Shanghai Escape

Written by Kathy Kacer
Review by Liz Allenby

In 1938 Lily Toufar and her family move into their new home in Shanghai, China, after having fled Vienna during Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. They trust they have found a haven where her parents can work and Lily and other family members can practice their Jewish faith and get an education. Three years later, Japanese occupational forces patrol the streets of Shanghai. As a result, they levy restrictions on the Jewish people living there, forcing them into a ghetto called Hongkew, a filthy quarter where excrement and cadavers litter the streets. There Lily and her parents, along with the Jewish community, experience cruelty and degradation at the hands of the Japanese soldiers. Lily narrates the horrors of daily life in occupied Shanghai: wartime markets where people haggle for bad meat, mutilated children found dead in the street, and the continual beatings of the weak and elderly. Her mother is humiliated by a Japanese soldier who threatens to deny her an exit stamp to go to work in the free part of Shanghai. All this takes place against the historical background of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the news of war from Europe and other parts of Asia.

Lovingly researched, this middle-grade novel opens the world of the Holocaust as it affected refugees who fled Europe and found themselves persecuted in other lands. Author Kathy Kacer uses the true story of Lily Toufar to show us what daily life was like as Jew in China as she endured poverty, starvation, and cruelty. We empathize with Lily and her extended family as we grow to love and respect their courage. This is Kathy Kacer’s eleventh novel in the Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers.