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Survivor Profiles: Ralph Samuel

I had a hard time with the story. The fact that we lost so many family members; my grandparents as well as many relatives, and hearing all the stories that came out … I felt an obligation to get involved [with the Museum].

Ralph Samuel

His Story:

Ralph Samuel’s parents had a rich history in Germany before the war: his father’s family owned a granary for several generations, while his mother’s father fought in the Germany army during World War I. Ralph’s mother’s side of the family also owned a dry goods store. However, anti-Jewish laws and Nazi harassment led to the closure of both family businesses in the 1930s. 

The Samuel family was able to leave Germany in the months after Kristallnacht and travel to Shanghai. Unfortunately, they were the only family members to escape. His parents were able to find a one-room apartment in Shanghai’s Hongkew district, which became a ghetto when the Japanese military invaded. Around 18,000 refugees were confined here. This is where Ralph was born in 1941.  

A few years after he was born, American forces began to drop bombs near the ghetto, targeting nearby storage facilities. During the bombings, Jewish refugees would hide in the nearby jail until the all-clear sirens were sounded. 

When the war ended, Chinese families who had lived in the homes in the ghetto prior to the war returned and wanted their property back, leaving Jewish refugees with nowhere to live. Ralph and his family came to the United States in 1947, eventually settling in St. Louis. 

Learn More:

Coffee with a survivor facebook live session

Photo credits: John Pregulman

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