Almost 20,000 European Jews sought refuge from the Nazis in Japanese-occupied China during World War II, and Edie Shafer was among them.
Born in the Shanghai Ghetto in 1941, she spent her first seven years in the only city to which Jews could flee without a visa and gain entry. Though conditions were poor, the Shanghai Ghetto, also known as "the port of last resort," was a haven, and Shafer considers herself one of the lucky ones because while hers is a story of great difficulty, it is ultimately one of survival.
Shafer, now 69 and living in Milwaukee, Wis., will be in Syracuse on Sunday Oct. 24 at the Jewish Community Center in DeWitt, to speak about her experiences in the Shanghai Ghetto. The lecture, to begin at 3 p.m., is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow after the talk. In addition to telling her story as a child refugee, she will also address her adjustment to and gratitude for her life in America.
Shafer saw grass for the first time when she and her family first landed in Hawaii en route to San Francisco, Calif. She laughed as she recalled rolling in and touching it.
"There was no grass in the ghetto," said Shafer, an only child. "It was cement."
She remembers the relentless Shanghai heat, raw sewage running down the middle of roads and the behavior of irrational authority figures. She also remembers standing inside her father's cigar store, a towel draped over her dad's shoulders to wipe his brow, and feeling "proud as a peacock" that she too could have a towel.
"My parents were the most important part of my life growing up," Shafer said. "My father was always willing to help other people ... my mother was stronger only in giving me all the love that I needed."
Shafer's mission in speaking is to urge people to "care for each other, appreciate what we have and be the best person you can be."
For more information about the lecture, call 446-6124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.