Oral History

Ernest G. Heppner describes arrival in Shanghai

Ernest's family owned a factory that made matzah, the unleavened bread eaten during Passover. In February 1939, three months after Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass" pogroms), Ernest and his mother fled to Shanghai, one of few havens for refugees without visas. His father and sister stayed behind in Germany; they perished during the Holocaust. A brother escaped to England. Ernest and his mother found work in Shanghai. In 1947, he came to the United States with his wife, whom he met and married in Shanghai.


So we were received by a committee, but we walked ashore then. Uh, again, no passport, no papers, nothing. And, uh, there were many, many members of the Jewish community there looking for relatives perhaps that they expected. And we were loaded on trucks that normally carry pigs and moved to a reception center that had been furnished by one of the local residents where we were housed and received food. So as I may have said earlier, we had arrived with seventy-five cents, but at least we now knew we would have a roof over our head for the night and we would have something to eat.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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