It’s been a banner couple of months for marketing both AFTER THE AUCTION and the forthcoming THE LOST TORAH OF SHANGHAI. (Forthcoming in 2014.)  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect storm of real-life events to validate the truth/fiction synergy of the subjects I include in the novels.   Unknown

First, in October, came the news that a family in Shanghai was keeping a cache of books for a Jewish man, a refugee who’d escaped Europe and who entrusted the books to their late father in 1943. The English language Chinese TV report asserted that the Jewish man returned to Germany at that time and sent a postcard back to his book holding friend that sounded suspiciously like Holocaust stories about postcard messages sent, at Nazi behest, by concentration camp prisoners to people still back home: “Reunited with our family…” 

I smelled foul. Jews were not exactly leaving China to return to Germany in 1943. This was the time in Shanghai when the Japanese acquiesced to their German ally’s request to do something about the Jews in Shanghai but, rather than exterminate them (which the Germans would have preferred, of course), the Japanese compromised by forcing the Jews who’d arrived since 1937 (aka, the Jews from Europe who found refuge in that port of last resort) into the tenement area of Hongkou for the rest of the war. So, I thought, the Jewish book owner moved into a smaller space in the ghetto where he was unable to take his books, but the postcard found was something he’d received from his relatives back in Europe perhaps just stuck into a book.     

However, later reports, including one from Shanghai Daily, clarify that, indeed, the Jewish man, known as Headmaster Carl, had returned to Germany after the war, and the communication to his friend in Shanghai dated from 1947. The Chinese family had not only kept the books safe throughout the war, even evacuating them to another city when Shanghai was threatened by bombs, but had also saved these “mostly religious books” in English, German and Hebrew from being burned as banned during the Cultural Revolution. Now that the family home is being bulldozed to make way for a new development in the North Bund area of Shanghai, the family has packed up the books and given them to a library with the help of the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.

What a testament to friendship and trust and to the shared Chinese and Jewish value for books and education. (And, boy, do I wish this story had surfaced a few months earlier, as we stayed in the North Bund area of Shanghai very close to Hongkou this summer.

Meanwhile it’s a true-life coincidence “ripped from the headlines” that relates to the plot of THE LOST TORAH OF SHANGHAI in which a Torah has been entrusted to a Chinese family. 

Including Part 1 in the title of this post indicates there will be more. Stay tuned!

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