PETER MAX, VERY SHORT BIO JUST TO SET THE TIME FRAME
Born PETER MAX FINKLESTEIN in Berlin, Germany on October
19th, 1937, Peter's parents were JACOB, born in Poland and SALA in Germany.
The year before Peter was
born, The 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics
took place, also known as the Games
of the XI Olympiad, it was an international multi-sport event. Berlin won the bid to
host these Games in 1931, two years before the Nazis came to power and during
which events, the American Jesse Owens won four gold medals. His father Jacob was then a pearl merchant.
of the XI Olimpiad games 1 Aug 1936 to 16 Aug 1936
http://timelines.com/photos/5cdb8d848bf56a3bb68e966f0abc0cd3 - Ted
By 1936, Germany’s Jews and other minorities had been
stripped of their civil rights, even their citizenship, and the Nazi regime had
already opened its first concentration camps. An in this same city where Marsden Hartley had the inspiration for
his First World War "Elegies" in 1914 (project further enhanced by
Robert Indiana in 1991), a city that by
all standards of early XXth century was advanced and liberal, A
year later and for more than one obvious reason - including perhaps the
infamous pogrom and the series of attacks
against Jews throughout Nazi Germany as well as parts of
Austria on November 9–10, 1938 -, PETER's parents must have decided that to
remain in Germany being a Jewish family, would have been catastrophic so they moved to Shanghai, China. At the beginning, It was unclear
to me the motive of why many Jewish families of German
origin moved to Shanghai of all places,
in those crucial years of social unrest and political instability in the Teutonic country and part
of Europe. IN this book, I will provide more than usual information on these 10
years period of Peter because it came as a shock to me the whole meaning of
this abrupt change in the life of his family and himself, an although he was
very young, I am sure he eventually came to grasp this crude reality of what
his parents Sala and Jacob had to endure before finally reaching a full stable
and safe environment in America. Also, I
want to use this chapter as a humble recognition to all my Jewish friends, many
of whom I share personal close relationship such as Dr,William Abramovits in
Dallas Texas, Dr. Daniel Gelrud in Miami, Benjamin Grynbaum , Carlos Brender
and Roberto Cohen in Venezuela. To them,
a small token of appreciation for the meaning of the Hebrew nation endurance,
perseverance and important participation on the global progress of Civilization
as we know it.
SHANGHAI 1938 - 10 CRUCIAL YEARS IN THE LIFE
OF PETER MAX
When I started deepening my
knowledge on PETER's history, I wondered continuously why did a Jewish European
(Ashkenazi) family move to such a different environment as Shangai, and I
eventually found out the fundamental reason when I bumped into "the Ghosts
of Shangai" by Ron Gluckman http://www.gluckman.com/ShanghaiJewsChina.html,
and while reading
this excellent historic article, the enigmas was rapidly elucidated.
n his own words, Gluckman mentions, " A half century ago, they
inhabited an intriguing corner of China: Shanghai's boisterous Jewish ghetto.
Viennese gentlemen sipped coffee outside Austrian bakeries so authentic that
the neighborhood was called Little Vienna. Nearby were kosher butcher shops and
German delicatessens. Diners read Shanghai papers printed in German, Polish,
even Yiddish. Candles for Jewish holidays were sold nearby at Abraham's Dry
Goods, and the tango was danced nightly at Max Sperber's Silk Hat.
unique Jewish community once thrived in Shanghai, where Jews had worked since
the opening of China's largest treaty port in 1842. A century later, European
Jews fleeing Adolf Hitler poured into Shanghai where, even among the large
international settlements, they stood out, a distinct community with its own
hospitals, theaters, schools and sports leagues. Life wasn't always jolly, of
course. Jewish refugees were later herded into Hongkou ghetto in the city's
northeast, where food was scarce and disease rampant. But in Shanghai, unlike much
of the world, nearly all the Jews survived the war". (Plaque marking the borders of the
Jewish Ghetto, defined as Stateless Refugees).
Thomas Crampton of Social Media in China and across Asia,
also mentioned: " of The Municipal Council’s map, issued for visitors to
Shanghai in 1935, shows a city that had grown up in the previous 20 years — by
1935 the Bund was formed pretty much as we know it today and the International
Concession reached out past the race course, now People’s Square. One
interesting thing to note is that when supposed old hands in Shanghai tell you
Pudong was nothing but fields and farms when they came here, you’ll know they
are bullshitting —Pudong was a thriving factory area then around what is now
this accurate description of the Ghetto and its surroundings, it's easily
understandable the coherent option of Mr. and Mrs. Max of moving there before
risking small Peter's and their own lives.
They remained in Shanghai until 1947 and a year in Tibet, when again,
for political reasons and internal social unrest, they had to move.
1947 Map of Shanghai with the Jewish
Shanghai Jewish Community by Eli Braun
"Shanghai, a port city in the Kiangsu province in
Eastern China, opened to foreign trade in 1842. Subsequently, the city of
Shanghai absorbed many of the Ashkenazi
émigrés fleeing repression in Eastern Europe. Russian Jews fleeing persecution
and massacres under the Tsar also emigrated and built the Ohel Moishe Synagogue
in Shanghai in 1907. But the majority of the Shanghai Jewish population was Sephardim
from Baghdad, Bombay, and Cairo, including the wealthy families Sassoon,
Kadoorie, Hardoon, Ezra, Shamoon, and Baroukh. These families raised the Jewish
population of Shanghai to approximately 700, including 400 Sephardim, 250
Europeans, and 50 Americans. Most of them were merchants, although some were in
medicine, teaching, and diplomatic service.
Jews fleeing the Russian Revolution of 1917 further
increased the Jewish population and raised awareness for the Zionist
movement. Then in the 1930s and 40s, Jewish refugees from Germany
and German-occupied areas fleeing the Nazi
regime increased the Shanghai population to approximately 25,000. Lubavitch
Hasidim, as well
as remnants of the Mir and Slobodka Lithuanian yeshivot
(Jewish religious schools), found refuge in Shanghai, which became a frequent
destination because the free port did not require visas.
Between 1904 and 1939, three synagogues were built in
Shanghai, and 12 Jewish magazines in English, German, and Russian were
established and published there. A Hebrew newspaper was also published as early
as 1904. The leading magazine, Israel’s Messenger, was a Zionist monthly
founded in 1904 by N. E. B. Ezra and published until his death in 1936.
captured Shanghai in 1937 and closed it to further immigration in December
1941. They deported most of their Jews to the miserable Hongkew district of
Shanghai and kept them in unsanitary semi-internment camps under Japanese
occupation forces. The Shanghai Jews, including the transferred Japanese Jews,
suffered great economic and property loss during the war, after which, most
left to the United
and other communities. Since 1948, 1,070 Jews from China have immigrated
to Israel, with 504 leaving between 1948 and 1951". (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/chinajews.html)
Jenna Vandenberg ( the
runningthroughthisworld.com ), so kindly provided me with the excerpt and image
of her visit to this unique Museum:
LOVED this museum! It was only two rooms plus the synagogue, but I spent more
time here then at the entire Shanghai Museum. This was probably because I was
taking pictures of every artifact as I planning lessons (whole units, actually)
for my non-existent students. I am really going to miss teaching next year.
to me, as the rest of the world was shutting its doors to Jewish immigration
during the 1930’s Shanghai became one of the few places where fleeing Jews
could go. The Chinese explanation on this is that the Chinese people/government
is just that much more caring than the rest of the world. However, I suspect
that the lack of visa regulations and laws in Shanghai (which was an
international city at the time) might have a little do to with things as well.
Jewish refugees congregated near what is today the museum and built a life of
sorts in Shanghai. The museum houses many of their stories and artifacts.
Inside the synagogue is a database of the Jewish refugees and a continuously
running TV program (one hour long) about some of the Jews that have returned to
Shanghai for nostalgic purposes.
Refugees Museum and Synagogue entrance is 50 yuan. It is open daily from 9-5.
They have free tours every 45 minutes, which seemed a little unnecessary since
I was one of three patrons and everything was in English. The museum is at 62
Changyang Road. Take metro line 4 to the Dalian road station and head east for
about three blocks. You can check out Huoshan Park on your way there, also a
Jewish site. I didn’t linger due to the thunder, lightening, and rain pouring
sideways, but it looked nice".
accurate depiction of the historic environment surrounding the museum and the
people that participated in the creation of the moment, is very specific and
detailed. I am curious to know if PETER MAX has ever returned there.
www.travelchina.com, today there are eight Jewish families in Kaifeng with the
Han people's surnames of Zhao, Ai, Li, Zhang, Shi, Jin and Gao. Each surname
has its own origin. For example, Ai came from Adam. Zhao was given by the
emperor of Song (The emperors of Song were surnamed Zhao.)
Shanghai Jewish Museum - image from
SHANGHAI GHETTO, the film
In 2002, Dana Janklowicz & Amir Mann, directed an
astounding film recreating the instances and life of this very dramatic period
of the life of many a Jewish family fleeing from Nazi Germany. The film was
brilliantly narrated by Martin Landau, and it recalls this true story of
thousands of European Jews who where denied entry authorization in more than
one country in the late 1930s, and ended in this uncommon Asian city under the
control of Japan at that time. Most probably it was not the perfect environment
for them and their families, but provided some sense of safety.
directors spent time in today's Shanghai Ghetto remains, provided many images
and interviewed survivors of this yet another example of the crudeness of the
persecution that the Jewish people had to endure during the Second World war.
This film is a crude narrative of the ordeal these Jewish families where
subject to, and probably, although not expressly mentioned in the film, the
MAXES were among them, since it is known that Peter's father did operate a
clothing business in the area. Obviously, the boy must have had a great
influence during these first 10 years of life, while being artistically
stimulated by Sala, his mother who provided the supplies and helped Peter to
explore the richness of the Asian culture, architecture and history.
The Shanghai Ghetto - DVD 2002 published by Rebel CHild Production
THE PAGODA MYTH OR REAL
Part of the biography mentioned on www.aejv.com includes,
"He lived in
a pagoda style house situated amidst a Buddhist monastery, a Sikh temple and a
Viennese cafe.". Visonart.com mentions " Max’s rise to prominence as an American icon actually began in his
childhood home in Shanghai— a pagoda house, where on one side there was a
Buddhist monastery, and on the other, a Sikh temple. In the morning he would
watch the Buddhist monks painting Chinese characters on vast sheets of rice
paper with large bamboo brushes and at night, he would listen to the
beautifully sung prayers of the Sikhs".
more than one biography of PETER MAX, it is mentioned either that he lived in a
Pagoda during his Shanghai days, or that his home looked to one. According to
experts and regular visitors of that city, there were either no pagodas in the
Jewish Ghetto, or very few to be found (7) in all Shanghai, hence, this concept
could be a Public Relation's romantic creation to enhance Peter's mystic
origins or a mere mistake derived by so many years of biographies and
The Longhua Pagoda is the
only remaining pre-modern pagoda in Shanghai city. It has an octagonal floor
layout. The size of the seven stories decreases from the bottom to the top. The
pagoda consists of a hollow, tube-like brick core surrounded by a wooden
staircase. On the outside, it is decorated with balconies, banisters, and
upturned eaves. These outer decorations have been reconstructed in keeping with
the original style (wikipedia.com).
For all interested on
PETER's younger years in Shanghai, the interview in the program Day and Night
is perhaps the most complete and interesting piece of historic review on
MAX. From CUNY TV in YOUTUBE: Taped: in 12/05/73. "CUNY TV is
proud to re-broadcast newly digitized episodes of DAY AT NIGHT, the popular
public television series hosted by the late James Day. Day was a true pioneer
of public television: co-founder of KQED in San Francisco, president of WNET
upon the merger of National Educational Television (NET) and television station
WNDT/Channel 13, and most recently, Chairman of the CUNY TV Advisory Board. The
series features fascinating interviews with notable cultural and political
figures conducted in the mid 1970's" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdZJWV6eDFI ).
Mr. Day interviewed Peter for 28
minutes, and obtained very personal points of view of the life of Peter in the
very early SEVENTIES. I personally enjoyed very much a brief but concise
recount of his younger years in Shanghai, and curiously, PETER does not mention
the word Ghetto, and idealizes this Chinese city as the source of the genesis
of his creativity, mentioning also how he was picked up daily by a Rickshaw
that took him to school, and other details of his life that seem to be a bit
unreal if compared to the harsh life
that the Germans in some sort of exile lived during that decade. I will be
mentioning this extraordinary interview in many sections of this book.
SOURCES AND GRATITUDE FOR CONTENT TO THIS HOMAGE TO:
Thanks to PAUL
ANGEL of Access Asia UK for providing me relevant information.
Thanks to Jenna Vandenberg http://www.runningthroughthisworld.com
http://jewishwebindex.com/jewish_orient.htm search Jewish Orient