At The Movies
Detroiters recall times spent as refugees in China.
Special to the Jewish News
hile the documentary
film Shanghai Ghetto
recounts five personal
stories of Jews fleeing
the Nazis, there are similar stories to
tell with a Detroit connection. A
number of German and Austrian Jews
made it to Michigan only after
detouring to Shanghai, where no visa
was required to gain admission.
Journalist Berl Falbaum has his own
Shanghai story to tell and has decided
to join it with the experiences of some
40 people he hopes to locate and
interview for his fifth book.
"I think it's very important to docu-
ment those times; so I really want to
see the movie," Falbaum says. "The
memories are not pleasant. There was
poverty, and there was disease."
Falbaum, born in Berlin, went to
China with his parents before reaching
his first birthday. The family could not
leave Asia until he was 10, and they had
to deal with the difficult consequences
of the Japanese coming into power.
"Our world was a self-contained
community," recalls Falbaum, whose
parents had to leave their possessions
behind as they secured boat passage.
"We were safe from the Nazis but not
safe from the war."
Falbaum, whose father bought and
sold merchandise in Shanghai, went to
regular school and Hebrew school set
up by the people in the ghetto. He had
no running water and no indoor toilet.
Falbaum's daughter Julie, who grew
up hearing about the Shanghai ghetto,
went to China five years ago to get a
firsthand look. She was able to see a
refugee book that documented her
family's coming to that country.
As Falbaum puts his book together,
he will be working with young writers
assigned to report specific personal
histories. One recruited writer,
Gordon Eick, has heard about
Shanghai all his life. Eick's father,
Ernie, also was in China and wound
up living in the same Farmington
Hills subdivision as Falbaum.
'As a child, I accepted our situation as
normal, but the adults had major prob-
lems of adjustment," recalls Ernie Eick,
who left China when he was 9. "After
the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, it
was very hard for us to get food."
Eick, now a cleaning supplies sales-
man, will never forget a terrible night
in 1945 when the Americans were try-
ing to bomb ammunition dumps and
hit the ghetto instead.
"They didn't have
the precision equip-
ment they have now,
and a lot of people
were killed," Eick
recalls. "My older
stepbrother helped get
people out of the rub-
ble. The war ended
shortly after that, and
we went to San
Francisco before a
sponsor brought us to
Detroit in 1948."
Eva Haase, of Farmington Hills, was
born in the Shanghai ghetto. Her par-
ents were able to leave Berlin in 1939,
but a decade passed before they could
come to America.
"I remember going outside the ghetto
with my mother to buy staples," Haase
says. "She knew which streets to avoid
because they wouldn't be safe for us."
Haase, who has traveled to Israel
many times, thinks of the ghetto some-
what as a big kibbutz and remembers
playing hide and seek in rice paddies.
She didn't see a toy until reaching
America when she was 6 years old.
"I still speak German," says Haase,
who works as an activities coordinator
for the Jewish Vocational Service and
takes on assignments as a caregiver. "I
went back to China to see the area,
which now is strictly Chinese. I saw how
ultra-modern Shanghai has become."
Anna Lindemann, of Oak Park, and
became a baker for Awrey's, and her
brother worked for Sander's.
Zydower remembers the overall
crowding of the ghetto, living in one
room, observing people desperate for
food and hearing about individuals
committing suicide. He also recalls
the small businesses people had estab-
lished and attempts to provide theater
"I learned the baking trade there,
but I first worked in car factories
after coming to Detroit," Zydower
recalls. "Much later, I went to work
for Sanders and made candy."
Charles Growe of Oak Park only
lived in Shanghai for 90 days before
moving on to another part of China.
Clockwise from top left:
Eva Haase (far right front) poses
with other children of the Shanghai
ghetto; her mother is in the
back row, far right.
Ernie Eick (front left) and others
who lived in his building in the
Shanghai ghetto, April 1941
Eva Haases father (man at left
on truck) helps load a shipment
in the Shanghai ghetto.
Alfred Zydower, of Madison Heights
— sister and brother — spent some of
their teen years in the Shanghai ghetto.
"Shanghai wasn't too bad when we
got there, but it was very bad after the
attack on Pearl Harbor," says
Lindemann, who learned a bit of the
Chinese and Japanese languages but
has since forgotten the vocabulary. "I
remember it being very dirty. I did
some sewing work, and my brother
worked for a baker."
Although Lindemann's late hus-
band also lived in Shanghai, they did
not meet until they both were in
Detroit. Ironically, her husband
Soon after coming to the United
States, he had to return to Asia
because of being drafted into the mil-
itary to serve in the Korean War.
"There was a good part to that,"
Growe says. "I could become a U.S.
citizen quickly after my time in the
armed forces." ❑
In preparation for a book he is writ-
ing, Berl Falbaum would appreciate
hearing from anyone who lived in
the Shanghai ghetto or knows of
somebody who lived there. He can
be reached at (248) 737-1588.