One of the main purposes of this year’s road trip was to give my 90-year old mom the chance to visit the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, something that she has long wanted to do. We had heard that the museum was amazing, and our 8.5 hours there today did not disappoint!
We saw every exhibit and watched almost every movie. While the rest of the family experienced it as history, for Gracie it was a chance to re-live memories:
Hearing the voice of Adolf Hitler on the radio;
Listening to Roosevelt’s speech to Congress;
The fear of a Japanese attack on Portland, OR, where she lived;
Her sister being in charge of the ration board in Bend, OR at the ripe age of 18;
A cousin piloting a landing craft on D-Day;
And of her brother, a Marine, fighting on Guadalcanal.
If you ever find yourself in New Orleans, it is a must see. Be sure to plan to spend an entire day to see everything. And if you aren’t in New Orleans, it’s worth making a special trip here to see it.
In thinking about books about WW2 to recommend, it was difficult because I have read so many. But in the end two stand out — these classic works by Herman Wouk:
Last week, China staged a huge parade to commemorate the end of World War II. While everyone was focused on the pomp and ceremony in Beijing, there were a couple of events in Shanghai to honor the city’s role in taking in Jewish refugees during the war. In fact, on September 6, the city opened the Jewish Memorial Park.
Beginning in 1938, as Jewish persecution by the Nazis went into high gear, approximately 20,000 Jewish refugees fled to Shanghai, one of the few safe havens in the world that did not require a visa.
On Sunday, a Jewish Memorial Park was opened at the Fushouyuan cemetery in that city’s Qingpu district in their honor.
Israeli Consul-General Arnon Perlman, speaking at the dedication, said it is very important “to remember the friendship between China and Israel and between Shanghai and Israel.” On a patch of newly laid grass, a Star of David made of stone forms the centerpiece of the park and serves as the base of a sculpture of interlocking stones with another Star of David, and a menorah, at its center.
One of the stones pays tribute to Dr. Ho Feng-Shan, the Chinese consul general of Vienna during the war, who defied orders and issued over 3,000 visas to Austrian Jews to allow them to travel to China (while visas were not required to enter Shanghai, they were required to leave Austria).
The mostly German and Austrian Jews who came to Shanghai in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s joined another several thousand Jewish residentswho had made the country their home in the previous 50 years, either as merchants or to escape Russian pogroms.
The Consulate General of Israel in Shanghai released a video thanking Shanghai for being a safe haven for Jews:
The World Jewish Congress had a story about the reopening of a cafe that had once been a gathering place for the Jewish community in Shanghai:
On Wednesday, an iconic café in the former Jewish ghetto of Shanghai, which served as a meeting place for Jewish refugees during World War II, was re-opened in the presence of 300 dignitaries, including a representative of the World Jewish Congress (WJC).
At the time, the White Horse Café (‘Zum Weissen Rössl‘) was a café where the Jewish refugees met.
The White Horse Café first opened in 1939. It has been rebuilt in a new location opposite tothe Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum with its original look. The three-story wooden and brick structure that combined Western and Eastern architecture served as a popular shelter for Jewish residents living nearby.
The owner sold the café to a local after the war. It was demolished in 2009 to make room for a subway. The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum collected the building’s blue prints and key components such as beams and some wooden curving on walls for the rebuilding.
Among the guests at the ceremony on Wednesday was Ron Klinger from Australia. His grandparents, who had come to Shanghai from Vienna in 1938, had opened the inn. “A lot of people visited, Jewish people and non-Jewish people. It was like cafe, bar and nightclub. It was very popular,” recalled Klinger.
The new coffee house was rebuilt in accordance with the original style. It displays some old photos donated by the Klinger family.
Two interesting stories on a little-known part of Shanghai’s past.
After yesterday’s post about the China History Podcast, I decided to do some more posts about Chinese history this week.
Unless you’re a Chinese or World War II history buff, you may not know that the US military had a fairly robust presence in China during the War. The famous “Flying Tigers” had bases and personnel in several cities in SW China, including Kunming and Chengdu.
This article from Business Insider features a number of photos that were taken by US servicemen in China. They provide an interesting glimpse of what the country looked like in the late 1940’s.
A description from the article:
“In 1941 before the United States entered World War II, 300 young Americans were secretly trained to combat the Japanese Air Force in China. The American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Airforce, nicknamed the Flying Tigers, was comprised of pilots drawn from the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.
In the days after Pearl Harbor, the group went on to capture the public imagination in both China and the United States with their daring tactics and distinctive airplanes painted with shark teeth.
Members of the squadron (most prominently, William L. Dibble and H. Allen Larsen) took a huge collection of color photographs that depict the nation adopting new urban and modern modes of living along with the rural practices of the past.”