THROWN UPON THE WORLD
George Kolber and Charles Kolber
Archway Publishing (2018)
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (5/19)
“Thrown Upon The World” by George Kolber and Charles Kolber provides readers with an amazing inside look at the Holocaust and how it impacted Jewish refugees who fled Europe for safety in Shanghai. I found the book to be spellbinding, given all the factual yet humane side of how the war impacted these refugees and residents, and how at the same time both were continually persecuted.
The authors share the story of two families, Josef and Eva Kolber, a highly assimilated upper-class Jewish family living in Vienna, and Ya-Nan and her daughter Chao Chen. Ya-Nan is the mistress of Gan Chen and much despised by his wife, Rui-De Xu.
As the war looms over both families, they are forced to leave their homes to seek safety for an area that will accept them in Shanghai. The authors do an excellent job of detailing the trials each family goes through to get to a safe area as well as adding much needed factual information other than what one reads in history books. I honestly can say that, “Thrown Upon The World” opened my eyes to how the ripple effect of the war and persecution of Jewish people impacted the world as a whole. It also shows me that racism and belittling happens everywhere, not just what we see on the news today.
As I read about Walter Kolber and his mother Eva and Rui-De Xu my anger rose at how pretentious and demeaning they were to those around them. It reminds me of some of the powerful people we see today in their behavior and attitude. I certainly agree they suffered but they should be thankful they are alive.
Many of the Jewish refugees in Shanghai were sent to live in Hongkew which became the main Jewish neighborhood. This area is among the lesser developed areas of Shanghai; the cost of living is cheap. Crammed into small apartments, many families had to leave everything behind and live in substandard conditions.
It was interesting to read about Walter Kolber’s marriage to Chao Chen given that she was just another of his conquests that served a purpose to him to further his riches and endeavor as the greatest violinist ever. Even when he forced himself upon her and she had children they could not afford, Chao Chen was loving, naive and completely devoted to her children. Walter was the consummate narcissistic personality, always blaming others for his problems.
“Thrown Upon The World” by George Kolber and Charles Kolber is not a fast read due to its length. However, there is much historical information to absorb, and the authors present readers with an honest, sometimes brutal look at the war and its impact through their family history. I highly recommend “Thrown Upon The World.”