Authors: Deborah Strobin and Ilie Wacs

Publisher: Barricade Books Inc.

ISBN: 13-978-1-56980-452-0

As pointed out in the Preface of Deborah Strobin and Ilie Wacs's memoir, An Uncommon Journey: From Vienna to Shanghai to America A Brother and Sister Escape to Freedom During World War 11, Shanghai was the home of a vibrant community of Jewish refugees during the brief period of 1938-1945. It is thanks to narrators and writers as these two siblings that we are now able to learn about one of the least-acknowledged and least documented stories of the Holocaust.

Historically, this Jewish migration to China is referred to as the third and most likely the most important, as it began during the Nazi regime wherein it is estimated that approximately 20,000 Jews escaped the brutal atrocities that were left behind in Germany, Austria and other countries. It is to be noted that Shanghai, which was under Japanese occupation since 1937, was the only city in the world that did not require a visa, a passport, a health certificate, proof of financial independence or for that matter, any other official documentation to enter. In fact, there was no quota system in place and all you had to do was book passage and get on a boat. And this is exactly what the parents of Deborah and Ilie did to escape Nazi Austria in 1939. They realized that this was the port of last resort and even if it meant leaving their comfortable lifestyle in Austria, they needed to escape the looming horrors that would affect millions of Jews and even members of their own immediate families.

Life in Shanghai was not exactly a summer camp or a bowl of cherries where people arrived with just the clothes on their backs, and yet, they were able to adapt, survive, and triumph over immense tragedy even against all odds as they managed to overcome language barriers, poor housing and sanitary conditions, lack of food, and cultural shock. However, when you compare it to the fate of the millions left behind, it might as well have been a paradise for nearly all of the Jews who had migrated here survived the war.

An Uncommon Journey is a poignant tale of courage and human resilience, however, it did leave lifetime scars that affected the authors and their parents in different ways, even to the extent that their perceptions of the same events never seem to be the same or as stated in the book's jacket, “The truth becomes a mosaic with many facets, creating a moving portrait of a family uprooted.” And as Deborah concludes, “I never wanted to tell this story. My childhood in China, I detested. I spent the entirety of my life avoiding these memories, putting the past behind me, trying to forget, trying to compensate for what was lost.” For Elie,  growing up in Shanghai taught him that life is transitory, and as he asserts: “you need to choose very carefully what is important to you. Were there any other lessons to be learned from that suffering? Any other redeeming insight that guided my choices?”

After reading An Uncommon Journey we no doubt will be left with the lingering question -what would have happened if there were more nations in the world that accepted Jews during the time of the Holocaust?

Follow Here To Purchase An Uncommon Journey: From Vienna to Shanghai to America--A Brother and Sister Escape to Freedom During World War II