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The Story of a Jewish Passport

On April 14, 2005, a hubbub of voices came from inside and outside the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Memorial, the site of the Moses Synagogue, at 62 Changyang Road in Shanghai. Specially flying to Shanghai from Sydney, Australia, Gerti Brender, 71, collected the passport that she had lost 50 years before. It had been recovered by Zhu Peiyi, an antique collector in the city.


Although just a common passport, it is also evidence of the Jewish refugees' great suffering during the Nazi persecution 60 years ago, and of the escape of many to Shanghai, where they received warm care. It is also an object that marks the 60th anniversary of the victory of the world Anti-Fascist War.


1938 in Shanghai: seeking asylum


In 1938, Nazi Germany launched a criminal exclusion of Jews and tens of thousands of Jews in central and east Europe were imprisoned in concentration camps. In the camps, such as Auschwitz, many Jews were murdered. Of the Jewish refugees, after passing through many different nations, 25,000 fled to Shanghai, then under the heel of the Japanese fascists. The residents of Shanghai gave the Jewish refugees a fraternal hand and helped them settle in the Hongkou District.


Among the refugees in Shanghai was four-year-old Gerti Waszkouter, who with her parents escaped from Vienna to the city. Living on Huoshan Road, Waszkouter neighbored with the residents of Shanghai. Her father opened a shoe store with which he supported his family. She studied in a nearby primary school. Living as a Shanghai resident, she liked her living environment, including the lanes, residential houses, traditional hot water stoves, groceries, the peddlers' sweet porridge, and the family reunion dinner on lunar New Year's Eve. She lived differently from the Shanghai children, drinking coffee, eating cheese, and going to the Moses Synagogue on each Sabbath.


1949: migrating to Australia


In 1945, Nazi Germany was defeated and the Japanese aggressors surrendered. Together with the Shanghai people, the Jews celebrated the victory over the fascists. In 1949, Waszkouter and her parents migrated to Australia. She, a Jewish girl, grew up and became Mrs. Brender. However, she still feels nostalgia for her Shanghai years and has kept the pictures of her childhood. She tells her children and grandchildren of her historic experience.


She regretted that she had failed to look for her lost passport in Shanghai for 50 years. The Jews who suffered persecution from the Nazis didn't have their passports. But, the Schindlers in the then Chinese Embassy to Austria issued a special kind of passport to the Jewish refugees, allowing the refugees to take Italian liners to Shanghai from Geneva. This kind of passport was a protective talisman for those who franticly fled in those years. Unfortunately, Waszkouter lost her passport.


2005: good news from Shanghai


In 1999, at a flea market known as the Ghost Market, Zhu Peiyi, a Shanghai antique collector, came across the passports of two Jewish children. One bore the picture of a girl named Gerti Waszkouter, who was born in Austria in December of 1934. It took Zhu a long time to track down Waszkouter. At the end of 2004, he posted the passport information on a website and some newspapers published news of his discovery.


Steven Brender, CEO of the Australia-based DPK Company, got the news and informed his mother, Mrs. Brender. With great joy, Mrs. Brender flew to Shanghai with her husband, children and other relatives to collect her lost passport.


At 9:30 AM on April 14, 2005, Mrs. Brender and her family arrived at the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Memorial. Smiling and gesticulating, she greeted the people around her again and again. When she received her lost passport at the Ceremony for Returning the Passport to Mrs. Gerti Brender, she kissed the now historic document repeatedly.




After the ceremony, Mrs. Brender led her family to her former residence at No. 305 Lane along Gongping Road, where decades before she played with the neighboring Chinese children. Although time brings great changes to the world, the eternal remembrance and love in the human world remain unchanged.


Immersed in excitement, Mrs. Brender didn't say many wonderful words to journalists. However, her daughter offered these thought-provoking words: "Without Shanghai, I would not exist and Shanghai is always my paradise."



Mrs. Brender looks for her former residence in Shanghai.



Mrs. Brender visits the former residential community of Jewish refugees in Shanghai.



Mrs. Brender at the age of 4.



Buildings in the vicinity of the Ohel Rachel Synagogue in Shanghai.


(China Pictorial September 23, 2005)

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