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Volume 4, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2040-4344
  • E-ISSN: 2040-4352


In this article I discuss a personal archive of letters written by my maternal grandparents when they were living as refugees in the International Settlement in Shanghai during and after the Second World War. The letters are a unique, albeit fragmented family archive that represent their ‘epistolary selves’ through their particular accounts of exilic lives in Shanghai. Written to one of their three daughters, herself living in exile in London, they are a remnant of past German Jewish lives lived at the intersection of Chinese/Japanese/European colonial history, war and the Holocaust. From the temporal, spatial and familial distance of the third generation, I draw on a selection of the letters to illustrate the inter-connections of personal and public memory which, like migration itself, is a constant relationship of movement, of disconnection and reconnection between the past and the present. First I discuss how the letters provide a very particular account of how an upper middle class Berlin couple negotiated new lives in war torn Shanghai and their continued endeavours to maintain connections with a family fractured and dispersed across the world by persecution and war. In the second part I discuss how their embodied and material memories of home travelled with them from Berlin to Shanghai and in the process often became transformed, enabling them to establish a new, albeit transitory home, a place between exile and their further search for a new home/land


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