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Kurt and Bertha Altmann’s German Passports

Passports of married couple Kurt and Bertha Altmann, German-Jewish refugees who fled Germany in 1938 to Shanghai and lived there for 20 years before immigrating to Pittsburgh in 1958.

German and Austrian Jews first started moving to Shanghai after the Nazi rise to power in 1933, and the number increased dramatically after years of persecution coming to a head during the violent Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938. At first, Shanghai seemed an unlikely refuge; but for many, as it became clear that most countries in the world were limiting or denying entry to Jews, it became the only choice. Until August 1939, no visas were required for entering Shanghai.

During the 1930s, Nazi policy encouraged Jewish emigration from Germany, and a ship’s passage enabled a person to gain release, even from a concentration camp. In total, an estimated 17,000 Jews came to Shanghai from Germany and Austria.

Jakob’s Torah, another artifact in the Revolving Doors exhibit, was saved by the Jakob Weinblum whose family also found refuge in Shanghai before eventually resettling in the Pittsburgh area.