Chinese family seeks to return books in 70-year vow

Chinese family seeks to return books in 70-year vow

After storing 2,000 books for a Jewish school principal for 70 years, the Lin family from Shanghai asked for help from the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum on Wednesday to look for the books' owner as the family's current residential neighborhood will soon be demolished.

"My family has waited for Carl Anger to return to get back his precious books," said Pan Lu, 65, whose father-in-law Lin Daozhi promised to keep the books in 1943.

"We may not be able to wait anymore because we'll move next week, and we want to find the books an ideal home."

Lin Daozhi was principal of the Shanghai Hebrew Mission Paul School on East Changzhi Road in Hongkou district in the 1930s and 1940s. Many Jewish children also went to the school as Shanghai received around 25,000 Jewish refugees as an open harbour in the 1930s.

Anger, a Jewish school principal, gave thousands of books, including some bibles in Hebrew, English and German and some for children's education, to Lin to take care of.

"Carl told my father-in-law he would be back for the books, but they never met again after their farewell and the books have experienced dramatic ups and downs," Pan said.

The Lin family moved to Taizhou, Zhejiang province, with many who fled Shanghai for safety during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45), and Lin insisted on taking the books to keep his promise.

"They employed a dozen porters to carry the books packed in wooden boxes to Zhejiang. The home in Shanghai was razed to the ground by bombing, but the books survived," Pan said.

Lin carried the books back to Shanghai after the war and kept them on six bookshelves in a 10-square-meter room where they lived in an old neighborhood in Hongkou.

During the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), the Red Guards confiscated the books and intended to burn them, but the fire was cancelled because of sudden gales and a rainstorm and the books were saved.

Lin died in 1981 at the age of 93, and his children cared for the books and looked forward to Anger's return.

Because they used one room to store the books, Pan's son lived in the same room as his parents until the age of 16.

"We also used wooden planks to elevate the bookshelves and made new wooden frames for the bookcases to prevent them from moisture and being chewed by mice," said Sun Lide, the grandson of Lin Daozhi.

"My father-in-law always believed the Jewish principal would return because he said so," Pan said. "After he died, my husband repeated the same words to me until he died seven years ago."

She said she has been eager to find the Jewish principal for years, but said it was very difficult.

"We don't know his address or even which country he went to after leaving Shanghai," she said.

Two months ago, she found a card Anger sent from Germany to her parents-in-law dated September 1947.

"We arrived safely ... and were happy to be reunited with our relatives," the letter read.

Pan was overjoyed to see the names of the Jewish man and his wife, Paula, and their address on the envelope. She asked friends to write a letter in German and send it to the address.

"But the letter was returned. Maybe he has passed away," Pan said.

When packing to prepare for the move over the weekend, Pan found a postcard sent by Anger to Lin in 1947 expressing Christmas greetings, which included a picture of the couple.

The family had never opened the drawer where she found the card before as it was on the back of a table, which was placed against the wall.

Chen Jian, curator of the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, said he had contacted Wolfgang Roehr, Germany's consul-general in Shanghai.

"He promised to look for Anger's next of kin with the assistance of the population registration department in Germany," he said.

The books were transported to Hongkou District Library for temporary storage on Wednesday afternoon.

"I am firmly convinced that we'll find Anger soon and the burden will finally be removed from my shoulders after returning these precious books," Pan said.

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