Guenther was only a few years old when Nazi rule came to power in his home country of Germany. His parents were able to escape with him to Shanghaii. His brother was born in Shanghaii where he and Guenter spent their formative years. After the war, they sailed to Bolivia, a home for a time. Eventually they sailed up the Panama Canal, all the way to San Pedro, California, eventually finding their way to San Francisco.
Guenter, Ilse, Henry, Heinz and Fred are all Holocaust Survivors who eventually found their way to the same San Francisco Jewish Community after the war. Their synagogue was nicknamed the Shanghaii synagogue as many there survived the war as refugees in Shanghaii. The background of this painting maps their unique journeys to San Francisco. The painting is currently on loan to the synagogue.
About the Synagoge, from The "J..."
Fred was a teenager in Belgium , early in the war, when the Nazis loaded his family on a train to Auschwitz. The trains still had windows, he jumped from the train, ran and hid in the attic of a family friend in Belgium till the end of the war. His entire immediate family was murdered in Auschwitz. After the war, he took a ship to New York, and made his way cross-country to California.
Ilse was a teenager when her family escaped from Austria to Shanghaii. After the war, her parents moved to Israel. However, Ilse had fallen in love in the ghetto and became engaged to another survivor. He had dreams of America. In order to get in, they first went to Canada. After a time, now with legal documents, they were able to immigrate to the US, and settled in San Francisco.
Ilse's grandson, "Josh," is also a subject in a banner I painted for the City of San Francisco. In the painting sketch, you will recognize him in a blue & white striped shirt.
Henry grew up in Germany with his twin, a younger brother, Claude, and his parents. His mother was Jewish, his father was a convert to Judaism. His mother was sent to a work camp, while he, his brothers and father were made to work hard labor, but could return to their homes nightly. When the war ended, he was a couple weeks walk from home with his brothers. They made it back to find their home destroyed, with but one stone wall remaining. On the wall, their mother painted a sign, telling them where to find her, they were joyously reunited, but still did not know about their father. Two months later their father found them. They had all miraculously survived, and began a several months journey through Europe till they could emigrate to the United States.
As a man in his early twenties, Heinz' father ventured to China to get work experience. A couple years later, he returned to Germany to start a family. When the war broke out, he wrote to his employer in China to see if he could return with his family. However, he was taken to a concentration camp. His wife then received word from his Chinese employer with permission and working papers. At this point, early in the War, it enabled him to leave the Camp and go to China with his family, they survived the war. Eventually, they found their way to San Francisco.
Sadly, we recently said goodbye to Heinz. He was a warm and good man, and knowing him added joy to my life.