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Mar 2010 Journal

Letters to the Editor

HOLOCAUST AND OTHER GENOCIDES

Sir – Ruth Barnett (February, Letters) castigates those who consider the Holocaust ‘the property of Jews’. She also says that ‘The Jews suffered, and so did many others.’ This is over-simplification and smacks of revisionism.

The ‘Final Solution’ was about Jews. The six death factories were built for Jews. Only Jews died because they were Jews. Who would have thought we would hear such things uttered in our lifetime and by people who should know better. We live in an age when nothing is sacred and anything can be debunked – all in the interest of universalism. Ruth Barnett says there have been 50 genocides since 1945 – teach them all and none will be remembered.

It’s beyond me why some ‘Kinder’ side with the enemy - not just of Israel, but of Jews. I can understand they wish to mend the world, but why turn against your own? I once confronted Suzanne Weiss, who had the gall to equate Jenin with Warsaw. More recently, Heidi Epstein joined Galloway’s Hamas road show to Gaza. Demonising Israel engenders the anti-Semitism which resulted in the Holocaust.

 

 

Rubin Katz, London NW11

Sir - Ruth Barnett mentions the terrible treatment of Armenians by the Turks in the First World War, though I am not convinced that this atrocity was a genocide in the sense of a deliberate attempt to exterminate the whole Armenian people.

As I understand the situation, the Armenians, as Christians, were, at the very least, sympathetic to the Russians, whose army was attempting to conquer Turkish Armenia from its base in the Caucasus and a minority were actively supporting that invasion. This led the Turks to deport Armenians from the border regions. That these displaced people were subject to disgraceful treatment and many died of starvation and exposure, and some were massacred by lawless Muslim tribes with the connivance of Turkish troops, is a blot on Turkey's name that it has, to its shame, not been willing to acknowledge to this day.

The Turks may have been paranoid about the Armenian masses and acted in a wholly disproportionate manner, but they had some reason to believe the latter were behaving as a fifth column in war time. Labelling it a genocide has only had the effect of strengthening Turkish intransigence, which has made it more difficult for them to admit they acted improperly and offer any apology. Clearly a great wrong was done to the Armenians, but I fear that using the term genocide is counterproductive.
 

Martin D. Stern, Salford

Sir - On the recent correspondence regarding the Holocaust in relation to other genocides, and whether other genocides should legitimately be included in HMD, perhaps referral to the etymology of the two words will help. The word holocaust, from Greek, means whole burning or sacrifice, i.e. systematic killing. The word genocide, also from Greek, means murder of race or tribe, i.e. systematic killing.

It is mass murder in both cases, but the German genocide was unique in that it was done on an industrial scale and involved burning - hence the word holocaust. It is pedantry to distinguish between methods and appropriate to memorialise this ghastly human propensity, in whatever form, on HMO.
 

(Dr) Emil Landes, Highgate

Sir - Mary Rogers asks (January) the views of AJR members on the current tendency of Holocaust memorial services to commemorate victims of genocides other than the Shoah.

In correspondence with the Rt Hon Jack Straw when Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) was first instituted, I was assured that its dual purpose was to remember and, through education, to work towards avoiding in future generations such atrocities as were endured by the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazi regime.

It is self-evident that genocide is not yet a thing of the past. We Jews therefore do well to recognise that, horrifically unique though our own relatively recent tragedy is, we do not have a monopoly on suffering, and that HMD is an occasion when all victims of atrocity are appropriately remembered. Yom Hashoah is the day on which the Jewish people remember relatives and friends whose lives were destroyed in 1930s Europe.
 

Barbara Dean, Birmingham

SAYING KADDISH

Sir – With regard to Otto Deutsch’s letter (February), many of my family, including small children, were taken from Teresin to Maly Trostinec. I have documentary evidence that they were put into those special gas wagons. I have not visited the site because we too are in our eighties. But on several occasions, when my son and son-in-law took vans of supplies to the needy Jewish families in Minsk, they did go there and were most moved by that wonderful memorial. They never failed to say Kaddish - not only for our family but for everyone who died and was on arrival thrown into that ravine. So, Mr Deutsch, please feel that it was said on your behalf for all your family.

 

Nina Hofman, Lugano, Switzerland

‘RIGHTEOUS GENTILE’

Sir – In 1939 my mother’s life was saved by Ernst von Harnack, who, well known for his part in the resistance, was executed after the failed 1944 plot against Hitler. I was only eleven at the time, too young to be accepted as a witness by Yad Vashem.

Another family was saved before the war: Fritz and Gertrude Schönbeck and two sons (last known address: 116 Salmon Street, London NW9). They were interned on the Isle of Man. Carl Sachs, a Jewish businessman, was helped to escape to Switzerland.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has applied to Yad Vashem for Ernst von Harnack to be honoured as a ’righteous gentile’. Renate von Harnack, his daughter, died recently and the family, united at the urn setting, asked me to try again. If any readers have further testimony to support the application, could they please contact me.
 

 

 

(Dr) Elizabeth Rosenthal,

WMDS ON ENGLAND IN 45 MINUTES?

Sir - We witnessed the dire spectacle of the Iraq inquiry which deliberately omitted to ask TB how SH would have deployed WMDs on England in 45 minutes. Any answer would have indicted him, releasing a torrent of lawsuits from which this country could never recover. The whitewash, which was also applied to the errant parliamentarians who got away unscathed or had their repayments reduced, had been prepared beforehand. A new set of MPs will make no difference unless real reforms are introduced. It would be appreciated if, instead of logical deduction, contributors would desist from besmirching these hallowed pages with their nonsense.

 

Fred E. Stern, Wembley, Middx

MIXED - NOT DILUTED

Sir - I am baffled by Fred Stern's equation (February) that adding cultures together subtracts. I am a product both of Jewish diaspora and English Protestant backgrounds. I consider myself mixed – not diluted.

 

Lydia Thornley, London EC2

LIFT VANS

Sir – Liesl Munden’s letter reminds me of an episode in Four Girls from Berlin, a wonderful book by Marianne Meyerhoff. Her best childhood friends in Berlin were three non-Jewish girls, who stood by her after the anti-Jewish laws had come in. Her parents managed to send her to America, but they remained behind. Her wonderful friends continued to visit her parents and to help them and one of them, at great risk to herself, agreed to hide a box with some precious family possessions.

Her family did not survive. In 1945, after the war, the writer received a large mysterious box in which she found these family treasures - silver candlesticks, letters, photograph albums and so on. These items enabled her to remember her past. As her friends in post-war Germany were now starving, she, in turn, was able to reciprocate their kindness by sending them wonderful food parcels.
 

Bronia Snow, Esher

Sir - It was April 1939 in Vienna when the day came for the lift to be closed. We had a Jewish firm of movers who packed the items we were allowed to take and checked them with a copy the Nazis held. My mother had plates of sandwiches, pastries and, of course, bottles of beer on a table next to the door. She gave the shipper a small bag of her jewellery and asked if he could slip the bag into the lift. He said it would depend on which Nazi inspector came to check.

The doorbell rang and the Nazi inspector entered the flat. The Nazi and the Jewish mover hugged each other and joked: ‘Quick, close the lift and let’s have something to eat!’ The lift was closed and sealed. The mover gave my mother a sly wink. Of course, we didn’t know if the bag of jewellery was actually in the lift. Months later, when the lift was unpacked in Bombay, the jewellery was there. I only hope the kind inspector who risked his life survived.
 

Henry Rado, Harrow, Middx

BRITISH FIRST, JEWISH SECOND?

Sir – For Peter Phillips to say he is British first and then Jewish makes little sense. I came to England on a Kindertransport and I love the British for their compassion and having saved my life. The vast majority of Britons consider you a Jew and then a Briton for whatever reason and it is like that in every country.
The German Jews also thought they were German first … I speak with some authority, having lived in some 20 countries. The most important thing is not what you consider yourself, but what others consider you!
 

Henry Herner, Caracas, Venezuela

CORE BELIEFS

Sir – For Henry Schragenheim (January), belief in the ten plagues and the ‘splitting’ of the Red Sea are core beliefs of the Jewish religion. The plagues are convincingly explained by fallout from the volcanic eruption on Santorini within nine years of 1609 BC and the retreat, and then surge, of the Reed Sea by a resulting tsunami. Google ‘Siro Trevisanato’ (PhD Microbiology).


 

George Landers

SECOND GENERATION REFLECTIONS

Sir – I belong to the second generation with regard to my father, who fled on the Kindertransport from Wiesbaden in 1939, and to the third generation with regard to my grandparents, who escaped via Portugal to Britain in 1940. Some articles in recent issues of the Journal - and many readers’ opinions - seem rather outmoded to me, but I was very pleased to read Mr Grenville’s article ‘Reflections on German reunification’ and Mr Phillips’s article ‘Jew against Jew’, both in the February issue. I agree with every word.

To Mrs Shefer-Vanson’s ‘Letter from Israel’ on Viktor Klemperer and the composer Erich Korngold, also in February, I would add that Korngold’s opera Die tote Stadt is being performed not only in France but also in Germany, as it was in 2008 in Bonn.

I too recommend Viktor Klemperer’s diary, which greatly helped me to get a feeling of what life was like under Hitler – but, unlike Mrs Shefer-Vanson, having read it, I didn’t have to travel to Israel to recover. Poking around in Germany today is sufficient to ‘shake off the gloomy mood aroused by that book’ - see Grenville’s abovementioned article.
 

 

Lorenz S. Beckhardt,

‘THE MOST IMPORTANT DIARY SINCE PEPYS’

Sir - I would like to add a few points not mentioned in Dorothea Shefer-Vanson’s February ‘Letter from Israel’ on Viktor Klemperer’s diary I Will Bear Witness.

I bought the book when the English translation was published, as one critic described it as the most important diary since Pepys. Having read it, I wouldn’t rate it so highly but it was very interesting for Jewish readers born in Germany.

One most important point of Klemperer’s identity is that not only did he marry a
non-Jew but he himself converted to Christianity. Conversion, of course, did not
save him from the anti-Jewish legislation although, like many others who married
non-Jews, it did protect him initially from deportation.

Another point is that he was the son of a rabbi who was first an Orthodox rabbi but later a Reform one.

Klemperer could also be described as a self-hating Jew - hence his conversion to Christianity. Of course, he had to mix with other Jews and attend Jewish funerals. Some time during the Hitler years, he was asked rejoin the Jewish community, which he steadfastly refused, stating he was now a believing Christian.

Incidentally, his diary was not published by himself but by his second wife, who found it after his death. I believe the diary created a sensation when it was published in German in 1996. The English translation by Martin Chalmers came later.
 

Max Sulzbacher, Jerusalem

AN ADDITIONAL BERLIN MEMORIAL

Sir - I think one item could be added to those mentioned by David Wirth in his article on memorials in Berlin (January). The Bayrische Viertel had its own synagogue in the Münchener Strasse - it was not a building standing on its own but was situated in a Hinterhaus (rear of a building), adjoining blocks of flats and not directly accessible from the street.

There is now a memorial in the street consisting of slabs of concrete (one depicting a menorah) and a metal plate inserted in its base, which explains the reason for the memorial. It reads: ‘There was a synagogue here from 1909 until 1956. Due to its position adjoining a block of flats, it was not destroyed during the Pogrom-Night of 9 November 1938. After the expulsion and destruction of the Jewish fellow citizens by the National Socialists, it had lost its function and was demolished in 1956.’
 

 

Fritz Lustig

BACK TO VIENNA

Sir – Is John Lawrence (Letters, January) aware of the Jewish Welcome Service in Vienna and the thousands who have taken advantage of its 30-year existence? If so, he might accept that, for all those who have returned to Vienna under its auspices, including families bringing their younger generations, pride seems to play no part. The whole exercise is carried out by younger Viennese, who took no role in the horrors of 70 years ago and now seek to emphasise that the world there has changed for the better.

 

Alan S. Kaye

Sir - The Stefanie Hotel in Vienna’s Leopoldstadt district has become a very smart hotel offering a very nice menu, including an excellent Kalbsschnitzel. The Jewish Welcome Service is making good use of the hotel, inviting ex-Viennese from all over the world including the second and third generations. I had a splendid week there and wish it could have been longer.

 

Karl Katz

ISRAELIS AND PALESTINIANS

Sir - Eric Sanders is being simplistic when he writes that the Israeli refusal to agree to East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state is an obstacle to peace.

What grounds has Israel for believing anything the Palestinians promise? When Ariel Sharon voluntarily gave them the Gaza Strip, and affirmed that Israel only wanted to live in peace with her neighbours, what happened? The beautifully cultivated place the Israeli farmers left behind was destroyed and used as a launching ground for rockets. Hardly actions to induce confidence in peace in the Israelis. If Hamas were to succeed in taking over East Jerusalem, they would have no hesitation in launching rockets over the whole of Israel, which it is their avowed intention to destroy.

Even before the advent of Hamas, when Prime Minister Ehud Barak, hardly a right-winger, offered Arafat most of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and other concessions, the Palestinians did not accept. Where was their desire for peace then?

Mr Saunders further writes that Mr Netanyahu’s wish for peace is insincere: ‘Words are cheap.’ Indeed they are. But we have yet to hear one word of peace from the Fatah government. If only that were the case. In their speeches and television interviews to their people, they constantly reiterate that ‘the whole land belongs to them - there is no such place as Israel.’ Unfortunately, the media never publicises these speeches. Perhaps they have no Arabic translators.
 

Thea Valman, London NW11

Sir – If Eric Sanders thinks Israel should give the ‘Palestinians’ half of Jerusalem, stop any Jewish settlements on land they conquered in a war that was forced on them in 1967, and encourage the establishment of a state of Palestine when one already exists under the name of Jordan and all will be well - he is living in cloud-cuckoo-land.

Hamas, established in Gaza with Iranian help after Israel’s withdrawal, has one main and unalterable aim: to write the Jewish state off the face of the earth.
 

Ernest G. Kolman

Sir - My old friend Hegel used to say that what experience and history teach us is that people and government have never learned anything from history. In your January issue, Eric Sanders suggested in all seriousness that Israel should give up East Jerusalem for peace.

I remember only too well that there was once one Neville of Westminster SW1 who thought he could trade the land of a far-away people for peace and kept waving a piece of paper about - and look what happened.

If my learned and honourable friend had been a subscribing member of the C o E and had gone to church last Xmas, he would have heard the congregation sing the carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, confirming that Jerusalem was built by a king of Israel and is, and has been since time immemorial - irrespective of who occupied it quite illegally - Jewish. All of it. To change the words to ‘Once in Palestinian East Jerusalem’ just doesn't sound right.
 

Frank Bright, Martlesham Heath, Suffolk

Sir - With respect to Peter Phillips’s characteristically good-natured article (February), I would like to speak up for those he calls ‘Jewish do-gooders’ who ‘wash their dirty linen in public’, on the principle that it is better to wash it in public than not at all.

Peter Phillips asks if Israel has the right to defend itself ‘even if, sometimes, with more violence than might be necessary’. The second half of this question can be left to those with a belief in fair play.

The answer to the first part is that, like any other country, Israel has the right to defend itself if it is not oppressing another people and expanding its territory at their expense, which is what it has been and is now doing. No, I do not want to wipe Israel off the map. I want to be able to envisage a post-Zionist Israel in which cultural Zionist and other Jews can live alongside Palestinians in a secular state (as Peter Phillips himself says) in which everyone is free to practise their religion and in which there would be no state religion. This would actually fulfil the terms of the Balfour Declaration, which promised a ‘home’ - not a state - for the Jews.

This may sound like pie-in-the-sky, but is it not better to work towards than the reality of present-day Israel, which often makes many of us ashamed to be Jewish?
 

 

Nicholas Jacobs, London NW5

Sir – Recently the IDF and the Israeli police have increased their war against human rights activists. Non-violent protests in the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah against the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes by extreme right-wingers have met with a violent and disproportionate police response. The IDF have responded with insufferable harshness to protests against the separation fence in the Palestinian villages of Bil’in and Na’lin.

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz writes: ‘What the police are doing in Sheikh Jarrah and what the IDF is doing in Bil’in and Na’alin should disturb every Israeli, whether right-wing or left-wing, because this is about the very nature of the regime of the country in which we live.’
 


 

Peter Prager

Art notes (review)

If anything positive can emerge from the Middle East conflict, it is the quiet courage of the Bereaved Families Forum, whose members have lost loved ones on both sides but who are dedicated to reconciliation. Their exhibition, Cartooning in Conflict, at London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields, exposes the irony of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the absurdity of war.

A group of skilled international cartoonists present powerful images in which birds, guns and olive branches are recurring themes, alongside the general rubble and brokenness of war. In one cartoon, an angel and a devil play cards with the fates of men. In another, two women – an Israeli and an Arab - cry the same tears. The message is clear: death is indiscriminate, humans are equal and war is futile.

The Ben Uri Art Gallery scored a hit with its much publicised acquisition of a little-known gouache by Marc Chagall, Apocalypse in Lilac, which it showed at the Osborne Samuel Gallery in London. In its wake came a brief window of masterpieces in the Ben-Uri collection, including works by Auerbach, Bomberg, Kramer, Emmanuel Levy and that rare pre-Raphaelite Simeon Solomon. The Chagall takes its rightful place besides Bomberg’s Ghetto Theatre and Kramer’s Day of Atonement.

The newly acquired gouache has its own sorrowful history. Chagall left France, the country of his adoption, in 1941. Sales of his work dwindled and he was dogged by personal tragedy. Then came news of the Holocaust. And thus the gouache was born -a Jewish, hermaphrodite Christ, bearded but sensual, with Jewish figures climbing up towards him and a Nazi devil with a tail at the foot of the ladder. Here was a riposte drawn from the still anger of absolute betrayal.

David Glasser, Ben-Uri Co-chairman, bought the work for £30,000 and presented it as the pinnacle of a fundraising show to secure London premises for the Ben-Uri’s works, which unbelievably remain in storage. Over 75 per cent of the 1,000 works by 300 artists were created by first- or second-generation immigrants.

What could be more moving than the fate of misunderstood genius Vincent Van Gogh? The Royal Academy of Arts’ new exhibition, The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters (until 18 April), reveals a polymath, a pantheistic nature-poet dogged by mental instability and lack of self-belief. In extremis, he poured his soul into the ear of his financially supportive art-dealer brother Theo, but cut off his own and finally shot himself in 1890 because he despaired at his ‘lack of progress’. The letters let us glimpse Van Gogh’s ten-year artistic cycle, including his Japanese phase, which influenced some remarkable portraits. The turbulent clouds, the orchards in which every leaf throbs with energy, the whirling brush strokes and the Yellow House, a whimsical and longed-for place of refuge for artists, all reveal the yearning of a restless spirit.

Most poignant are the scenes painted from his iron-barred asylum window at Saint-Remy, through which he could make out a square of wheat in an enclosure from which he could see the sun ‘rise in all its glory’.
 

Gloria Tessler

China with a Jewish flavour

Friends expressed horror when I told them I had booked ‘a tour of China with a Jewish flavour’. They asked why I would go to a country with such an appalling human rights record, such a selfish position on polluting the ecosphere, and so seriously curtailing its citizens’ freedom with censorship of the internet etc. Couldn’t I find enough ‘Jewish flavour’ elsewhere, they asked. Of course I had my reasons: my dad spent eight years over the WWII period in Shanghai. After the war, he talked endlessly about Chinese food and customs and related incidents from his legal practice in Bubbling Well Road, but nothing about what it was really like in Shanghai. I wasn’t particularly interested in asking questions then. Only since the first Kindertransport reunion in 1989 had I become keen to piece together my family story. Reading books about the Shanghai experience gave me a disturbing picture of what it might have been like for my father. How would he have felt escaping from Europe just before war broke out, spending six weeks or so on the seas not knowing whether the ship would be allowed into Shanghai or sent back; embarking into the ravages of the Sino-Japanese war with nowhere to go and no money; facing swarms of starving Chinese refugees pouring into Shanghai, their corpses left in the roadside sewers; depending on charity until he had passed exams in English law and got a job; and, finally, being interned by the Japanese in Hongkew, a square mile of ghetto already overcrowded by Chinese, in the most poverty-stricken part of Shanghai, not knowing if the Japanese would succumb to the demands of the Nazis in Shanghai to put all the Jewish refugees in a boat and sink it in the Wangpoo River?
So I wanted to experience Shanghai for myself. I was determined to go with an open mind and save my criticism for the shortcomings of my own government on human rights and carbon footprints. It paid off: we met nothing but disarming friendliness from the Chinese people and eagerness to tell and show us everything we wanted to know. In the cities (although not so much in the countryside) the people wear modern dress – all the latest fashions – and have embraced Western culture and behaviour, even Macdonald’s.
Our itinerary began with a ten-hour overnight flight to Beijing, where we spent four nights before flying to Harbin near the Mongolian and Russian borders. After two nights in Harbin, we flew to Xian for two nights. From Xian, we had the illuminating experience of a Chinese overnight sleeper train to Kaifeng, where we had two breakfasts but only one night. Our last hop was to Shanghai, where we had two nights before the return journey to London.
We were in excellent hands. Our Jewish Renaissance tour organiser met us in Beijing’s impressive modern airport to introduce us to Feng, our Beijing guide, and to Professor Xu Xin, who was to accompany us for the whole tour and from whom we were to learn so much. In each city we had a new guide who specialised just in that city. Our every need was taken care of. We became a unique, intimate group. All six cities we visited were amazing, with wide, tree-lined boulevards and endless towering blocks of newly built high-rise flats. We learned that traffic was reduced to just manageable in Beijing by cars with certain number plates being banned on different days of the week. Shoals of bicycles, scooters and electric bicycles overtook us at every traffic light and intersect. With remarkable ingenuity, many of the cycles had a variety of vehicles attached at the back; one elderly gent even had his missus attached behind in a wheelchair. Another cyclist was scarcely visible peeking out from a mountain of cardboard boxes piled all round him. In the Lama Temple in Beijing, built in 1694 and used as a residence for the visiting Dalai Lama, we were enveloped in the haze of incense burning in the five courtyards between magnificent all-wooden temples painted with intricate patterns in four colours - gold for the emperor and the universe, blue for the heavens, green for the earth, and red for happiness. Even the Beijing taxis were gold, sided with blue, green or red tops. The piece de resistance was an 80-metre-high Buddha made out of one sandalwood tree. The Temple of Heaven, built in 1420 in the reign of Ming Emperor Yongle, is clearly a social meeting and recreation place, as the long, covered walk leading up to it was peopled with card-players, smokers, dancers and a hubbub of cheerful chatter. Dragon kites and numerous other tourist knick-knacks were offered to us. It was good to see a large number of tour groups of Chinese people of all ages exploring their own country. The walk through Tienanmen Square and on through the Emperor’s Palace, the Forbidden City, was amazing, as was the ‘Bird’s Nest’ Olympic stadium in its Olympic Village and a coach ride to the Great Wall. In contrast, a bicycle-rickshaw ride through the narrow streets of one of the hutong (alley) districts of Beijing gave us a taste of the colourful lantern-lit nightlife around a glittering lake, but in an area of dire poverty. Further highlights of the tour were visits to the Terracotta Warriors of Xian – their sheer number is awe-inspiring; the tiger park in Harbin – 800 tigers uncaged; and the three theatre shows we attended - the Peking opera, largely mime, the Tang Dynasty Extravaganza in Xian, and the acrobatic show in Shanghai. Our first Jewish experience was a visit to the lovely synagogue in Tienjin, not far from Beijing but no longer in use. This contrasted with a kosher Chinese dinner the same evening in Chabad House in Beijing! In Harbin, in the Jewish cemetery that had been dug up and relocated to the outskirts of the town, we learned of its vibrant Jewish community that was denuded by emigration to Israel in 1948 and ended with the Cultural Revolution. We studied its culture and people in the synagogue that had been renovated as a museum of the former Jewish community. In Kaifeng, we were welcomed at the Henan Provincial University by the students and staff of the Department of Jewish Studies, seeking to keep alive the memory of Jews in China through promoting education about Jews. This was the brainchild of Professor Xu Xin, who had already founded a thriving university department of Jewish Studies in Nanjing, and our reception was overwhelming. We learned that the Chinese have no concept of anti-Semitism. Jews are respected for their important contribution to China's financial and cultural development. Apparently, European ‘blood theory’ of superior and inferior ‘races’ did not spread to China. Nor did Christianity, with its theology of Jews as ‘Christ-killers’, get much of a foothold, as the missionaries were expelled when they tried to ban ancestor-worship among converts. Chinese culture reveres ancestors, nature and sages like Confucius. Different parts of China have developed variations of a mixture of Buddhism and Taoism and have accepted Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities as co-existing. Finally, in Shanghai, we visited the memorial plaque, in Hongkew, to the Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution. In the nearby Jewish Museum, my daughter found her grandfather listed in its database of refugees as ‘Dr R. Michaelis 125/5 Hok San Lu, Attorney at Law’. Our guide was able to take us to this address. Much of the ghetto has been razed and rebuilt, but a portion has been earmarked to be renovated and preserved and Hok San Lu is in this not yet renovated area. House 125/5 is one of several large tenement houses around a walled yard. One of the Chinese families living there invited us in. Poverty, dilapidation and lack of hygiene were striking - but didn’t prevent the occupants from giving us a most friendly welcome. An unimagined climax to what had been a momentous two weeks! Yes, there was pollution: much of the time, visibility was little more than 200 metres with the horizon hidden in a haze. But the people are amazing and one cannot help but admire their spirit and enthusiasm in welcoming and engaging with foreigners and their rapid emergence into the 21st century. If Jewish Renaissance offer another China tour, I heartily recommend it.

 

Ruth Barnett