Emeritus Faculty Association newsletter #104 December 2004
Shanghai Ghetto II: You Enjoyed the Talk, Now See the Movie!
As previously announced, Bob Sokal will show Port of Last Resort, a video on the Shanghai Ghetto in World War II, at 10:30 a.m. Friday, January 7 in the Wang Center, Lecture Room 1. Follow the signs inside the building.
New: EFA Website:
We hope that this website may assist old colleagues across the world to reconnect. However in the interests of protection against web-bots, some of the information in the members link has been constrained. Only email addresses are listed, and these in a form from which you will have to edit the "AT" to "@" without spaces. Ah, another sad commentary on the times in which we live! Most of us are old enough to remember the day when grocery stores stocked unsealed packages and just trusted everybody not to drop poisons or drugs into them. Not to mention offices and labs that were open, rather than todays's corridors of combination-locked steel doors. In those days it was just the architecture of the campus which was neo-penal. But do you know (unless you have an unlisted telephone) that Google already knows much about you? Just try typing in your telephone number in their search box! But now, when you type in your name in that box, you should see, among your other distinguished accomplishments, a link to our own EFA members list.
Mel Simpson introduced Distinguished Professor Emeritus Robert Sokal. He described Bob's exemplary scholarly record and argued that Bob would have won a Nobel Prize if that prize was offered in the field of numerical taxonomy.
Professor Sokal focused his remarks on his life as a Jewish refugee whose family fled from Vienna in 1938 and spent the war years in Shanghai, China. The family left Austria after Bob's father was released from 9 months in concentration camps. The family had to turn over ownership of their property to the Nazi occupiers and pledge never to return to Austria. Shanghai was one of the few places in the world where Jews could immigrate. Entrance visas were not required because the city was controlled jointly by the European powers and Japan and thus slow to make changes in its open immigration policy. The result was that until the port was closed in 1940 many shiploads of Jews fleeing Europe arrived in the city. The boat trip from Austria to Shanghai took 23 days, punctuated by many stops along the way that were exciting to 13-year-old Bob. Arriving in Shanghai, the family learned that for many centuries the city had been home to many Jews. About 800, who had emigrated from Iraq in the 19th century, were now multi-millionaires owning vast real estate holdings. In addition there were some 4,000 Jews who had migrated from Russia.
Now adding to this base came 20,000 "newcomers," Jews of various backgrounds fleeing from Europe. Many were housed in refugee camps where many died of malnutrition, but others were able to find housing and build their own institutions, businesses, synagogues, newspapers, schools, musical groups, and medical services.
After Pearl Harbor the Japanese occupied the entire city and outside relief supplies were cut off, resulting in many dying of malnutrition. In 1943 the Japanese occupiers decided to concentrate all the "newcomers" into a one-mile square ghetto. Fortunately for the Sokal family, the house that they had been able to purchase was within the prescribed ghetto area so they were not required to move. Bob, who had been accepted at St. JohnÕs University, along with others, who could prove outside employment, were able to leave the ghetto in the morning but had to check back in at night. Americans began to bomb the outskirts of the city in 1944, and in 1945 one bomb mistakenly hit the ghetto, killing 13 refugees and some 200 Chinese. The dropping of the atomic bomb ended the war (Bob has never met a refugee who was critical of that tactic), but it took three weeks before American soldiers arrived in the city, whereupon conditions improved and the ghetto inhabitants dispersed.
Also at our December 3 meeting:
Homer Goldberg reported the recent deaths of two former members of the University community: Ruth Jean Eisenbud, spouse of Leonard Eisenbud, and Barbara Pond, wife of T. Alexander Pond.
Lois Mazer, Library Advancement Director, encouraged members to consult her to learn about the various ways they might make financial contributions to the University, including annuities, bequests, and named scholarships.
Judy Wishnia urged members to support a forthcoming UUP effort to influence Congressional debate on the future of Medicare and Social Security.