Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Henry Compart

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:13 - His childhood / departure from Germany

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Partial Transcript: Okay, alright, why don't you start at the beginning. 1939 is a good place, do you think?

Segment Synopsis: Compart describes his childhood and education in Berlin, Germany, explaining that his family felt increasingly uncomfortable in the 1930s. In 1939 they fled to Shanghai, China by ship. He discusses his friendships and childhood activities in Berlin.

Keywords: Brownshirts; Childhood; Jewish schools; Kristallnacht; Ocean travel; Parents; Shanghai (China); Ships; Smuggling; South America; Sturmabteilung (SA)

Subjects: Berlin (Germany); Education.; Emigration and immigration.; Friendship.

GPS: Berlin (Germany)
Map Coordinates: 52.517, 13.383
00:14:03 - The trip to China / settling in Shanghai

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Partial Transcript: Then, when, when we left--do you want, you need some light?

Segment Synopsis: Compart recounts his family's trip from Trieste, Italy to China on a cruise ship carrying many other fleeing Jews, part of the effort by the shipping company Lloyd Triestino to ferry Jewish refugees out of Europe. He describes his arrival in Shanghai and their initial lodgings in a synagogue converted to a Jewish refugee camp because of the scarcity of housing.

Keywords: Cruise ships; Refugee camps; Synagogues

Subjects: Ocean travel.; Refugees.; Shanghai (China)

GPS: Shanghai (China)
Map Coordinates: 31.200, 121.500
00:26:54 - Getting jobs in Shanghai / going to school

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Partial Transcript: So anyway, we were at this camp for a few weeks, and I, uh--no money. Then, I looked for, uh, for a job, you know, I looked to make some money.

Segment Synopsis: Compart describes his family's first jobs in Shanghai beginning in late 1939, including his own job as a paperboy. He tells of his father eventually securing a job as an accountant thanks to his mother's request to a rich businessman. He recalls that he went to a newly-founded Jewish school for a time, until he dropped out in 1941 to become an apprentice to a filmmaker, a job that lasted until the Japanese took control of the city at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

[[Silence at 32:22 - 32:35 due to an interruption in recording.]]

Keywords: Employment; Ezra family; Factories; Hardoon family; Housing; Jewish schools; Jobs; Russians; Sassoon family

Subjects: China--History--1937-1945.; Education.; Schools.; Shanghai (China); Work.

00:45:44 - Work during the war

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Partial Transcript: Uh, so I was there for half a year, and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and I got up in the morning, and I heard--the skies were clear--I heard thunder.

Segment Synopsis: Compart discusses the Japanese takeover of Shanghai at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which resulted in the loss of his job as a filmmaker's apprentice. He describes his father's work with a Swedish businessman which was cut short by the progression of the war. In 1942, he explains, the Japanese removed all foreigners from the factories, including his parents. He describes his own activities at the time, including selling cigarettes and eggs, and graduating from a business school.

[[First tape ends at 1:05:14.]]

Keywords: Cigarettes; Employment; Factories; Gregg shorthand; Jobs; Sweden; Swedes

Subjects: Business schools.; China--History--1937-1945.; Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941.; Shanghai (China); Work.

01:05:30 - Selling eggs / his friendships in Shanghai

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Partial Transcript: This Chinese was an expert on eggs. Used--they used to candle eggs.

Segment Synopsis: Compart describes his job as an egg salesman, as well as his father's work selling cigarettes for a time. He describes his chance reunion with a childhood friend from Germany, as well as his other friendships at the time, particularly in a club formed by himself and his friends. In 1943, he explains, the Japanese restricted immigrants to the Hongkou District of Shanghai, in effect creating a Jewish ghetto.

Keywords: Cigarettes; Employment; Hongkou District; Jobs; Marcia Ristaino; Schüler

Subjects: China--History--1937-1945.; Hongkou Qu (Shanghai, China); Jewish ghettos.; Shanghai (China); Work.

01:17:36 - Traveling in and out of the Hongkou District

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Partial Transcript: Then right after the proclamation came that we are to move to this area, the school was just one block over the line, was now outside the restricted area.

Segment Synopsis: Compart explains that after 1943, he and the other Jews had to obtain special passes to leave the Hongkou District. He describes his activities in the Schüler club, as well as the food he ate during this time. He describes his continued work selling cigarettes.

Keywords: Cigarettes; Hongkou District; Schüler

Subjects: China--History--1937-1945.; Jewish ghettos.; Shanghai (China)

01:31:13 - The Kadoorie family in Shanghai

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Partial Transcript: What was happening with Mr. Kadoorie during that--with the Japanese occupation?

Segment Synopsis: Compart describes the situation of the wealthy Jewish Kadoorie family, who at the time were in Shanghai and who later became "taipans" of Hong Kong. He describes his contact with Horace Kadoorie years after the war.

[[Silence at 1:37:18 - 1:37:33 due to an interruption in recording.]]

Keywords: "Taipans"; Horace Kadoorie; Kadoorie family; Lawrence Kadoorie

Subjects: Kadoorie, Lawrence; Reunions

01:37:35 - His newspaper articles and letters

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Partial Transcript: So we, uh, essentially, we felt we had a fairly normal, normal childhood, considering.

Segment Synopsis: Compart sums up his boyhood in Shanghai as fairly normal. He describes his work as a writer for various newspapers, as well as his and his father's correspondence with others through letters, some of which have been saved.

Keywords: Childhood; Letters

Subjects: Correspondence.; Newspapers.

01:43:11 - Allied bombing on Shanghai

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Partial Transcript: So what was happening, the war was going on in--

Segment Synopsis: Compart describes the bombing raids on Shanghai conducted by the Allies against the Japanese in 1945. He describes the work of Chaplain Alvin Fine of the United States Army in encouraging the founding of the Jewish organization Tikvah (which means "Hope" in Hebrew) in Shanghai. Compart also discusses the work with the Shanghai refugees of Charles Jordan and Laura Margolis of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) throughout the war.

Keywords: Alvin Fine; Charles Jordan; Laura Margolis; Tikvah

Subjects: Bombing, Aerial.; Fine, Alvin I.; Japan--History--1926-1945.; Jordan, Charles H.; Margolis, Laura; Newspapers.

01:55:42 - After the war

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Partial Transcript: The group, you know, was quite active. Even after the war, we did the same things we did during the war.

Segment Synopsis: Compart explains that the organization Tikvah continued even after the war, but that his family returned to Germany as soon as they could. He describes the Jewish community in Shanghai as a thriving European-style community. He describes the activities of his relatives after the war, as well as the compensation his family received.

[[The interview ends at 2:09:54.]]

Keywords: Compensation; Tikvah

Subjects: Jewish ghettos.; Shanghai (China)