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Former Jewish refugee donates 8,000 books to museum in Shanghai

By HE QI ( China Daily ) 2020-09-04
Former Jewish refugee donates 8,000 books to museum in Shanghai

Kurt Wick points to the name of his family at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum in February 2019. CHINA DAILY

"I want to say thank you to Shanghai for saving us and my family," that was the message that Kurt Wick, an 82-year-old Jewish man from London, wanted delivered along with his donated collection of more than 8,000 books to the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.

The books, which are mainly on the history, culture, politics and economy of the Jewish people, were brought to the museum on Wednesday night.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wick, who spent his early childhood in Shanghai after his family fled Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, was unable to donate the books in person.

"I think the books would be useful in Shanghai because you have a lot of students and Jewish visitors," Wick said in a phone interview.

Many of the books feature the history of the Jewish people, the Holocaust and their treatment by the Nazis. Some recount the period when over 20,000 Jewish refugees sought shelter in Shanghai during World War II.

The books, in English, Hebrew, German and other languages, will become the first collection of volumes for a new library in the museum, according to its curator Chen Jian.

Wick first arrived in Shanghai with his family in 1939. To make a living, the family set up a shop selling handbags in Hongkou district. In 1948, Wick and his family left Shanghai to settle in London and Wick inherited his parent's handbag business after finishing his education.

In his spare time, Wick likes to collect books about Jewish history, politics, economy and culture. Over the past 70 years, he has collected nearly 10,000 books, and many of those are about Jewish refugees in Shanghai.

"Shanghai means a place of safety to me," said Wick."I arrived there as a little boy and didn't know much about the war. Although we were very poor, I never remember feeling hungry there."

According to Wick, he went to local schools, played sports with friends, and visited the parks and the Bund when he lived in Shanghai. "I did everything that people do in normal times," he said.

In 2019, Wick brought his wife, daughter and son-in-law to Shanghai. When he saw the name of his family on the wall of survivors at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, Wick was very moved and later decided to donate his books to the museum.

The collection of books began their journey from London to Shanghai in July 2019. Free Trade Zone Art, the company that helped Wick with his shipment, had to make four trips to his home to collect the books.

Due to the Chinese New Year and the pandemic, the books took longer than expected to arrive at their destination.

Chen, the museum's curator, said Wick's donated collection is very "valuable" as the museum aims to play a bigger role in academic research and cultural exchanges.

"The books have a special meaning for the museum and exchanges between Shanghai and Jewish people," Chen added.

The library will open to the public soon along with the reopening of the expanded museum, Chen said.



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