WWII-era Jewish café reopens in Shanghai

August 30, 2015 by J-Wire
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Australian bridge identity Ron Klinger’s family’s café,  a popular spot for Jewish refugees in Shanghai during World War II,  has been rebuilt and reopened in the city’s Hongkou district.

The Shanghai Ghetto

The Shanghai Ghetto

The Zum Weissen Rossi’l café, better known as the White Horse Café, first opened in 1939. On hand for the reopening were city and district government officials, the consulate general of Israel in Shanghai, and family members of the original owners.

Ron and Suzie Klinger outside the cafe

Ron and Suzie Klinger outside the cafe

“The feeling is excellent, like going back home,” said 74-year-old Sydneysider Ron Klinger, one of the family members, Xinhua reported.

“Our families are very grateful to the city and district government for restoring the cafe,” Klinger said.

Klinger’s grandparents, who fled to Shanghai from Vienna in 1939, ran the café until 1949, when they relocated to Australia. Klinger’s parents also met at the café and got married in February 1941. He was born the same year.

Ron Klinger told J-Wire: “My recollection of the café are restricted to my grandparents’ home in its basement and a large Alsatian named Löff.”

It is estimated that around 23,000 European Jews fled to Shanghai during World War II to escape Nazi persecution, joining already established Chinese Jewish communities from Baghdad and Russia. The Jewish refugees were restricted to a small area that became known as the “Shanghai Ghetto” by the Japanese, who had occupied the city in 1937. Nearly all of Shanghai’s Jewish community left the city following WWII and the Chinese Communist revolution in 1949.

In his speech at the reopening, Klinger said that the Jewish community in Shanghai  did not experience any anti-Semitism. He said: ”

The second World War was a terrible time. It was terrible for the Chinese people. It was terrible for the Jewish people. The story of our family is one among millions, but we were lucky. Our story had a happy ending, thanks to Shanghai.

Together with more than 20,000 other stateless refugees, my grandparents, Leon and Maja Klinger, the Klinger family and Rudolf and Rosa Mosberg, the Mosberg family, fled from Vienna in 1938. They came to Shanghai, a place of refuge where passports and visas were not necessary.

The Klinger family ran the Klinger Restaurant. The Mosberg family set up ‘Das Weisse Rössl’, in English, ‘The White Horse Inn’. They created a typical Viennese coffee-house. It opened in 1939 as a café, a restaurant, a bar, a nightclub. It became very popular and was visited by many people, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

Origianl photo from the Whote Horse  On the right Herta Mosberg who was the main cook and who was to become Ron Klinger's mother

Origianl photo from the Whote Horse On the right Herta Mosberg who was the main cook and who was to become Ron Klinger’s mother

In 1940 my father, Hermann Klinger, met my mother, Herta Mosberg, in the White Horse Inn. They married in February, 1941 and I was born here in November, 1941.

Two days ago we met our cousins Julie Hess and Sue Hess from the USA for the first time. They have come to Shanghai for today’s ceremony. Their parents also met at the White Horse Inn and were married in Shanghai.

The White Horse Inn remained with my grandparents until 1949, when they came to Sydney, Australia. Later the White Horse Inn was demolished.

I came to Shanghai in 1987 and my friend, John Zhu, showed me Hongkou where I grew up. In 2007 my wife Suzie and I took the Shanghai Jewish Tour with Dvir Bar Gal. He showed us the original location of the White Horse Inn just down the road. A distinctive part of the wall was intact and Dvir recognized that wall. When we go across to the new White Horse Inn, you will see that unusual wall.

That, too, was torn down later for road-widening. Our family is very grateful to the Shanghai and Hongko Government for restoring the White Horse Inn. We visited the White Horse Inn last night. It was amazing. It was like coming home. Congratulations on a superb job.

We thank you very much for inviting our family here for the re-opening. My wife Suzie, my brother Gary, my sister Carol, from Australia, and Susan Hess and Julie Hess, our relatives from the United States, and I are honoured to be here for this historic occasion. My uncle, Kurt Mosberg, very much wanted to be here, but he is 96 years old and his health did not allow him to make the trip from Australia.

This is my seventh visit to Shanghai and I love it every time. One occasion was after our son, Ari’s wedding to Lucy Cao in Dalian. After the wedding we came again to Shanghai.

My parents often told me that while in Shanghai they never encountered any hostility, any anti-Semitism, any unfriendliness from the Chinese people.”


3 Responses to “WWII-era Jewish café reopens in Shanghai”
  1. Sue Grosman says:

    We just recently came back from china and whilst over there visited the shanghai Jewish museum, Synagogue etc. Very Interesting place.

  2. Jennifer Michelson says:

    Hello Ron Klinger from Jenni Michelson
    Formerly from Adelaide . I now live in Sydney and am heavily involved with Courage to Care .
    My family was German . This is GREAT NEWS !
    My mother Gisela was a devotee of yours !
    I will go to Shanghai one day . Now I am finally headed to Berlin to see family history …
    I was it ready before !

  3. Erica Edelman says:

    And everything old is new again
    Just as it is in Israel
    Hashem and His people do their work diligently
    Slowly but surely
    And with the help of the civilized cognoscenti

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