“Judy’s memory” — an exclusive interview of the Jewish refugees in Shanghai

Mrs. Judy Marilus is a Jew born in Melbourne, Australia in 1951, and later started to settle down in Israel with her parents in 1970; her parents were once Jewish refugees in Shanghai. After getting married in 1973, Judy had four children (two boys and two girls) with her husband. Her parents successively passed away on Nov. 26, 2003 and on May. 31, 2010. The author represented Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation (CJCF) to visit Mrs. Judy at her home in Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut on Jun. 4, 2015 and recalled the stories of her parents in Shanghai.

"Love without Boundaries - Jewish Refugees in Shanghai" Oil Painting Exhibition in ICC Jerusalem. Mrs. Judy  Marilus (2nd, from R.); Mr. Zhang Ping, Founder of CJCF (2nd from L.) (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
“Love without Boundaries – Jewish Refugees in Shanghai” Oil Painting Exhibition in ICC Jerusalem. Mrs. Judy Marilus (2nd, from R.); Mr. Zhang Ping, Founder of CJCF (2nd from L.) (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)

A: Hello, Mrs. Judy, can you introduce your parents and and tell me when they went to Shanghai to escape from the persecution of Germany Nazi?

My mother Helga Broh was born on January 3, 1926 in Berlin, Germany. My father Friedrich Leib was born on December 15, 1918 in Vienna, Austria. After Kristallnacht took place in November 1938, in 1939, my mother, who was 12 years old then, followed my father to hide and pass through many places before they headed for Italy by train. After they arrived at the port city Naples in the southwest of Italy, they sailed through the Mediterranean, and then passed the Red Sea through the Suez Canal and arrived at the Gulf of Aden before entering the Indian Ocean. Then they passed Mumbai, Colombo, Hong Kong and eventually entered China seas, where they sailed through the Yangtze River and arrived in Shanghai. On my father’s side, actually he was born rich. Owing to the connection between his family and the local shipping company, his aunt booked a steamer ticket to Hong Kong for my father. As soon as he arrived in Hong Kong, he was placed with a job in a leading power company in Hong Kong by his relative. However, good times didn’t last long. The British Hong Kong government began to catch the Jews in Hong Kong, so my father had to head for Shanghai before 1945, the only refuge for the Jews then.

young mother of Mrs. Judy, Helga Broh (second row from back, first from L.) with pupils of the Shanghai Jewish School (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
young mother of Mrs. Judy, Helga Broh (second row from back, first from L.) with pupils of the Shanghai Jewish School (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)

A: The Pacific War by Japan broke out in Dec. 1941, and your mother faced hard days after shortly staying in Shanghai while your father had been in Shanghai; at that time, the war impended and the U.S. army made massive invasion, and I want to know whether your parents mentioned relative experience at that time?

Yes, my mother heard a huge sound of explosion one night in December, 1941. The next morning my mother and her family knew that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Meanwhile, Japan invaded Shanghai. Everything would be changed for my mother. The Japanese army took control of the whole city, including the entire bus system, and the Jewish refugees were forced to live in the special Hongkew region. There was always no water and power at that time, and people were living in sirens all day. My mother said there was a pump where she and her family lived. Once they heard that the pump could work, they would hurry to do some washing and store water as backup. And most of the time when there was no power supply,they generated power by burning coal with solder tips.

When the war between America and Japan started, my father was working in a button switch manufacturing factory in America. And because of the war between America and Japan, the factory was closed. Then my father’s uncle introduced him to do business in stamps. My father rented a room in a Chinese household outside the stateless region of Hongkou, and there were gradually more customers in business. However, my father had to apply for a special pass to the Japanese government in control of the Hongkou region at that time, so that he could enter and leave the Hongkou region. My father had to apply for it every 30 days, and he said that he had to wait in line for hours every time before he could apply for it, everyone would admire themselves as a hero. My father said the Japanese would consider themselves “the King of the Jews” just because they issued a pass.

Front of Judy father's refugee pass to leave the Hongkew Ghetto.  Notice the time on it. On bottom right corner is an oval stamp with Ghoya's signature. (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
Front of Judy father’s refugee pass to leave the Hongkew Ghetto. Notice the time on it. On bottom right corner is an oval stamp with Ghoya’s signature. (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)

A: Was there life risk?

My mother said that in 1945, at the beginning they were naïve to think that the American air force would never bomb the Hongkew region, because it was where most of the refugees stayed. However, one day in mid July of the year, my mother and her father heard bombers flying at a low altitude, and just a few seconds later, the door of their house was exploded by a bomb, and all the windows were broken. My mother and her father were preparing to have dinner at that time. Fortunately, they hid under the bed and saved their lives. After that, the Hongkew refugee region was often attacked by bombers, many houses were damaged, it was so dangerous there.

A: When did your parents know each other? What did they work after staying in Shanghai?

When the war would soon come to an end in 1945, people’s life gradually restored calmness in the past. My father and mother were introduced by their relatives, then they fell in love with each other and married at the office of the Communal Association of Central European Jews on Tangshan Road, Shanghai on September 8th, 1946. After marriage, my mother helped my father do business in stamps together, and my mother also took over the bra workshop of her family.

Judy parents' Jewish wedding (marriage) certificate in Chinese style (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
Judy parents’ Jewish wedding (marriage) certificate in Chinese style (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
The photo of Judy parents' wedding (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
The photo of Judy parents’ wedding (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
The business card of Judy father's stamp company (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
The business card of Judy father’s stamp company (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
The business card of Judy mother's bra workshop with introduction (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
The business card of Judy mother’s bra workshop with some introduction (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)

A: When did your parents leave Shanghai? Where did they plan to go?

They left Shanghai in January, 1949. At that time, my parents preferred to go to America, but it was regulated by immigration to America then that a visa had to be applied first. In order to apply for the visa, people had to apply by checking whether they could get the permission according to the limits assigned by America in different regions. My mother could easily get it since she was from Germany, as America assigned a large number of limits to Germany. However, my father was from Austria with few limits, he had to wait for quite a long time, so they gave up going to America, but applied for going to Australia, but they still had to wait for a year before they could get the visa to Australia.

A: At that time, Israel declared independence, and have you thought of going to Israel?

They once considered going to Israel while applying for the visa to Australia. At the week when the passage tickets to Israel were confirmed and issued, the files of visa application to Australia were issued as well. My mother considered that first, they did know anybody in Israel; second, it was a newly born country, which was besieged on all sides; third, my father would go to Israel at an age to join the army, she could not imagine letting him join the army and risk his life. Therefore, they finally decided to go to Australia, and I was born in Melbourne, Australia.

Judy father's book of Jewish Calendar (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
Judy father’s book of Jewish Calendar (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)

A: Last question, did your parents go on a honeymoon?

(Laughs) Yes, they spared a week to have a vacation in a beach area Chapoo recommended by their friends. They just took some basic food and distilled water, and the person who arranged accommodation for them sent a car to pick them up. However, after they got there, they found it was very original there, no running water was available, only a worker provided them with some water every morning. There was no store nearby, but there was a porter who sold vegetables and fruits, they could buy vegetables from him. There was no cupboard where they lived, but only a bed, a table and some chairs. They took some sausages and hanged them high, but mice would come to eat at night. Despite these, they recalled that they had a good time, they could swim in the yellow sea every day. The house where they lived was on a small hill, which was quite far away, and there was a bay nearby. Generally speaking, the place where they spent their honeymoon was both monotonous and desolate, but it was an extremely rare vacation for them, and their first vacation as well, so they really missed it.

The photo of Judy's parents in honeymoon (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)
The photo of Judy’s parents in honeymoon (Photo Credit: Xinyao Chen, Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation)

On behalf of Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation, I particularly thank Ms. Judy Marilus for accepting my interview and thanks for her sharing with great kindness.

 

The Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation (CJCF) is a civil and public service organization that was formally approved to be established by the end of 2014 in Shanghai, China. It is dedicated to support the exchange and cooperation between the Chinese people and the Jewish people and to promote the friendly tie and inheritance between the two nations. Further contact with CJCF via email: postmaster@cjcf.org.cn‍. For more information of CJCF, please visit the website

About the Author
Xinyao Chen served as founder assistant of Chinese Jewish Cultural Foundation (CJCF). In 2013, he started his M.A. studies in Nonprofit Management at the Rothberg International School of Hebrew University.
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