Books for the News

Voices from Shanghai

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NPR aired a story last week about the impending destruction of Shanghai’s Little Vienna, a Jewish neighborhood that arose in the 1930s as almost 20,000 refugees fled from Europe to Shanghai during Hitler’s rise.
According to the story, the Chinese government plans to knock down several buildings in this district to make way for a widened road. As conservationist Ruan Yisan told NPR, “Normal people all want these buildings knocked down, the government wants to knock them down, the developers want to knock them down. It’s only us conservationists who want to keep them.”
Whether or not the physical record of this community survives, its written record lives on in such volumes as Voices from Shanghai, a remarkable collection of the letters, diary entries, poems, and short stories composed by Jewish refugees in the years after they landed in China. Recovered from archives, private collections, and now-defunct newspapers, these fascinating accounts make their English-language debut in this new volume.