Jewish Values: Anya's War

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188 p.
Shanghai was a place of refuge for German Jews without visas who escaped during the Third Reich. But before that period, there was already a flourishing Jewish population in Shanghai. By 1937, 4,000 Jews lived in “Frenchtown”, Shanghai. Their ranks swelled to 20,000 as the refugee German Jews. Learning what the established Jewish community’s life was like contributes to this compelling novel. There were two groups: the dominant wealthy Sassoons, originally traders from Iraq, who arrived first; and the Russian colony, Jews who fled Russia for Shanghai when Stalin came to power. Anya’s mother had been an opera star in Odessa and remained a non-singing diva in Shanghai, not by occupation, but by nature. Her father, a journalist, found similar employment in Shanghai, but her mother had to “rough” it in an elegant home with a Chinese domestic staff, complaining all the while; after all, Shanghai took some getting used to. Anya and her brother went to a private school and led the life of well-off expatriates, until Anya, on an errand dictated by the family’s sprightly young cook, rescues an infant girl placed in the gutter by her mother, probably compelled by the Chinese belief that girls were worthless and only boy babies of value; and secretly brings her home. The story revolves around protecting the infant and her destiny, family intrigues, including a love-interest (an Italian Crypto Jew) for Anya, the onset of World War II and Pearl Harbor, and a tragic accidental bombing of the city. Based on the author’s life, it is a book with history, drama, and good writing.
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