Since my post from a couple days ago when I wrote about learning that my grandfather’s cousin had fled Germany for Shanghai in 1939, I’ve found some more information about this cousin and his circumstances.
My grandfather’s uncle Karl in Germany had two children, Julius and Max Kohlhagen. Julius was the son who sailed to Shanghai in 1939.
As it turned out, Julius lived in Shanghai for eight years. He worked as an office clerk there and left in 1947, thanks to sponsorship from his cousin Gustav, who lived in Savannah, Georgia in the US. It looks like Julius married into the family Gustav’s sister Klara had already married into. (There was a lot of intermarriage in Jewish families back then.)
But this didn’t quite have a storybook ending. Julius’s parents and brother Max never left Europe and died while Julius was still in Shanghai. At 29 years old, Max was sent to Dachau in 1944. Max was blind.
He died a year later, five days before Dachau was liberated.
Julius and Max’s mother died in the Riga Ghetto in 1944. Their father also perished in the holocaust, but I’m not sure where. The Nazis kept detailed lists, so I’m sure this information is available somewhere.
In all of this tragedy, Shanghai stands out as a glimmer of hope. By allowing undocumented Jews like Julius to settle there before things got really bad in Europe, Shanghai provided a safe haven for more than 30,000 Jewish refugees.
I’ve always felt drawn to Shanghai, especially during the pre-PRC era. As I posted the other day, now it all makes sense.