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EXCERPT I (Page 1 of 3)
February 17, 1940
More than a year has passed since we came to this godforsaken place, and Mother
is wrong. Things have not improved. The Hongkew section is the dirtiest, most
run-down area of Shanghai. Our barracks—they call it the heim but it couldn't be
less like a home—allow us not one bit of privacy. People walk around bundled in
threadbare underwear and blankets. Wash hangs everywhere, even outside on the
ledge where the wind frosts it to ice.
To think that Papa, a respected applied mathematics professor in Berlin, sits
here idle like the others, with no work and no hope of any! And Mama, who had
her own dressmakers at home, is a lowly seamstress!
We are lucky one of them has a job at all, she tells me. Many lawyers and
professionals stand begging on the street. Besides, this work is really needed,
she says. Most, like us, escaped with only the clothes on their backs. With this
bitter winter, and summers that they say are boiling, the cloth here just rots.
"Bei uns in Deutschland," father mutters whenever mother talks about our luck.
The same thing he said the night of the broken glass.
"Better in Germany? You are a Jew!" mother spits back. "In your precious
Deutschland, you are an enemy of the state!"
Happily, when I go off to school, I can escape all this. I pretend I'm just an
But yesterday that all changed.
After school I went with Rasha, a girl from my class, to find her father. The
giant gleaming buildings near the shore made me forget the awful murky river.
After walking for some time in the bitter cold, we found ourselves on Avenue
Joffre. Suddenly we arrived at a fancy filigree door. Rasha nodded for me to go
in first. Inside, I was almost knocked