China 1934-1947

Kay Kayser: On a Slow Boat to China, 1948

Journey to China, 1934

Hennie, her brother, her father, and her father's new Russian emigre wife Vera traveled by boat from Holland to Shanghai during the winter of 1933/1934. It is not known which route they took or on which ship they travelled, although they likely began their journey in Rotterdam, a major Dutch departure point for East Asia. The ship had a German crew, suggesting that they may have travelled on a German merchant steamship line. Direct steamship passage to Shanghai typically took 5-6 weeks, but Hennie and her family saved money by traveling instead on merchant vessels that stopped at every major port, which stretched the journey to 2 months. Although Hennie could not remember the ports of call they visited on their journey, steamships making the European-East Asia voyage typically traveled via the Suez Canal and stopped at the following ports: London, Gibraltar, Marseilles, Naples, Port Said, Aden, Colombo, Penang, Malacca, Singapore, Saigon, Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai. In total, the journey from Rotterdam to Shanghai covered minimally 10,746 nautical miles. Hennie could not recall many of the ports they stopped at, but she did remember traversing the choppy Gulf of Biscay off the coast of Spain, stopping in Cairo (where she was scared by a chicken vendor) and Aden (where she went swimming and got a terrible burn), going ashore in India at Calcutta (where shoeshiners tried to polish her white shoes with black polish) and Bombay, and stopping at Hong Kong, her first glimpse of China. It was likely either in Port Said or Aden that Hennie took a two-humped camel ride that she later remembered so fondly, and it was in Bombay that she fed bananas to monkeys in a park and went on an elephant ride. Of all the ports, Hennie enjoyed Bombay the most, saying that it left a tremendous impression on her. Along the way to Shanghai, the ship on which Hennie was traveling dropped off travelers as well as cargo, and by the time they reached India, she said they were the only passengers left of the original 50 or so on board. She and Jan whiled away the hours exploring the ship and its cargo, and shortly thereafter they reached Shanghai. More than 20,000 ships passed through Shanghai annually in the 1930s.

Slow Boat to China, pt. 1

[Hennie recalls setting out for Shanghai on a German merchant ship and getting seasick in the Gulf of Biscay.]

Slow Boat to China, pt. 2

[Hennie recalls visiting Egypt, Yemen, India, and Hong Kong on the way to Shanghai.]

During the two-month journey, Hennie took several pictures of ship life, sailboats, and even a submarine. 
  Hennie's Story       



While en route, Hennie met a German stewardess to whom she took a great liking. The stewardess was very fond of Hennie and taught her to speak German. Hennie recalls that she was so unhappy with Vera and her father that she asked to be adopted by the stewardess. Hennie first got to know the stewardess while crossing the stormy Gulf of Biscay. The stewardess always made sure to give Hennie a big breakfast, but this wasn't perhaps the best idea in rough waters. The Gulf of Biscay is famous for its winter storms, and Hennie remembered one time in which the sea was so choppy that she seemed to "float" down a flight of stairs during a particularly wild pitch of the boat. Hennie recalled being seasick almost the entire time they were in the Gulf of Biscay. The stewardess was quite protective of Hennie, and Hennie recalled that she gave her quite a lecture when she found out Hennie had been sneaking down below deck to see the sailors. She told Hennie they were dangerous and forbade her from seeing them again. 

[Photograph of "Frau Stewardess" Hurthy Peters. Hennie wrote the stewardess's name on the back of the photo and in her photo album.]

On November 20, 1934, just months after Hennie and Jan left for Shanghai, Jopie died at the age of 10 in a town called Voorburg, located near the Hague in Holland. Although Hennie and Jan always said Jopie died of leukemia, Hennie believed that her Uncle Jo’s violent temper and the severe beatings he gave to Jopie hastened her death. She never forgave him for that. 

Approximately one year later, on September 13, 1935, Hendrinus and Geertruida immigrated to South Africa. Hennie would not see her mother again for 35 years. 

Arrival in Shanghai

Hennie and Jan arrived in Shanghai in the spring of 1934, when Hennie was 11 years old. An autographed photograph of the 19-year-old diver Toby Gavriloff dated July 30, 1934 was taken shortly after their arrival. Shanghai in the 1930s was a booming world city, as equally famous for its vices as its virtues. In the mid-1930s, it had a total population of over 3,500,000 and a resident population of foreigners numbering 80,000. A large section the city (12.7 square miles) was carved into the International Settlement and French Concession, two independently governed enclaves of European and American nationals representing their nations' business interests in China. The original International Settlement flag (shown at right) displayed the flags of twelve nations, including the Netherlands, which consists of a yellow cross on a blue background (shown in the 7 o'clock position). Shanghai was frequently lauded as the Paris of the East and the New York of the West (as well as reviled as the Whore of Asia), and as the European and American gateway to China, it played a pivotal role in world commerce and trade. It was famous for its shopping (86,639 registered shops in 1937), jazz, nightclubs, and cinema and also infamous for its seedy underworld of gambling, prostitution, racketeering, and kidnapping (the origin of the term "to be Shanghaied").  

[Photograph of 19-year-old diver Toby Gavriloff, July 30, 1934; Photograph of the Bund in Shanghai with the "Goddess of Peace" WWI memorial in the foreground; Photograph of Nanking Road in the International Settlement of Shanghai]

Aerial view of Shanghai, with the Race Course recreational grounds in the foreground, 1937.   The bubbling well in front of Jing'an Temple, for which Bubbling Well Road was named.   View of Bubbling Well Road near the Race Course and YMCA, looking west. Hennie lived at the far western end of Bubbling Well Road.

[Aerial view of Shanghai, with the Race Course recreational grounds in the foreground, 1937. Photograph of the bubbling well in front of Jing'an Temple, for which Bubbling Well Road was named. View of Bubbling Well Road near the Race Course and YMCA, looking west. Hennie lived at the far western end of Bubbling Well Road. ]

Hennie and her family lived on Kiaochow Road, located at the far western edge of the International Settlement, near the intersection of Bubbling Well Road. Hennie recalled that she would walk down to Bubbling Well Road and either walk or take a rickshaw three miles to the Bund, located on the Whangpoo River, to visit her father during his work lunch break.  There were many places to enjoy lunch on the Bund. In addition to ever-present noodle shops, there were also hamburger stands and a variety of restaurants, but many took their lunch at one of the two large Chinese department stores, Wing On and Sincere, which, during banquets, could serve up to 2,000 patrons at a time. 

[Map of Shanghai with Hennie's house indicated, 1934. Click to enlarge. Adapted from the 1934-1935 Standard Guide to Shanghai.]

Hennie's father worked at the Netherlands Trading Society (Nederlandsche Hanel-Maatschappij, NHM), an important Dutch bank located in the Sassoon House (part of the Cathay Hotel) on Shanghai's Bund. Most of the Dutch in Shanghai at this time were connected either to the banking or shipping industries. The Shanghai office of the NHM had eight Dutch employees, as well as a Chinese compradore with an additional personal staff of seven employees. The NHM was headquartered in Batavia, Indonesia, and it is likely that Jan's connections in Batavia helped secure his new position at the NHM. The working life of a Western banker or businessman in pre-WWII Shanghai is enviable by today's standards. A six-hour workday was standard, with two hours every day for lunch. Many executives, called taipans, spent the morning playing golf or riding horses. Additionally, a home leave was granted to employees every five-eight years, a kind of year-long sabbatical that allowed businessmen to travel back to Europe or the United States to visit their families and settle business at home. It was during these home leaves that Hennie's father travelled to Holland in 1927 and 1934. While on home leave, Westerners living and working in China were often referred to as China Hands.

[Hennie's father Jan standing with colleagues in front of the Shanghai office of the Netherlands Trading Society. Photograph of Hennie's father. Photograph of the Sassoon House (also the Cathay Hotel), which housed the offices of the Netherlands Trading Society. The Sassoon House was located right on the Bund at the corner of Nanking Road. Photograph of the back and front of a $10 Shanghai dollar bill. Shanghai dollars, also called Mex, were one of several currencies that circulated in pre-WWII Shanghai.]

In Shanghai, Hennie learned to speak Pidgin English, a hodgepodge of English, Chinese, Portuguese, and Hindi that served as the main language of communication between Westerners and the local Chinese. An example of Pidgin can be found in the following 1930s Shanghai joke about a telephone conversation between a wife and the Shanghai Club hall porter:

Wife: "That belong Hall Porter? Well, my wanchee savvy, s'pose my husband have got, no got?"
Hall Porter: "No, missy, husband no got."
Wife: "How fashion you savvy no got, s'pose my not talkee name?"
Hall Porter: "Maskee name, missy, any husband no got this side anytime."

The Pidgin vocabulary used in this joke includes: my (I), wanchee (want to), savvy (know), s'pose (suppose), have got (is there), no got (is not there), missy (madam), how fashion (why), talkee (tell), maskee (never mind), this side (here). 

A few pictures document Hennie and Jan’s first arrival in the city that was to be their home for the next 13 years. In the first picture, they’re standing far apart from each other because, as Hennie explained, they’d been fighting and refused to stand next to one another for the photograph. 

[Photograph of Hennie and Jan taken shortly after their arrival in Shanghai, 1934]

Several other pictures depict Hennie’s early life in Shanghai. They had a small dog named Juno, who later had puppies.


[Photograph of Vera and Juno, undated. Photograph of Hennie, Vera, and Jan with Juno and puppies, undated. Photograph of Juno eating on the balcony, undated.]

Hennie was a big Shirley Temple fan, and among her scrapbook pictures was a 1934 newspaper clipping of 5-year-old Shirley Temple. The clipping may be advertising the film "Bright Eyes," a popular Shirley Temple film featuring the song "On the Good Ship Lollipop" released that year. 

Shirley Temple: On the Good Ship Lollipop


Hennie’s transition to her new life in Shanghai was made difficult by Vera, her father’s alcoholic wife. Hennie described her as "vicious" and said that she had a violent temper and would beat Hennie for the slightest provocation. Hennie said that Vera did everything she could to get rid of her. As a result, Hennie spent little time at home. 

      Harbin, Manchuria   
[Undated photographs of Vera, Hennie's stepmother. Postcard of St. Sophia Church in Harbin, Manchuria, c. mid-1930s]

Vera is described as “White Russian,” a term used at the time to refer to a Russian who had fled the red communists during the Bolshevik Revolution. When Vera left Russia, she initially settled in Harbin, Manchuria, a major center of White Russian emigrants and the largest Russian enclave outside the Soviet Union. She eventually moved to Shanghai, but the details of when and how this took place are not known. Russian emigres were the largest non-Chinese ethnic group in Shanghai at this time and numbered approximately 25,000. In the 1930s, Shanghai required no passport for immigration, and thus was one of the few places refugees fleeing Russia and Germany could turn. 

Bar of the Paramount Dancing Hall, 1932.
Hennie described Vera’s pre-marriage occupation as a “dime-a-dance girl.” These women, also called "dancing hostesses" and “taxi dancers” were employed by bars and night clubs and patrons would pay a small fee (between a dime and a dollar) to dance with them. Russians were the largest ethnic group employed in the taxi dancing business. They were largely refugees who had lost everything during the Bolshevik revolution. Many had been aristocrats before the war, but their lack of money, skills, or a trade left them vulnerable to exploitation. There was a great demand for white women in Shanghai’s sex industry, and many Russians ended up working in bars, night clubs, and houses of prostitution. Taxi dancers were famous for their ability to drink copious amounts of alcohol, and they were primarily employed to encourage patrons to purchase overpriced champagne and gin, which they also helped them to rapidly consume. The 1934-1935 Standard Guide Book to Shanghai wrote of Shanghai's taxi dancers:

The throb of the jungle tom-tom; the symphony of lust; the music of a hundred orchestras; the shuffling of feet; the swaying of bodies; the rhythm of abandon; the hot smoke of desire--desire under the floodlights; it's all fun; it's life. Joy, gin, and jazz. There's nothing puritanical about Shanghai. The "dancing hostesses"--they amiably entertain at a dime to a dollar a dance; Russians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Eurasians--occasionally others. They can dance--and drink. "Vun small bottle of wine?" It's the battle cry of the far flung bottle front. "S'funny how a little girl can hold so much champagne!"...Shura or Vera or Valia gets a commission. It all helps. Give this little girl a great big bottle. " 'S getting late." Rose tints the sky beyond the Whangpoo. "Let's go for ham'n eggs and one last round." One swaying, sinuous embrace and a moist kiss with the last strains of the dance. "Hey, kid; why don't you marry the girl?"...Whoopee! One night in Shanghai is ended. 

Vera met Hennie's father while working as a taxi dancer in a bar near Shanghai's Bund, and they married on November 16, 1929. Hennie said her father "really robbed the cradle" with Vera. Born c. 1907, Vera was only 15 years older than Hennie. Vera later died of alcoholism at the age of 35 in early 1942. The picture at right is of the bar in the Paramount, c. 1925-1935. 

Hennie's stepmother, Vera

[Hennie reflects on her father's marriage to Vera, a White Russian emigre.]

Building a new life in Shanghai

Hennie was unhappy during her early days in Shanghai, as many photographs show. She rarely smiled and often had a worried look. These early photos show her posing awkwardly and with a sad expression. Jan also looks sad, even at the beach.


One of Hennie’s great regrets during her time in Shanghai is that she didn't continue school. There were no Dutch schools available, so she briefly attended an English language school. However, Hennie spoke very little English and her teacher had no patience for her. After a short time, her father took her out of school and placed her in a trade school for typing and shorthand. Hennie didn't fare much better at the trade school, but she completed her course ("barely" in her own words). She said that her main problem was that she couldn't spell very well, something that is not surprising considering the fact that she was trying to take notes in a language she didn't completely understand. Jan fared better at his school and continued his studies. Hennie later regretted that she didn't advance her classroom education beyond the 4th grade, and her lack of schooling led Hennie to feel insecure and stupid later in life. 


[Hennie recalls her difficulties learning English and having to leave school. She later  obtained a certificate in typing and shorthand. ]

Later in life Hennie became an avid reader. In her old age, she said that her love of books was a great gift that kept her occupied after she had lost the ability to pursue her other hobbies, such as gardening and crocheting. Given her limited educational background, Hennie was very proud to have read as many books as she did. 

Although she did not attend school herself, Hennie collected many school photos of her friends. Some of her closest friends during this period were Gloria Pritchard, Eva Ghabaroff, Kyra Washtel, Denise, Irene, and Olga. Additionally, there many more photographs of other friends and acquaintances.

 [Photograph of Hennie's friends in 1934, names on photograph: Gloria Pritchard (back row, middle), Hildred, Mary, Margo, Renalfa, and Betty. Photograph of Hennie's friends' teachers. Photograph of Hennie's friends c. 1934; Olga Sokransky is kneeling and Irene Wakamaki is seated in the lower right.]

[Photographs of Gloria and unknown friend c. 1936. Photograph of Gloria and Hennie c. 1936, location unknown.]

[Photographs of Hennie's friend Eva Ghabaroff taken in 1935.]

[Photographs of Hennie's friend Kyra Wachtel taken in 1935 at age 14 (first three photographs) in 1937 at age 16 (fourth photograph) and in 1938 at age 17 (last photograph).]

[Photographs of Hennie's friend Anna Gredowsky taken from 1935-1938. The fifth picture depicts Anna with Jan.]
[Photographs of Nell and Bessy Stead (1935), Janet and Mrs. Hersey (1936), and Violet Grace Cooper (at 4/88 Yu Yuen Road, 1936).]


[Two photographs of the Marsh family (1937): Left photograph, Mervin, Mrs. Marsh, Marjorie, and Joker; middle photograph, Marjorie and Mrs. Marsh. Photograph of Tony and Josey Askins, 1937.]

Hennie's family was not wealthy, but like other middle class Western families they employed several Chinese household servants, including a cook and an amah. Most American and European families living in Shanghai in the 1930s employed a household staff of five or six Chinese servants, including a "Number One Boy" (head servant), cook (male), chauffer, houseboy (also called house coolie), amah (female maid), Baby amah (nanny), gardener, and a "Makee Learn" (amah apprentice). Chinese servants were typically paid $30 Shanghai dollars a month (about $2 USD), a small amount in comparison to taipan ($75,000) and government official ($16,000-$42,000) salaries per year. Hennie only ever mentioned two servants in her household -- a cook and an amah.

At about age 14 (1936), Hennie seems to have developed an interest in boys and suddenly many pictures of boys appear in her scrap books, including Anator Gredowsky (Anna's brother), Buddy Naymann, Eddy Hanson, Clifford Lautner, Prescot and Geffrey Lund, Richard Crank, and Stanley Ranch, among others. 

[Hennie and friend c. 1936. Photographs of Anator Gredowsky, Buddy Naymann, Eddy Hanson, and Clifford Lautner, all c. 1936]


[Photographs of Prescot and Geffrey Lund with parents, Richard Crank, Stanley Ranch, an unknown man, Jimmy, and Prescot Lund. Photographs 1936-1937.]


[Photograph of George Radionelf (sp?) in 1937. Photograph of Landon Birch in 1937, age 15. Photograph of Anator Gredowsky.]


[Three photographs of friends on a bicycling trip near Shanghai in 1937. The bicyclists are (left to right): Peter Wallace, Charlie, Allan Robertson, Leo Wakanski (sp?), (illegible), Cal Oglie (sp?). The final picture is of George Radionelf (sp?).]

At the close of the 1937 school year, Hennie's brother Jan had many good friends. They apparently got up to hijinks like marching around in shorts.

[Photograph of Jan in his school uniform, 1937. Photograph of Jan and his school friends, 1937. Photograph of Jan's friend Eric Blackwrock Blaskey, 1938. A track and field competition at Jan's school. Photographs of Jan's school chums marching on the athletic track in shorts. Photograph of Jan's friends at a track and field competition.]

In the spring or summer of 1937, a tragedy occurred that deeply affected Hennie, Jan, and their friends. Basil Maersky, one of Jan's friends, was accidentally killed when he tried to grab hold of a truck while bicycling. Hennie said all the boys hitched "rides" this way, but Basil lost control of his bicycle and was thrown into oncoming traffic. Hennie, Jan, and their friends attended Basil's funeral. 



[Photographs from Basil Maersky's funeral. In the first photograph, Hennie is crouching at the bottom right. Jan is second from the right in the top row. In the third photograph, Jan is at the far right. Several members of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps attended in uniform. A Christian funeral service was performed. The last photograph is a photograph of "W. Maersky," who may be Basil or perhaps his brother.]

In the summer of 1937, Hennie's brother Jan III seems to have gone on a hunting trip with his friends and father. There are several happy photographs of them posing with rifles (and in one case wearing a fez hat). 
[Jan with father and friends posing with their rifles, 1937.]

It may seem surprising that Hennie has so many pre-War photographs, but personal photography was very popular in Shanghai in the 1930s and photo studios were common. Many of Hennie's photographs bear photographer's marks and stamps on the back. Most of Hennie's photographs were developed at Porter Studio, Josepho Studios, China Studio, and World News Studio. 


China and Japan go to War

Although Hennie's photographs from this time are idyllic, tension was building between the Chinese and Japanese as Japan joined the Axis powers in the lead-up to World War II. The International Settlement enjoyed relative security knowing that they were being protected by both British and American military vessels stationed at Shanghai, as well as their own Shanghai Municipal Police, a multi-national police force that kept the peace in foreign-controlled areas. 

            [Photograph of Hennie's father at age 45 in 1937. Photograph of Hennie's brother Jan at age 17 in 1937. Photograph of Hennie at age 15 in 1937. Hennie with Jan and friends at the pool, summer of 1937. Photograph of Freddy de Campos, a friend of Hennie's who left Shanghai for San Francisco in 1937. Photograph of Ronald Crouch in his Shanghai Police Uniform in 1937.]On July 7, 1937, Japanese forces invaded northern China, and by August 13, 1937 Japanese troops were directly threatening Shanghai. Hennie was 15 years old. The Japanese laid siege to the city of Shanghai for three months from August to November, destroying much of the city and massacring tens of thousands of Chinese in what later became known as the Battle of Shanghai. 

Defenses set up around the International Settlement on Boundary Road, August 20, 1937.    Bomb falling in Whangpoo River, 1937.    Bombed Shanghai Railroad Station, photo taken October 28, 1937.
[Defenses set up along the northern boundary of the International Settlement on Boundary Road, August 20, 1937. Bomb falling in the Whangpoo River, 1937. Photograph of the bombed out Shanghai North Railway Station, located diectly across from the barricades on Boundary Road, October 28, 1937.]

Although the International Settlement escaped much of the direct bombing as the Japanese did not want to provoke their home countries, they were surrounded on all sides by full-scale war and witnessed the Japanese atrocities against the Chinese first hand. On August 14, 1937 at approximately 4:30pm, two stray 500-lb Chinese bombs (intended for the Japanese battleship Idzumo) that did land in the International Settlement struck Nanking road the Palace Hotel and Thibet Road near the Great World Amusement Center. The Nanking Road blast blew out the windows of the popular Sincere and Wing On department stores at lunchtime. Fortunately for Hennie, she was at home sick when the bombs fell and so was unharmed. Her brother Jan, who had many friends in the Shanghai Volunteer Corps, was called in to help clear the bodies. After returning home, Jan recounted to Hennie a horrific scene: a bomb had struck the fragrance department of the Wing On department store. He and other volunteers combed through the rubble for hours to remove the torsos and limbs of commuters, lunchers, and passers-by killed by the blast, while a sickening stench of perfume mixed with blood and burnt corpses filled the air. Nearly 1,500 people were killed and over 1,600 were injured. At the time, it was the largest loss of life ever attributed to single bombs. 

Bombed facade of the Sincere department store, 1937   Street view in front of the Palace Hotel, 1937. 
 [Photograph of the bombed facade of the Sincere department store, 1937. Street view of the bombing in front of the Palace Hotel, 1937. Photograph of Nanking Road taken in front of the Cathay Hotel depicting the search for survivors, 1937.]

1937 Battle of Shanghai

[Hennie recalls the 1937 Battle of Shanghai and the accidental bombing of the International Settlement on August 14. She describes the experiences of her brother Jan, who helped to clear the bodies from Nanking Road.]

Before the Japanese attack on Shanghai, approximately 1,000,000 Chinese lived within the International Settlement; in 1937, an additional 400,000 fled to the International Settlement to escape the Japanese. 

British soldiers searching Chinese refugees seeking to enter the International Settlement, 1937..
[British soldiers searching Chinese refugees seeking to enter the International Settlement, 1937.]

The vast majority of Shanghai's Chinese population, however, was unable to obtain refuge within the International Settlement. In the initial attack, many Chinese were crushed to death under falling buildings and when panicked mobs rushed the closed gates of the International Settlement. Those who survived lived under brutal Japanese rule and suffered enormously in the years that followed.

[American newspaper clippings from August 1937 reporting the Japanese attack on Shanghai. Photograph of the Shanghai Municipal Police guarding the International Settlement, 1937.]

Click to view US Army Signal Corps footage of the 1937 Battle of Shanghai. This is the most extensive footage I have found on the 1937 Battle of Shanghai, and the only footage I have found that includes the International Settlement. As a word of caution, this footage contains graphic images of war and violence against civilians. 

The video below is taken from a Nazi newsreel and depicts the Battle of Shanghai from the point of view of the Axis powers. Note that the Nazi film focuses on military combat and civilian evacuation rather than the civilian suffering and chaotic hysteria shown in the US Army footage. 

Nazi Newsreel of the 1937 Bombing of Shanghai

Widespread terror during the Battle of Shanghai led to the evacuation of foreign women and children from Shanghai's International Settlement to Hong Kong. The British Royal Navy requisitioned the ship Empress of Asia to evacuate 1500 British nationals, mostly women and children, to Hong Kong. Hennie and Jan were evacuated to Kowloon (九龍), a mainland British-controlled territory just opposite the island of Hong Kong. It is unknown if they travelled on the Empress of Asia or if they travelled separately. It is also unknown if her father and Vera were also evacuated to Kowloon. Active fighting in Shanghai cooled in November of 1937, and families began to return.  

[Photograph of the Empress of Asia taking on passengers fleeing the Shanghai International Settlement during the Battle of Shanghai, 1937. Photograph of Kowloon, 1937.]

In early 1938, after the Battle of Shanghai had sufficiently cooled to allow sanitation workers to inspect the city, representatives from the French Concession and International Settlement's Public Health and Public Works department cleared 31,801 exposed corpses from the streets of Shanghai, mostly in Hongkew, Yangtzepoo, Hungjiao, and Chapei districts. By year's end, the number would approach 100,000.

Following a series of cholera epidemics, the Japanese allowed a vaccination program to be instituted, and Hennie and her family were likely vaccinated. 

A temporary peace

From 1937 to 1941, Shanghai's International Settlement was the only politically neutral territory in east China. It was also one of the only places in the world that did not require a passport or a visa for entry, making it among the last refuges for European Jews fleeing the Holocaust. Arriving first by sea and later on the Trans-Siberian railroad, the number of Jewish refugees in Shanghai reached 18,000 by 1941. These Jews, arriving from Germany, Austria, and Poland, lived throughout the city, both inside and outside the International Settlement. After 1943 they were forced to relocate to the Hongkou District, a ghetto established for stateless Jews.  

Although life around the International Settlement was chaotic, Hennie and her family seemed to have resumed many of their previous activities. A number of photographs from 1938 show Hennie and her friends roller skating, sitting on a large wall, and climbing a large rock formation in a park.    

[Photograph of Hennie and friends in 1938, left to right, Hennie, Gloria Pritchard, Denise Bursh, Irene Wakamaki, Olga Sokransky. Denise, Irene, and Olga are wearing roller skates. Photograph of Hennie, Denise, Irene, Gloria, and Olga probably sitting on a wall, 1938. Photograph of Hennie's friends taken in 1938, left to right, Unknown, Denise, Gloria, Unknown, and Irene.]

Also in 1938, Hennie went to visit her friend Violet Grace Cooper. A snapshot from the visit shows that Hennie and "Cooper" went to some sort of outdoor race or demonstration. Hennie photographed a young girl and her Chinese amah, (nanny). There are also several other photographs of Hennie from 1938 that suggest she is growing up and taking a more serious interest in boys and dating. One boy she seemed particularly enamored with at the time was Robert Crouch of the Shanghai Municipal Police (pictured above). She took a number of dreamy and wistful photographs of herself in 1938 that she probably intended to give away to particular boys. In Hennie's typical self-deprecating style, the backs of the photographs contain comical commentary about how silly she looks and how uncomfortable the poses were.  


[Photograph of a young girl with her amah, 1938. Photograph of Hennie with her father, 1938. Photograph of Hennie with an unknown friend. Artistic photograph of Hennie looking away from the camera, 1938. The back of the third photograph reads, "Myself feeling camera shy." 


[Photographs of Hennie and Ronald Crouch, 1938. Photograph of Hennie awkwardly reclining on a stone. The back of the photograph reads, "This is I, me, and myself feeling very uncomfortable sitting on this stone ... Henny"]

Hennie often signed her photographs from this time period "I, me, and myself." This may have been a Pidgin English pun or a reference to the then popular Billie Holiday song "Me, myself and I."

Billie Holiday: Me, Myself and I, 1937

Jan meanwhile joined the American Machine Gun Company of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps. The Shanghai Volunteer Corps (SVC) was originally founded in 1853 as a kind of reserve army or national guard comprised of British, American, and French troops that could be called upon to defend and protect Shanghai in times of emergency. By the 1930s, the SVC was comprised of volunteer troops of many nationalities, although companies were usually segregated by nationality or race. The Battle of Shanghai in 1937 was not the first time the SVC saw active combat in defense of the city. Since its founding, the SVC had effectively weathered the Battle of Muddy Flat in 1854, the Taiping Rebellion from 1851-1865, the Ningpo Guild Riots in 1874,  the wheelbarrow tax riots of 1897, the Mixed Court riots of 1905, the plague riots of 1910, the Mixed Court riots of 1905, the "Second Revolution" in 1913, collateral problems caused by World War I in 1914, the Crisis of 1924-1925 caused by the warring Fengtien-Anfu and Chihli political parties, the Bloody Riot of 1925, the 1926-1927 Nationalist Advance, and the undeclared 1932 Sino-Japanese War. In total, the SVC was made up of 23 units, including the Light Horse, American Troop, Shanghai Field Battery, Shanghai Light Battery, Shanghai Field Company, Armoured Car Company, "A" Company, "B" Company, American Company, Portuguese Company, Japanese Company, Chinese Company, Shanghai Scottish, Jewish Company, Philippine Company, American Machine Gun Company, American Reservists' Company, Transport Company, Intercommunication Company, Interpreter Company, Air Defense Company, Public School Cadet Company, and the Russian Regiment, the latter being the only paid unit. 


Jan also played baseball at the Foreign YMCA, which was located next to the Park Hotel and abutted the Shanghai Racing Club. The expressed purpose of the new baseball summer recreation program that year was to "fill the leisure hours of boys whose time may otherwise hang heavy on their hands." This is one of the few indications in Hennie's photographs that there was an active war just beyond the gates of the International Settlement. In addition to baseball, the Foreign YMCA also offered a swimming pool, snooker tables, a gymnasium, a bowling alley, table tennis, reading rooms, and a cafeteria. It would later permanently close to Allied nationals in 1941.

   [Photograph of Jan in his American Machine Gun Company uniform, 1938. Jan's baseball team, including Chauty, Jorgeuson, Bary (sp?) Soskin, Job Vernick, Girlie, "Steve" (a new boy), Macky Gabertian (sp?), Jan, Ikey, Skovisky (sp?), and Teddy Soskin. Jan playing baseball in a baseball game at the Foreign YMCA. Jan batting at a baseball game.]

Jan also played on a rugby or soccer team.

[Two photographs of Jan and his soccer team. In the first photograph, Jan is in the top row, third from the right. In the second photograph, Jan is standing in the top row at the far right. Photograph of Jan dated 1938]

Hennie also played sports at this time, or at least appears to from a rugby photograph taken of her in 1938. The caption on the back reads, "This is how I stand whenever I play rugby. It is a very bad picture as you can see by yourself. Don't mind the squinting, but I always do that when the sun is annoying me. It is I, me, myself again." Other photographs depict Jan and his friends out on the town visiting the Metropole and driving in a car. 

[Hennie in her rugby pose, 1938; Jan's friends Ovistuk (sp?), Alfred Vernick, A. Kidby, C. Katomopolus, and Jinks in front of the Metropole, 1938. Photograph of Hans Huisberg, 1938. Photograph of Alfred Vernick, Girlie Kazamaroff, and Jan.]

In 1939, Hennie and Jan seemed to have enjoyed a fun but cold afternoon on the recreation fields next to the Shanghai Racing Club. They took many photographs of themselves and their friends. 

[Jan, Gloria Pritchard, Girlie Kazamaroff, Hennie, and George Yaron in 1939. The back of the photo of Hennie and Jan reads, "Gosh he does look cold, doesn't he?"]
[Photograph of Jan, Girlie and George; the back of the photograph reads, "Poor darlings look cold." Photograph of Jan and Glora; the back of the photograph reads, "Don't they look Duckey!" Photograph of Hennie and Jan with their father; the back of the photograph reads, "I, father and John who is crying as usual, oh my..." Photograph of Henny and Gloria.]
[Photograph of some sort of consultation with a small boy looking on. Photograph of Jan, Girlie and George. Photograph of George, Gloria, Jan (father), Hennie, and Girlie.]

Jan and his friends also enjoyed going to the Shanghai Race Club. In the photographs below, Jan went to the race track with siblings Anna and Anator Gredowsky.

[Photograph of Jan and Anator. Photograph of Anna and Anator. Photograph of Jan and Anator. Photograph of Anator standing in front of a Merchant Whisky billboard.]

Around this time, Hennie had some beautiful new portrait photographs taken. She is 17 years old in the pictures.

A world at war

World events then took another turn. In 1939, Britain and France entered into war against Germany and its Axis allies. In August 1940, the British withdrew their garrison from Shanghai's International Settlement. In October 1940, the US State Department issued a statement recommending that all American civilians in the Far East return to the United States. For Dutch citizens like Hennie, there was nowhere to go as the Netherlands were now under Nazi occupation. There was briefly discussion of evacuating Dutch women and children to Java, but Hennie's father refused to send her, saying it would be one of the first places to fall. He preferred that they take their chances in Shanghai. 

No evacuation to Java

[Hennie recalls her father's decision not to let her evacuate to Java.]

Political tensions continued to rise, but relative stability was maintained over the course of the next year. The summer of 1941 was the last truly carefree time for foreigners in Shanghai. A number of photographs from 1941 show Hennie, now 19, enjoying the famous Shanghai nightlife. She even seems to have gotten involved in a theatrical production in which she sang a solo. One event she attended was the XCDN Moonlight Follies "Dutch Night" on August 4, 1941. XCDN were the call numbers of an English language radio station operated by Britain's Ministry of Information and "Voices of Europe" that was popular in Shanghai at the time. They sponsored a number of dances held at the Hardoon Estate. Other popular English language radio stations in Shanghai at the time included XMHA, an American owned radio station, and XGRS, Nazi-run radio station. 

[Photograph of Hennie in 1941, age 19. Photograph of the "old gang in Shanghai"; Jan is top row far right; Hennie is bottom row second from the right. Photograph of Hennie and friends at the XCDN Moonlight Follies "Dutch Night" on August 4, 1941.]
[Photographs of Hennie performing in a play.]

Nightlife in Shanghai ‎‎‎‎‎(夜上海)‎‎‎‎‎, 1930s

[Movie clip depicting the Bund and Shanghai's famous nightlife.]

Around this time, c. 1941, Hennie's brother Jan joined military service. It is not clear which nationality he served for. He requested a new birth certificate from Buitenzorg, Java at this time, which was likely related to his enlistment. Very few records of Jan's military service remain. In 1942 he was captured and interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Singapore, where he was made to build runways. Jan never spoke of what occurred while in the camp, but at the war's end he emerged from the camp a vegetarian and he never ate meat again. Japanese prisoner of war camps were infamous for being brutal and savage. The average mortality rate of Allied prisoners of war under the Japanese was 27%. For comparison, the mortality rate of Allied POWs in German prisoner of war camps was 4%. The photograph at right depicts the locations of Axis POW and civilian internment camps in East Asia. 

[Photograph of Hennie's brother Jan during the war.]

In November of 1941, the American Marine Corps also withdrew from Shanghai, leaving the settlement badly exposed. Two remaining ships guarded the International Settlement, the American gunboat USS Wake and the British gunboat HMS Petrel, although both were under Japanese escort. On December 8, 1941, the Japanese cruiser Idzumo forced the surrender of the American gunboat USS Wake and sunk the British gunboat HMS Petrel. Only hours earlier, the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, thereby also drawing America into World War II. On December 9, 1941, the Shanghai Times newspaper ran a proclamation issued by the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Army and Navy in the Shanghai Area declaring:

WHEREAS, being compelled by the state of war which has arisen betwwen Japan on one hand and the United states of America and the British Empire on the other, detachments of the Japanese Army and Navy shall be as from today dispatched in the International Settlement for the suppression of hostile activities and for the maintenance of peace and order in the area.

From this point forward Japanese troops took complete control of Shanghai, including the International Settlement.

[1937 photograph depicting the Japanese cruiser Idzumo in Shanghai harbor]

On January 4, 1942, allied ("enemy") foreigners of British, American, Dutch, and Panamanian nationality were issued orders with instructions to register with the Japanese authorities, and many had their assets frozen or confiscated. Foreigners at war with the Axis powers were made to wear red arm bands marked with a letter to signify their nationality. Hennie and her family were made to wear bands marked with an N, signifying that they were Dutch (Netherlands). The British wore armbands marked with B, and the Americans wore the letter A. Allied civilians were made to register with the Swiss Consulate to obtain identity cards, and curfews were instituted. Mobile checkpoints organized by the Japanese Pao Chia were erected around the city to search for anti-Japanese agitators, and residents caught up in these searches could be detained for hours or days without food or water, leading many to carry provisions with them every time they left the house. If arrested, they could be sent to Bridge House, a notorious interrogation and detention center set up by the Japanese. Many prominent Shanghai figures were interrogated there in 1941 and 1942, including high ranking members of the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP), journalists, radio announcers, newspaper editors, bankers, importers, society organizers, merchants, hotel employees, and engineers, among others. Torture was standard, and prisoners were held without recourse for days or months. Those who survived to be released generally emerged with serious injuries, infections, and mental or emotional trauma.     

Hennie recalled one terrifying incident in which she was stopped by a Japanese gendarme in front of the Shanghai American School (located at 10 Avenue Petain) as she walked home from a dinner party in the French Concession. Fearing for her life, she threw the stack of magazines she was carrying at the Japanese guard and ran. He shot at her but missed. She eventually found a Russian police officer (some members of the SMP were allowed to continue to serve after the Japanese takeover) who advised her on how to use the back alleys to get home safely. 

Japanese Gendarme

[Hennie recalls on wearing a red armband and being stopped one night by a Japanese gendarme.]

In February 1942, Singapore surrendered to the Japanese, and in March, the Dutch stronghold of Batavia on the island of Java surrendered. These two back-to-back losses signaled a turning point in the war, forcing Allied nationals to reconsider the strength of the Japanese navy and the prospects of an Allied victory in the East Asian sphere. Nevertheless, the slogan "A+B+C+D=V" (Americans+British+Chinese+Dutch=Victory) began appearing as graffiti on Shanghai buildings, an act of defiance signaling that not all hope was lost.

There are only a few photographs from early 1942 in Hennie's albums. Amazingly, despite the seriousness of the political situation, people appear happy and calm. The pictures include photographs of some new friends and a photograph from a young man signed "With love, Eddie;" on the reverse is written "My fiance" in Hennie's handwriting. 

[Photographs of Hennie's friends taken on February 7, 1943. Pictured in the photographs are: Mariane xxxx, Jean Ewing, Pattie xxx, Doris Schroeder, xxx Moeller, Sue Toll, and Timmy Pozier.]
[Photograph of Eddie, Hennie's fiance, 1943.]

Beginning in October of 1942, Allied foreigners were no longer allowed to frequent public forms of entertainment, such as bars, clubs, or cinemas. Bank withdrawls for Allied civilians were limited to $2,000 per month, while inflation climbed to a monthly average of 26%. Basic necessities such as coal and soap became prohibitively expensive, and most homes went without heat during the winter of 1941/1942. Tinned foods, powdered milk, flour and rice were hoarded and became scarce. Bread and rice ration tickets were issued, but the daily allotted amount decreased to only 8 ounces of bread per day by the end of 1942. On November 13, 1942, the Japanese issued confiscation orders for cameras, radios, and telescopes, other property was seized as well. On January 11, 1943, the US and Britain signed a treaty relinquishing all concessions and territorial rights in China. By February 1943 the first foreigners were being forcibly relocated to internment camps. 

Home Invasion

[Hennie recalls the occupied years in Shanghai before internment when Japanese soldiers would come to her house demanding food. ]

On January 23, 1943, Japanese officials informed American, British, and Dutch charitable relief organizations that Allied civilians would be forcibly interned in Civil Assembly Centers within one week. Letters were sent to Allied civilians informing them of their internment date, the meeting points for internment, and the acceptable items they were allowed to bring with them. The photographs that make up this online album were carefully packed by Hennie, and they are among her few possessions that survived the war. Other acceptable items included that Hennie and her father were allowed to bring with them to the camp included: a bedstead and mattress, sheets, blankets, mosquito nets, tableware and dishes, a can opener, food provisions, writing materials, a wash basin, a chamber pot, toilet paper, soap, cigarettes, matches, various personal effects, sewing supplies, simple tools, a mirror, an umbrella, glasses, candles, summer and winter clothing, shoes, sporting goods, instruments, and a few other items. Forbidden items included furniture such as tables and chairs, desks, telephones, refrigerators, electric fans, stoves, carpets, radios, and curtains, which they were instructed to leave in their homes (for future use by the Japanese). 

Not all Allied civilians were interned. The elderly and gravely ill were exempted, as were female Allied civilians married to Chinese husbands (but not the reverse). Eurasian children under age 13 were not interned, regardless of citizenship. This meant that some of Hennie's friends probably escaped internment. Hennie recalled that such family and friends on the outside were later essential for bringing in needed supplies to the camps, although she never mentioned receiving any packages directly. Hennie and her father were told to report to the Columbia Country Club (CCC) on Great Western Road, located about a mile from their home. From the CCC they were bused to the Chapei Civil Assembly Center, a camp that was largely reserved for families with children over 5 years old. 

Columbia Country Club
[Photograph of the Columbia Country Club; photo taken before the war in 1928.]

In March of 1943, Hennie and her father were interned at the Chapei Japanese Civil Assembly Center, located on Chungsan Road in northwest Shanghai. Jan had already been captured in combat and was a POW in Singapore. The Chapei camp was predominantly made up of American and Dutch nationals. Their ages, occupations, and places of work are listed on their intake forms. Hennie is described as a 20-year-old typist working at the Holland-China Trading Company (Holland-China Handelscompagnie, HCHC), the largest Dutch trading company operating in China. Her father Jan is listed as a 53-year-old banker working at the Netherlands Trading Society.

Going to Chapei Camp

[Hennie recalls that she was happy to learn she was being interned with mostly Americans and she shared a room with many girls her age.]

Life under Japanese internment

Hennie always told me "War isn't good for anything, don't fool yourself" and "No one ever wins a war; everybody loses." Her opinions were shaped by her experiences during the war, where even though the Allies won, she and her family suffered greatly. 

Nineteen internment camps for Allied foreigners, termed Civilian Assembly Centers (CACs), were set up by the Japanese in Shanghai: Ash Camp, Canton Camp, Chapei Camp, Franciscan House, Great Western Road, Haiphong Road Camp, Lincoln Avenue Camp, Lunghwa Camp, Peking British Assembly Camp, Pootung Camp, Sacred Heart Camp, Senmouyeu Nuns' Residence, Stanley Camp, Weihsien Camp, Yangchow A Camp, Yangchow B Camp, Yangchow C Camp, Yu Yuen Road Camp, and Zikawei Camp. Hennie and her father were interned in the Chapei Camp, which had originally been planned as an internment camp for Americans. The camp was established on the grounds of the former Great China University, which had been endowed in 1930 by the Chinese Overseas Merchants. The 19 acre campus originally had three main buildings: the East Building, which served as a men's dormitory, the West Building, which was primarily used for administrative offices, and a third unnamed building next to the West Building that served as a women's dormitory. Additionally, there were numerous small faculty houses, educational buildings, and contractor sheds. However, much of the original university architecture was damaged or destroyed by the time it was converted into the Chapei Camp. Following the 1937 Japanese invasion, Chinese soldiers were billeted on the grounds, and aerial bombings and heavy artillery destroyed the women's dormitory and faculty houses and seriously damaged the East and West Buildings. By the time the Allied internees arrived, there was no working plumbing or electricity, shell holes littered the walls, and most doors and windows were either broken or missing entirely. A few minor repairs were made in preparation for the opening of the Chapei Camp, but most of the damage remained. Because the grounds of the camp were in such a state of disrepair, internees had to rebuild many basic facilities. Bricks salvaged from collapsed buildings were used to build a laundry shed, a series of showers, an ice box, and a hot water system. One interesting feature of the Chapei camp was a small "Dutch garden" located along the border of the recreation ground just to the west of the West Building. Nearly 2,000 Allied civilians were interned at the Chapei Camp from 1943-1945. Hennie has no photographs from this time period, but other memoirs and research publications (most notably the book Captives of Empire) include sketches, photographs, and descriptions camp life. 

Hennie and her father entered the camp as internees 883 and 882, and were assigned to dormitory rooms W-306 and W-107 of the West Building, respectively. 

West Building

[Hennie describes the billeting in the West Building.]

Both of them were also assigned tasks at the camp. Hennie's father worked in the kitchen, and for a while the Chapei kitchens were run by Jimmy James, the former proprietor of a chain of restaurants in Shanghai, as well as the Mandarin Nightclub. Hennie was given mending work. Clothing menders were primarily made up of women, and their job was to mend torn garments and refashion new clothes from old garments. Among the many ways the menders found to create clothing from virtually nothing was the practice of unraveling sandbags and crocheting them into hats and shoe uppers. Hennie was always an expert crocheter and it is possible that she got her start in the camp. As a mender, she would have also refashioned flour and rice sacks into shirts, blouses, and underwear. Other marvels of repurposing included turning Red Cross packaging string into shoe soles, weaving hats from palm leaves and grass, making hairpins from scrap wire, and producing hangars from barbed wire. 

Hennie worked under a master tailor, and his perfectionism coupled with her sewing inexperience eventually led her to seek out another camp chore. She eventually ended up working in the scullery where she peeled potatoes and prepared other vegetables for their daily meals. 

Camp Chores

[Hennie recalls her chores in Chapei Camp.]

Although camp jobs were theoretically voluntary, they were necessary because the Japanese provided no services for the camp internees. All cooking, milling, baking, cleaning, building, repair, masonry, carpentry, medical treatment, dentistry, sanitation, garbage removal, water transport, mending, sewing, teaching, vegetable and herb gardening, and all other basic activities were performed by the internees themselves. Raw food and coal was delivered to the camp gates, but otherwise the camp was entirely self-sufficient and self-contained. A daily minimum of three hours of communal labor was required of all internees, which they had to accomplish in between the other activities on the day's tightly regimented schedule:

Daily Routine Schedule of Chapei CAC

Getting up                                7:30 AM

Breakfast                                 8:30 AM

Roll Call                                   9:00 AM

Cleaning of beds and rooms      9:30 AM

Room inspection                      10:30 AM

Fatigue                                    10:45 AM - 11:30 AM

Lunch                                      11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Free time                                 1:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Dinner                                      5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Evening roll call                        8:00 PM

Lights out                                10:00 PM

By order of the Commandant

Although the labor requirements of the camp may seem relatively minor, most of the internees had become accustomed to pre-war life in China, where Chinese servants performed household labor for all Western families, even those modest means. Many of the male internees had held white collar management jobs before the war and had never before performed manual labor. Many of the women had never performed their own housework but had only supervised the work of their "Number One Boy," the Chinese servant who coordinated the work of lower household servants and coolies. The sheer amount of personal labor that was required for survival in the camps overwhelmed many of the internees who were unprepared for the reality of their new situation. 

The Chapei Camp was initially run by commandant Riozo Tsurumi and his assistant Inaba. He greeted new arrivals with a speech intended to be both reassuring and threatening:

I, the Japanese Consul and the Commandant of this Civil Assembly Centre, give instruction to all to assemble here today. Unfortunately, the prevailing international circumstances have deprived you of your right to free life and necessitated to you to enter this place. However this is your safest refuge, where your rights are best guaranteed and the only abode you are now permitted to live in. You must, therefore, cope with the rules and regulations and make possible efforts in the carrying on of this place with a spirit of mutual harmony and with the thought that this is your home, loving it, enjoying your life and duties given to you. On this I emphasis. If contrary to the above, you should violate the regulations, you shall be punished according to the penal regulations. Should any of you attempt to run away from this place you might be shot to death by our guards. This you must remember. You must read carefully the regulations which are handed to you.

Conditions in the camp were publicly praised, but life inside did not measure up to the public facade, and emotions within the camp were tense and frequently punctuated by outbreaks of violent physical altercation. Riozo Tsurumi and Inaba were eventually removed from command when evidence of embezzlement was uncovered during a Japanese Consulate audit. Corruption, graft, and theft of the internees meager rations was common, and internees at the camp suffered from a number of additional hardships beyond those directly connected to the Japanese guards. Dense overcrowding and squalid conditions led to an outbreak of Whooping Cough in May 1943, which was quickly followed by an epidemic of measles. In June, more than 900 internees came down with dysentary, and in August a typhoon flooded the camp, uprooted numerous trees, and blew the roofs off several Chapei Camp buildings. In September 1943, Allied forces negotiated the release of 378 Chapei internees, who were subsequently given repatriation passage on the Teia Maru, formerly the Allied armed merchant cruiser M.S. Aramis, which had been captured by the Japanese in Saigon in 1942. At the same time, the closure of other camps in Shanghai led to the transfer of a large number of mostly British internees to the Chapei Camp. Three months later in December, approximately 80 Shanghai residents who had been previously exempt from internment because of poor health were also transferred to the Chapei Camp. To house these new internees, a Branch Camp with two new buildings (North and South Buildings) was opened at the far western end of the camp. In the summer of 1945, a chemical factory was opened between the main camp and the branch camp. 

Chapei Camp

[Hennie describes overcrowding at the camp.]

Life in the Chapei Camp was difficult and food and basic supplies were severely rationed. Each internee was allowed only one pail of hot water per day, and a typical meal ration for two consisted of a small bowl of rice and a small bowl of vegetable stew. Stews were typically made with potatoes, turnips, and bok choy and occasionally supplemented with pumpkin, beans, soy beans, chayote, eggplant, onions, daikon, or cabbage. Low quality meat was provided, but it was frequently spoiled and consisted mostly of bones, teeth, eyes, vessels, and other inedible parts. Cheap ribbon fish and cuttle fish were generally available in small quantities, although occasionally a water buffalo, camel, pig, or whale arrived. On one occasion, slaughtered whippets and greyhounds from the French Concession's Canidrome racecourse were delivered. The camp's cooks were often unfamiliar with how to butcher and prepare these meats, and the residents were often sickened from the meats. Old food rations from the American Red Cross were also given to the internees, and children and the elderly were tasked with removing the abundant quantities of larvae, grubs, and weevils that infested the cracked wheat rations. Later, when the wheat stores ran out, they were given congee (rice porridge) for breakfast, which although not infested with live insects was full of small stones and grit. Eight ounces of brown bread was provided at breakfast, and tea was given at all meals instead of water. Rice was of "cargo rice" quality, which meant that it was uncleaned and contained not only stones and grit, but also cigarette butts, rad droppings, dead rodents, cockroaches, nails, broken glass, and cement that had been swept up off the floor along with the rice. Again, children and the elderly were employed cleaning the rice before it could be boiled or steamed. Over time, as rations and stores ran low, weeds growing around the camp were incorporated into the stews, including dandelions and chrysanthemums, and boys hunted sparrows, rats, and cats. Internees were issued meal cards, which were clipped at each meal to prevent internees from getting back in line for seconds. At every meal, queueing was required because the dining halls were vastly undersized for the number of internees needing to be served. At the Chapei Camp, most internees at their meals in their rooms. A typical daily food ration consisted of:

Breakfast: Congee, bread, tea or hot water
Tiffin: Stew, rice, vegetable, tea or hot water
Supper: Fish, vegetable, tea or hot water

Occasionally, luxury items were obtained from outside donors through the Swiss Consulate, including orange peels, dried fruit, sugar, margarine, peanut oil, and milk. Small food parcels sent by friends and relatives and administered by the International Red Cross and other relief agencies were also permitted. These parcels often contained items such as tinned meats, lard, coffee, cocoa, condiments, noodles, egg flakes, tomato paste, processed cheese, chewing gum, vitamin C tablets, and other non-perishable items. Approximately 2/3 of internees received occasional parcels. It is not known if Hennie and her father received any Red Cross parcels. The Chapei Camp also had a canteen where both food and non-food items could be purchased at exorbitant prices. Relatives were allowed to send camp internees "comfort loans" which they could use to buy canteen supplies. Some of the items sold in the canteen included jam, eggs, peanut oil, peanut butter, yeast tablets, cigarettes, toilet paper, soap, and toothpaste. However, the canteen hours of operation were infrequent (open for only a few hours a week, or in some cases a few hours a month) and the shelves were nearly always understocked if not empty, especially as the war neared its end. Despite the shortages, the items obtained from Red Cross parcels and the camp canteen were indispensable to the camp internees and served multiple purposes. After the contents had been consumed, the cans were repurposed as cups and bowls, the chewing gum was used to patch holes and served as an all-purpose adhesive, and the cardboard was used to repair windows. Cartons were converted into buckets, and wrappers and labels were used for paper.

As the war wore on and it became clear that internment would be for a long period, the internees began growing vegetables. At the Chapei Camp, the vegetable garden took up a large portion of the southern end of the camp, and there was also a grove, herb and flower gardens, and a Dutch garden lining the Recreation Ground. By 1945, they had grown over 1,000 pounds of tomatoes and beans and more than 4,000 heads of lettuce. In smaller quantities, radishes, spinach, chard, squash, okra, and green peppers were also grown. The Chapei Camp also had a small number of livestock, including 5 goats, 12 hens, 5 ducks, and a few rabbits. The goats were milked, and the hens and ducks were kept for eggs. 

Although daily rations in the camp in 1943 were officially 2,000 Calories, internee doctors estimated that the actual nutritional value of all food (including Red Cross parcels and canteen purchases) was closer to 1,100-1,900 Calories, far below the minimum 2,400 Calories required for sedentary persons by the League of Nations. Malnutrition, hunger, and starvation were always close at hand, especially in the face of repeated bouts of dysentery and outbreaks of diarrhea. By late 1944, Allied successes in establishing a shipping blockade meant that internees received even less food, and by May 1945, as Hennie celebrated her 23rd birthday, breakfast, supper, tea, and rice were eliminated and the new daily rations consisted only of a single vegetable (usually a beetroot) served at tiffin (lunch). In June/July 1945, as the situation became dire and starvation was imminent, the Red Cross was able to arrange new ration deliveries and the new daily allotments included fish, vegetables, bread, and rice, as well as small quantities of sugar, salt, oil, and tea. Six weeks later, at war's end, Hennie emerged from the camp a mere 83 pounds, approximately one half of her later post-war weight. An average weight loss of 30-40 pounds in the camps was typical. 

Weight loss

[Hennie recalls the bombing raids, the terrible food in camp, the delicious jam that got away, and the weight loss suffered by all, especially older men.]

The only medical services available in the camp were those provided by the internees themselves. Fortunately, given the generally middle class background of the internees, there were quite a few doctors and nurses. The Chapei Camp infirmary was open 24 hours a day and offered a wide array of services: medicine, surgery, pediatrics, ear, nose, and throat, gynecology and obstetrics, eye, skin, osteopathy, physiotherapy, genitourinary, and chest care. However, medical supplies and equipment were thoroughly inadequate. Electric lighting was inconsistent and unpredictable, medicines were in perpetual short supply, and bandages were often lacking. At the Yangchow B Camp, surgeries were performed with carpentry tools and parts from a child's Meccano toy construction set, and at Pootung camp doctors had to ban the game of baseball because it was leading to too many broken limbs. 

A wide range of diseases and illnesses were documented at the camp, including malaria, epidemic and scrub typhus, bacillary and amoebic dysentary, tuberculosis, sprue, scabies, centipede, bedbug and flea bites, tinea, ringworm, impetigo, neuritis, arthritis, and a variety of unidentified upper respiratory infections and skin rashes. Nutritional disorders caused by deficiencies of vitamins A, B (thiamine and B2), and D were common. As a result of these deficiencies, Chapei Camp internees suffered vision problems, dental disease and tooth loss, and broken bones. Hernias were caused by the poor diet and nervous breakdowns became increasingly frequent among internees over age 40. At Chapei Camp, it is reported that abortions were also performed, much to the dismay of interned Catholic nuns. 

Despite the hunger, disease, and generally dismal conditions of the camp, Hennie and her friends nevertheless managed to have a bit of fun. She shared a room with 12 other girls her age who were often engaging in small pranks. Barbara, the ringleader, often got them into trouble, but they rarely got caught and they always managed to have a good time. One popular pastime in the camps was engineering ways to get sent to the hospital. The hospital, located outside the camp, was clean and well provisioned with food. With luck, alcohol could also be filched. One time, Hennie and her friends managed to get sent to St. Luke's, a Catholic hospital in Shanghai run by nuns. They stole some alcohol and snuck onto the roof to drink it. Everything went according to plan until they went to sneak back into their hospital rooms and no one could remember the room numbers. While they drunkenly passed out in random beds, the nuns flew into a panic thinking they had escaped. Luckily, they were found dozing peacefully in the morning, and there were no serious consequences. 

Hospital visit

[Hennie recalls being sent to the hospital and almost getting into a lot of trouble.]

Another of Hennie's stories involved being tasked with building a Japanese garden by the guards at the Chapei Camp. In addition to not having any supplies, tools, or other resources, the internees didn't even know what a Japanese garden was supposed to look like. In the end, they just piled up stones in a semi-artistic fashion. The guards, needless to say, were less than impressed. 

Japanese garden

[Hennie recalls being tasked with building a Japanese garden by the guards at the Chapei Camp.]

One activity that the Japanese warmly supported was the production of stage shows by internees. These shows were usually performed around Christmas and were written, directed, costumed, and performed by the internees themselves. One Christmas, Hennie and her friends took part in the Chapei Camp stage show.

Christmas Stage Show

[Hennie recalls taking part in a Christmas stage show and the unintended consequences of drinking orangeade vodka right before waltz.]

Life was difficult inside the camp, and some internees sought to make their lives a little easier by snitching on the others in exchange for favorable treatment from the Japanese. Hennie and her friends became fed up with one such snitch and decided to teach him a lesson he wouldn't forget. 

The Snitch

[Hennie recalls one night when she and seven friends decided to take care of the camp snitch. Hijinks ensue.]

The camp was terribly overcrowded and the summer evenings were stiflingly hot inside the dormitories. Hennie and her friends used to sneak out at night and gather inside a grouping of bushes that prevented them from being seen by the guards. One night they narrowly escaped being caught out after curfew by the guards, and the bushes were soon cut down. 


[Hennie recalls the girls sneaking out at night to meet with the boys to chat.]

Although Hennie often told funny stories about tricking or outsmarting the Japanese guards in camp, there was always an element of very real danger. Japanese soldiers were infamous for their cruelty in wartime, and Hennie recalled two terrible incidents she was forced to witness at camp. The first occurred when an insane Chinese man was picked up by the Japanese soldiers. He was tied up, stabbed hundreds of times, and left to slowly die in the hot sun while the entire camp was forced to line up and watch. They were instructed that a similar fate would befall them if they tried to escape. The second occurred when two Chinese men, a father and son, were captured by the Japanese guards and also brought inside the camp. They were again tied to a pole, but this time they were not stabbed. Instead, water and rice was placed before them just out of reach. The internees were then made to watch them slowly die from starvation, thirst, and exposure. During the night, however, one of the internees who spoke fluent Chinese managed to sneak out and free the son. Hennie said she knew who it was, but she never told. As retribution, the Japanese withheld food from the internees for four days. 

Japanese cruelty

[Hennie recalls two terrible incidents of Japanese cruelty she witnessed in camp.]

However, not all Japanese soldiers in the camp were bad. Hennie and her friends befriended one particularly tall Japanese soldier who they later learned had been a farmer before he was drafted into the army during the war. He offered to protect them if they would teach him English. One day, he came back to the camp terribly drunk from a night in the city. He was loudly yelling, "We're losing the war!" Fearing for his safety if the commandant found him like this, the internees hid him until he sobered up. When he recovered, he was very grateful for this kindness. He was very much liked by the internees.

Sympathetic guard

[Hennie recalls a 6-foot tall Japanese guard she befriended in camp.] 

By 1945, it was clear that Japan was losing the war. American planes began dropping food relief drums affixed to tiny parachutes over the camps. The drums contained canned fruits, mostly peaches and pears, and the internees were eager to have them. The only problem was that the parachutes were too small for the heavy drums of fruit and the packages fell with such velocity that most burst upon landing. Hennie recalled that the camp was simply dripping with exploded drums of fruit. However, hungry as they were, nothing went to waste, and the exploded peaches and pears were simply scraped off the ground and eaten. 

Parachuting pears

[Hennie recalls American planes parachuting in relief drums of peaches and pears.]

Armistice and Liberation

Three months after Germany's surrender, Japan surrendered to Allied forces on August 15, 1945. Shortly afterwards, representatives from each branch of the American military came to Chapei Camp to announce to the internees that the war was over. As Hennie recalled, it was bedlam inside the camp. People were whooping and crying and generally overwhelmed with emotion. The internees continued to live in the camp until arrangements could be made for them to leave. Shortly after liberation, however, a mob of Chinese communists began to threaten the camp. Foreigners were viewed by many Chinese as a visible symbol of the abuses, excesses, and corruption of the pre-war period, and after 100 years of foreign rule and 8 years of Japanese occupation many communist-leaning Chinese were eager to violently reestablish a new order. In the end, the Americans, in conjunction with the Chinese nationalist government, rearmed the Japanese soldiers in order to defend the camp and repel the Chinese attack. 

Camp Liberation

[Hennie recalls the liberation of Chapei Camp and the subsequent rearming of the Japanese guards in the wake of Communist uprisings.]

While expedient at the time, the rearming of Japanese soldiers after the war would later be regretted by the nationalist government. This action, which was repeated many times throughout China, was seen as fundamentally anti-Chinese by ordinary Chinese people and was used to fan the flames of the growing communist uprising, which eventually led to the toppling of the nationalist government in 1949. American army pilot Bob Warinner, Hennie's future husband, was stationed in Chungking in 1945 when the liberation of Shanghai was planned. He explained that an initial assessment of Shanghai by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) determined that Chinese forces could not be trained quickly enough to keep order in the city and so it was decided to rearm the Japanese soldiers who were already present and organized. Bob was responsible for transporting General Gross, the commanding officer of the advance party of occupation, into Shanghai. Among the other American military personnel he transported into Shanghai was Bill Patch, an officer in the Army Graves Registration Service. Bill would later introduce Hennie and Bob. 

Americans Arrive

[Bob Warinner describes the American liberation of Shanghai and the rearming of Japanese soldiers.]

Brigadier General Mervin E. Gross, Chinese American Staff Conference, 1945       
[Photograph of Brigadier General Mervin E. Gross, seated right of center, at a Chinese American Staff Conference deciding the future organization of China in 1945. Photographs of Bob during the war. Photograph of a friend "D.W."]

After enduring so much during the war, one wonders what the internees must have felt toward the Japanese after the war was over. Contrary to what one might expect, Hennie said she didn't dislike the Japanese, and that in fact she liked ordinary Japanese people and especially Japanese women very much. She even had a kimono made for her in Shanghai after the war. But, she said, she couldn't stand Japanese soldiers.

Opinions on the Japanese

[Hennie describing her opinions about the Japanese.] 

Freed Allied civilians were learning to start their lives over in Shanghai and struggling to embrace a brightening future. Hennie received a number a photographs from friends in the fall of 1945, each inscribed with hopeful and encouraging messages. 

[Inscribed photographs from Dot, an American, dated October 15, 1945, and Pieter, dated only 1945.]

After the war, life eventually carried on, and the influx of Allied soldiers infused new life into Shanghai's streets. Hennie took a job as a typist at the Shanghai branch office of the newly formed United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. She worked there with her friend Audrey Hammond, and together they got to know a number of American servicemen who came through their doors, including a particularly charming soldier named Bill Patch. 


[Hennie at her desk at the U.N. Shanghai office. Hennie's co-worker Audrey Hammond at her typewriter. Hennie (foreground) with Audrey Hammond and unknown servicemen, 1945. Photograph of army pilot Bob Warinner, Hennie's future husband.]

[Photograph of Bill Patch on horseback. The back reads, "Somewhere in China." Photographs of Hennie with Bill Patch in 1945.]

It was through Bill Patch that Hennie was introduced to Robert "Bob" Warinner, her future husband. Bob had met Bill Patch earlier in the war and they reconnected again when they both were stationed in Shanghai. Bob had seen Bill out with Hennie and Audrey and asked Bill to set up a double date. The only problem was that Bob got the names mixed up and asked out Audrey by mistake. When they all showed up for their date, Bob realized his mistake and asked Bill if they could switch. Hennie wanted to stay with Bill, but Audrey convinced her to "be a sport" and switch.

First Date

[Hennie and Bob recall their first double date with Bill Patch and Audrey Hammond.]

Bob had just arrived from Chungking and was transferred to a permanent assignment in Shanghai as the officer in charge of China Theater Headquarters Flight Section. He was billetted first at the Cathay Hotel and later at the Broadway Mansions. The contrast between the desperate conditions endured by Hennie in the camp and the luxurious conditions enjoyed by Bob in his first billet in Shanghai less than a month later is striking.

   Broadway Mansions
[Photograph of the Broadway Mansions, c. 1934. Bob was billeted here in 1945.]

Assignment Shanghai

[Bob describing his post in Shanghai in 1945, and his first taste of Shanghai at the Cathay Hotel.]

Bob proved to be quite charming and within a month after liberation Hennie and Bob were "going steady." In late August, Bob was nominated for a special assignment by his commanding officer, General George E. Stratemeyer. He was sent by Stratemeyer to the hotel room of 5-Star General George C. Marshall to receive his assignment. He was told that he had been chosen to fly to Yenan to pick up an important leader in the Chinese communist party, Mao Tze-Tung, for the upcoming peace talks to be held in Chungking. Marshall was initially a little concerned by Bob's youth (he was only 20) and pressed upon him the seriousness and importance of mission. Bob was to fly to Yenan, spend a few days there while the communists prepared for the trip, and then return to Chungking with Mao's delegation. While in Yenan, Bob was instructed to treat Mao like royalty. 

Mao Assignment

[Bob recalls meeting General George Marshall and receiving his assignment to fly Mao Tse-tung to Chungking for American-sponsored peace talks between the Chinese nationalists and communists.]

In late August, 1945, Bob and his crew flew to Yenan to pick up Mao and his delegation. Bob recalled being amazed by the artificial cave system in which the communists were living. The caves had been hewn into bare rock and included numerous rooms and multiple floors. Bob remembered that the supplies were stored on the first floor, Mao and Zhou Enlai had adjoining apartments on the second floor, and that Bob and his crew were given rooms on the third floor. Bob and his crew passed their days playing cards and eating in the dining hall. He remembered once being seated at a table just across from Mao, "close enough to see his green teeth." Mao was famous for his lack of hygiene and aversion to bathing. He also recalled that while Mao at his food quickly and without distraction in the dining hall, Zhou Enlai seemed to be listening in on the American flight crew's conversations. Bob said although he never heard Zhou Enlai speak English, he strongly suspected that he could understand it. One day, Bob decided that, since these men were supposedly important, he ought to get their autograph. He went up to their table at dinner and had his translator ask Mao and Zhou Enlai if they would give him their "chop" (a stamped autograph) on a 5,000 yuan note he had with him. They agreed and both stamped his note.

Communist controlled regions of China, 1944  Members of the Dixie Mission posing in front of the Yenan caves.
[Map of communist controlled regions of China in 1944. Bob flew to pick up Mao and his entourage from Yenan in August 1945. Photograph of the Dixie Mission diplomatic group posing in front of the Yenan caves.]

On the day they were to leave Yenan for Chungking a small problem arose when several of Mao's delegation attempted to bring live animals onto the plane. Bob was worried that the animals might get loose and wreak havoc so he insisted that the animals be placed in crates. In the end, only one animal ended up coming with them, a small pig. Bob made the owner of the pig sit on the crate for the whole flight to make sure it didn't escape. 


[Bob recalls flying to Yenan and staying at Mao's cave compound for several days before flying Mao Tse-tung and his associates to the peace talks. Uncertain of exactly who Mao was, he nevertheless got a "chop" (a stamped autograph) from both Mao and Zhou Enlai. He describes the cave compound, the dining hall, and dealing with the problem of Mao's associates wanting to bring live chickens and a pig with them to the talks.]

Arrival of Zhou Enlai, Mao and Amb. Hurley in Chungking for the 1945 peace talks.   Mao Tze-Tung and Chiang Kai-Shek at the 1945 peace talks
[Photograph taken upon the arrival of Zhou Enlai, Mao Tze-Tung, and their communist delegation in Chungking, August 1945. The plane Bob flew is visible in the background. Photograph of Communist leader Mao Tze-Tung and Kuomintang (Nationalist) leader Chiang Kai-Shek toasting at the 1945 peace talks.]

After the peace talks failed, Chiang Kai-Shek organized a banquet dinner to thank those who had been involved with the talks. Bob and his flight crew received an invitation, and they went to the dinner. Bob recalled that both Chiang Kai-Shek and Madame Chiang spoke very good English and that he went up to them and asked for their autograph on the same 5,000 yuan note that had been previously stamped by Mao Tze-Tung and Zhou Enlai. Wary that they might notice the stamps on the back of the note, he held the bill firmly on the table. They both autographed the note with ballpoint pens. He also noticed that the translator that had accompanied him to the Yenan caves was present at the dinner and was dressed in the uniform of a high ranking Kuomintang general. He went up the general and spoke briefly with him, slowly realizing that he had unknowingly transported a nationalist spy into the very heart of the communist party's operations.

Diplomatic Dinner

[Bob recalls getting Mr. Chiang and Madame Chiang's autographs on a 5,000 yuan note at a diplomatic dinner.]

Postwar Shanghai was a city of contradictions, with booming wealth and abject poverty living side by side. The documentary below, made c. 1947, illustrates common features of postwar life in Shanghai. 

Postwar Shanghai

Hennie and Bob had a number of adventures and misadventures while dating during the winter of 1945-1946. On one occasion, Bob hit a wagon full of dead pigs while driving home with Hennie in his Army Jeep after an evening out drinking and dancing. The wagon puller was so angry that he tried to pull Hennie from the Jeep. Later Bob, bought a Navy motorcycle on the black market to get them around town. However, Hennie (perhaps wisely after the pig incident) refused to ride on it until he bought a side car. One day while cruising down Nanking Road a rickshaw pulled out right in front of them, causing a collision. No one was harmed but the rickshaw was left spinning vertically in the air with the driver dangling from the handles. The traffic police officer who witnessed the crash cleared Bob and Hennie of any wrongdoing and slapped the rickshaw driver for being so careless. 

Pigs and Rickshaws

[Bob and Hennie recall their motorized vehicle misadventures with pigs and rickshaws.]

Although Hennie and Bob were going steady during the fall and winter of 1945, Bob was often away on his flights and it seems that Hennie may have had a few boyfriends on the side. Among Hennie's belongings from this time is a photograph of a man in uniform named Hereford, who lovingly signed his picture, "Henny - The sweetest things I know are what you are...I love you." Hennie never mentioned Hereford, and it is unknown who he was or what he meant to her. 


But it is clear that Hennie had a sweet spot that winter for another young soldier named George Bynum. She had several photographs of George, including four taken during a trip they took together to the countryside. Judging by one of his photographs, it is likely that George worked in aviation. It's unclear if George and Bob knew of each other. 

[Photograph of George Bynum in front of his plane. Portrait photograph of George Bynum. Four photographs of Hennie and George Bynum standing in a field in cold weather (probably November or December 1945); note the army Jeep. Photograph of George Bynum at the Shanghai Race Course during warmer weather (probably August or September 1945) with out a shirt on. Photograph of George Bynum and his friends at the Shanghai Race Course.]

Wedding and Junior

In late January or early February of 1946, Hennie became pregnant. Four months later, on June 22, 1946, Hennie and Bob married in a small ceremony in Shanghai. Due to the shortage of silk in post-war China, Hennie had her wedding dress made from Bob's silk parachute. These "parachute wedding gowns" were actually quite common in post-war Europe and China. 


Bob kept in touch with his family back in Kansas City and mailed a photograph of Hennie home in the spring of 1946. He references her pregnancy on the back of the photograph. Hennie also wrote to Bob's relatives, a fact which is indicated by a message she wrote on the back of a photograph.

[Photograph Hennie taken in 1945 and mailed home by Bob (probably to his mother or brother) in the summer or fall of 1946. Photograph of Hennie and Bob with friends Margarite and Bill Gauntt, which Hennie mailed (probably to Bob's mother) in 1946.]

In the meantime, Bob left the service and took a job with the CNRRA (Chinese National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration), the Chinese branch of the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) that Hennie had worked for. CNRRA was founded in China's wartime capital of Chungking in January 1945 and was later relocated to Shanghai after the war in November/December 1945. The CNRRA was the largest single country, post-war reconstruction program attempted by UNRRA with funds in excess of half a billion dollars. Bob worked as a pilot for CNRRA, and his work delivering cholera vaccines to Hunan province was featured in the September 25, 1946 issue of the China Press newspaper.  


[Photographs of Bob with his plane loaded with cholera vaccines bound for Hunan province, September 25, 1946. Photograph of Bob and his colleagues at the CNRRA. Newspaper clipping from the China Press describing Bob's mission to transport 90,000 doses of cholera vaccine to the city of Chengchow.]

Bob got the job as a CNRRA pilot in a rather unorthodox manner. His friend, Bill Patch, had told Bob that the CNRRA was hiring pilots and he was in charge of conducting the interviews and test flights. Bob said he wanted to apply and so Bill told him he would take him on a test flight. Halfway through the flight, Bob dropped his map and asked Bill to take over as pilot while he climbed down into the hull of the plane to retrieve it. As soon as Bob got out of his seat the plane began to nosedive. He had to scramble to get back into his seat to take the controls and right the plane. Eventually it came out that it was Bill Patch who was interviewing for the CNRRA job an he'd tricked Bob into flying his test flight for him. When they landed, the actual person in charge of hiring for the CNRRA dismissed Bill and hired Bob. Rather than being mad, Bob and Hennie used to laugh and laugh when retelling this story, always recounting the misadventures of wild and crazy Bill Patch with a great deal of affection.

On October 29, 1946, Hennie and Bob's first child, Robert James "Jim" Warinner, was born in Shanghai. The pregnancy was a difficult one, and Bob and Hennie's father were concerned. They began looking for an experienced obstetrician to assist with the delivery. They decided on a well-regarded Jewish obstetrician in Shanghai who had once been a prominent doctor in Germany before the war. The only problem was that he insisted on being paid up front and refused to accept paper currency. As someone who had repeatedly suffered under currency inflation and who had lost everything during the war, he now only accepted payment in gold. Bob enjoyed recalling the story of the day Hennie went into labor and he and her father ran all around town trying to buy gold in order to pay the doctor. In the end, everything turned out alright and little "Junior" was born without any serious problems. A number of photographs show baby Jim with his mother, father, and grandfather at one month old. 



[Hennie, Bob, and Hennie's father with 1 month old baby Jim, November 29, 1946.]

On Jim's first Christmas, Hennie took a photograph of Jim "look[ing] very pleased because he has just finish doing a big one."


More photographs followed in late January 1946, when Jim was 3 months old. 


Later in 1946, Hennie's brother Jan returned home to Shanghai. He travelled from Singapore via Hong Kong with his good friend Tony Usn. He and Tony bought matching flashy new checked suits for the journey.




When Jan arrived in Shanghai, he had been gone five years. Although WWII was over and the family was now reunited in Shanghai, things would never be the same as before the war. China was on the verge of civil war, and life for foreigners was becoming difficult in Shanghai. Shanghai had lost its treaty port status in 1943, and foreign residents no longer enjoyed extraterritorial rights. Jan had spent the war in a Japanese POW camp and survived. His younger sister was now a mother and married to an American man he'd never met. His father had entered Chapei Camp in 1943 as a healthy 51-year-old and emerged a beaten and broken man. Much had changed in just a few short years.

[Photographs of Jan's return to Shanghai in 1946.]

Chinese Civil War and the Communist Revolution

By 1947, conflicts between the Chinese nationalists and communists were reaching a critical level. Protesters flooded the city streets and rival armies fought in the countryside. It was also clear that the nationalists, who supported the presence of foreign residents, were losing ground. Years of nationalist corruption combined with floods in the south and famine in north caused the communist ranks to swell with recruits from the countryside, and town after town, city after city were falling to the communists. 

Chinese Civil War

Although Hennie loved Shanghai, it was clear that she would soon have to leave to escape the growing threat of violence and civil war. Bob decided to reenlist, and the family began preparations to immigrate to America.

[Photograph of Hennie in 1946. Photograph of Jan in 1946.]

Leaving Shanghai

On June 9, 1947, Hennie, Bob, and Jim booked passage on the USAT General Aultman and sailed to San Francisco. Hennie and Jim's names are entered into the ship's manifest of alien passengers bound for the United States. Hennie's brother Jan and his new South African fiance Winnie (Amelia Winifred Rousay Davidson) accompanied them on board to see them off. The hat Hennie is wearing in the photographs was actually made from one of Jim's diapers. Hennie recalled that it was very windy on board ship and she didn't have anything else to hold down her hair.


[Photographs of Hennie, Bob, Jan, and Winnie on the day Hennie and Bob departed for America. Photographs of Hennie, Bob, and Jim en route to America. Photograph of the USAT General Aultman in San Francisco Bay in 1947. The list of alien passengers traveling aboard the USAT General Aultman and bound for the United States. Hennie and Jim's names appear about halfway down. Hennie's citizenship is given as Netherlands/American. Jim's nationality is listed as "Father USA." Hennie's immigration visa was issued under Public Law 271, also known as the War Brides Act.]

Jan immigrated to South Africa in the summer or fall of 1947 and reconnected with his mother and Uncle Jo, who he had not seen in over 10 years. Jan later married Winnie in the Pinelands, Cape Town, South Africa on April 2, 1949.

[Photographs of Jan and Winnie with Jan's mother Geertruida in 1948 and 1949. Copies of Jan and Winnie's wedding photos, which they mailed to Hennie and Bob in 1949.]

On February 1, 1948, less than a year after his children's departure, Hennie and Jan's father died in Shanghai. Hennie always regretted that she did not stay in Shanghai to be with him. 

 [Photograph of Hennie's father in rickshaw, c. 1946.]