in Shanghai during those years.
I’d like to think Julius felt safe in Shanghai during those six years as a refugee. And once he settled in Savannah, I can picture him as someone who valued peace and stability in his new home.
It’s funny because my Grandpa Kohlhagen was always so interested in China. He’s part of the reason I developed an early fascination with Hong Kong. But he was never able to travel to mainland China (although he did make it to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s before he passed away in 1997). I’m pretty sure he never knew about his cousin who lived in Shanghai during the war.