New Exhibits, Free Lecture Focus on New Lives Found in China by Jews Who Fled Nazi-Occupied Europe

HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 20, 2007) The experiences of 18,000 Jews who escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe to find safety and new lives in Shanghai, China are the focus of two new exhibits opening this March at Holocaust Museum Houston.

"Shanghai: A Refuge During the Holocaust" is produced by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) and documents the lives of those who fled to Shanghai, China between 1938 and 1940. Forced to flee their homeland, these Jews became "stateless refugees" and were denied entry into most countries.

Several countries, including Canada, restricted the flow of immigration during the war, especially for Jewish refugees. As an open port, Shanghai was one of the very few places that stateless Jews could disembark without passports or visas. As a result, Shanghai became an important, life-saving refuge for thousands of people during the Holocaust.

The exhibit opens March 2 and runs through Aug. 5, 2007, in the Museum’s Central Gallery at the Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District. Admission is always free.

The public is invited to a free preview reception at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, 2007. Visit www.hmh.org/register.asp to RSVP online.

The exhibit, comprised of photographs and documents, presents the complex Jewish community in Shanghai that resulted from this emigration. Approximately 50 families now residing in Vancouver were part of that little-known community. The VHEC documented the experiences of one family, the Gottfrieds, whose detailed story of flight from Nazi-occupied Vienna to Shanghai, and then their later immigration to Canada, is presented within the exhibit.

The Houston exhibit also incorporates the lives of survivors who later made their way to Houston via Shanghai, including Ilse (Wiszniak) Marcks and Inge-Ruth (Sachs) Fletcher.

Ilse Marcks recalls a happy childhood in Vienna, Austria. Her father, Herman, worked as a tailor and her mother, Elvira, helped in his shop. After Austria was annexed into the German Reich in 1938, the Nazis confiscated the family’s tailor shop and threatened Herman with incarceration if he did not leave the country immediately. On display will be some of the paperwork required for Ilse’s family to flee Vienna.

Heinz Marcks was born in Germany and traveled to Shanghai with his parents in 1938 after being interned in Dachau. He met Ilse at a dance in Shanghai, and they married in 1944. Heinz and Ilse left Shanghai in 1948 and later settled in Houston.

Fletcher was forced to flee Germany with her family when she was 11 years old. She remembers the contrast of arriving in Shanghai on a luxury German cruise liner and then being taken by open truck to the refugee camp, where she was lead into a huge room that housed 100 people in iron bunks stacked two and three high. Sir Horace Kadoorie, a member of a prominent Jewish family in Shanghai, established a school for Jewish refugee children. Inge-Ruth was a pupil and was later hired as a teacher’s assistant at the school, where she worked until the end of the war. After the war, Inge-Ruth was hired as a cashier at a large army post exchange (P.X.), where she met Carl Fletcher, a U.S. Army officer. In 1947, Inge-Ruth and Carl were married at the Kadoorie school. Inge-Ruth left Shanghai in 1947 and moved to Houston. Carl followed in 1948.

Objects on loan from Ilse Marcks and Inge-Ruth Fletcher include: birth certificates, requests for immigration, family photos, photos of Shanghai taken by Heinz Marcks, an identification card (necessary for leaving the Hongkew ghetto area), a restaurant menu, an address book of Shanghai Jews, Ilse and Heinz’s marriage certificate and wedding portrait, Inge-Ruth and Carl’s engagement portrait, photos of Shanghai after the war, and a photo of Heinz and Ilse on the boat to America.

The Shanghai exhibit is sponsored locally by Leslie Alexander and the Houston Rockets, with special thanks to Continental Airlines, official airline of Holocaust Museum Houston.

A related exhibit opening March 1 in the Museum’s Boniuk Resource Center and Library documents the experience of another family who eventually made it to Texas. Arno, Lilly and Leo Lachmann emigrated from Berlin, Germany, where their family had lived for generations, to Shanghai in 1939. Highlighting documents from "The Lachmann Family Papers," a collection held in the Holocaust Museum Houston archives, this exhibit illustrates how difficult Jewish emigration from Germany was during the Nazi regime.

"Highlights from the Archive: The Lachmann Family Papers" also runs through Aug. 5, 2007.

In conjunction with those exhibitions, the Museum will present a free public lecture "Refuge in Shanghai: How Thousands of Jewish Refugees Managed to Survive World War II in Shanghai," on Monday, May 21, 2007.

The lecture by author Dorit Whiteman will begin at 7 p.m. in the Museum’s Herzstein Theater. Visit www.hmh.org/register.asp to RSVP for that event online.

Whiteman will discuss the peculiar circumstances that made the Free Port of Shanghai a sanctuary during the Holocaust.

She will describe how the Jews resourcefully conquered squalor, sickness, deprivation and lack of any legal protection. They survived and carried on their cultural traditions with dignity in a foreign land.

Whiteman was born in Vienna and fled with her family to London just before the outbreak of World War II. The family moved to the United Sates in 1941. Whiteman holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and obtained a doctorate in clinical psychology from New York University. She is a practicing psychologist and the author of numerous books including "The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy" and "Escape via Siberia."

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004.

For more information, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

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