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May 16, 2003 - Image 113

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-05-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Controversial Hider
Airs

98

'Visions Trio
At Beth EI 100

e Show)
—102
011 Broadway

ewish refugees recall escape,

hardships of wartime exile in

new documentary film.

MICHAEL FOX

Special to the Jewish News

E

ven to the casual moviegoer, it
must seem at times as if every
conceivable aspect of the
Holocaust has been the subject
of a documentary. Then along comes a film
like Shanghai Ghetto to uncover sagas of
which we were still somehow oblivious.
The United States and England had rigid
quotas for immigrants in the late 1930s, so
German Jews frantic to flee Europe had
scant few options. By a fluke of politics and
history, no passports or visas were required
at that time for entry to the Chinese port
city of Shanghai.
Some 20,000 Jews sailed the 8,000 miles

to Shanghai, where they were crammed into
an old area called the International
Settlement. They encountered culture
shock, poverty, overcrowding and uncer-
tainty, but, as they learned after the war,
they fared far, far better than their relatives
who stayed behind.
An oral history illustrated with pre-
dictable snippets of archival footage,
Shanghai Ghetto is filmmaking by the num-
bers. But what Dana Janklowicz-Mann and
Amir Mann's pedestrian treatment lacks in
inspiration is easily offset by the immediacy
and punch of the film's five extraordinary
witnesses.
All were children in Germany and
Shanghai, and they are completely in the
moment when recalling their experiences of

over half a century ago. The crunch of glass
underfoot in the streets of Berlin after
Kristallnacht, the stultifying summer heat
in Shanghai, separating insects from grains
of rice, the bully who lay in wait several
times a week — the vividness of their mem-
ories is never less than riveting.
It doesn't hurt that the five, who eventu-
ally settled in the United States after the
war and had children of their own, are
strong personalities. They are pragmatic
people, people of intelligence and action,
and they command our attention.
Although they were young when they left
Germany, they had already been acclimated
to large apartments or houses, ample food
and culture. In Shanghai, the Jews dwelled
SHANGHAI on page 97

Rickshaw in
flooded street
in Shanghai,
circa 1940

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