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Susanne Goldfarb. Susanne Goldfarb.
Susanne Goldfarb

Name: Susanne Hafner Goldfarb (1933 – 1987)

Birth Place: Vienna, Austria

Arrived in Wisconsin: 1969, Madison

We went through it. We didn't make it up. It's not made up.

Susanne Goldfarb


Susanne Hafner Goldfarb was born in Vienna, Austria, on February 17, 1933. She was the only child of a middle-class Jewish family. Nazi Germany annexed Austria in March 1938. Rising anti-Semitism and the threat of war prompted her family to flee their homeland in early 1939.

Six-year-old Susanne and her family left Europe on a luxury liner bound for Shanghai, China. They found refuge with more than 20,000 other European Jewish exiles in the Japanese-occupied sector of that city. The refugees were able to create a mulitfaceted Jewish community in Shanghai.It included commercial, religious, cultural, and educational institutions. Susanne attended synagogue, studied in Jewish schools, and belonged to a Zionist social club.

The Hafners eked out a living by delivering bread in their neighborhood, the Hongkew district. In May 1943, Japanese authorities introduced anti-Semitic measures. The Hongkew district turned into a Jewish ghetto and all Shanghai Jews were restricted to this area.

As World War II unfolded, Shanghai came under increased assault from U.S. warplanes. Susanne's family worked as air raid wardens and suffered the terror of heavy bombing attacks. In August 1945, the U.S. liberated the Hongkew Ghetto. Soon after, China descended into civil war. In 1949 the Chinese Communists came to power. The Hafners, fearing persecution under the communist regime, immigrated to Israel in January 1949.

In 1953, the Hafners immigrated to New York City. They lived in an insulated community of Jewish refugees until 1969. In New York Susanne met Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, whom she married in 1963. The Goldfarbs moved to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1969. Susanne worked with the University of Wisconsin's Office of Foreign Students and Faculty until her death in June 1987.

Audio and Transcript Information

Below are the highlights of each tape. They do not list all topics discussed. Recordings of only one tape side are marked: (no Side 2). Documents may be printed or downloaded at no cost. See Rights and Permissions

Listen to Susanne's testimony and view transcript

Tape 1, Side 1
  • Susanne's family and childhood in Vienna
  • German Anschluss, March 1938
  • Decision to go to China
  • The voyage to Shanghai

Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 12.6 MB)

View Transcript Page (PDF, 554 KB)

Tape 1, Side 2
  • The Shanghai Jewish community
  • Difficult living conditions
  • Relations with Japanese occupiers
  • School life

Download Audio (MP3, 28 minutes, 12.8 MB)

View Transcript Page (PDF, 554 KB)

Tape 2, Side 1
  • Synagogues in Shanghai
  • Secular education
  • A typical morning routine
  • Involvement in Betar (Zionist youth group)

Download Audio (MP3, 30 minutes, 13.7 MB)

View Transcript Page (PDF, 554 KB)

Tape 2, Side 2
  • Refugee life in Shanghai
  • Poverty, crime, and black market activities
  • Emotional life as a child living through these conditions
  • Japanese authorities and Nazi propaganda

Download Audio (MP3, 28 minutes, 13.1 MB)

View Transcript Page (PDF, 554 KB)

Tape 3, Side 1
  • Her family in Austria, memories of Vienna
  • Arriving in Shanghai
  • Establishment of the Shanghai Ghetto, 1943
  • Typical day in the Shanghai Ghetto

Download Audio (MP3, 28 minutes, 12.9 MB)

View Transcript Page (PDF, 554 KB)

Tape 3, Side 2
  • Life under Allied bombings, 1945
  • The end of the war
  • Arrival of U.S. troops, August 1945
  • Postwar conditions

Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 12.4 MB)

View Transcript Page (PDF, 554 KB)

Tape 4, Side 1
  • Her last years in China
  • Voyage to Israel, Jan-Feb 1949
  • Life in the new state of Israel
  • Decision to leave Israel for the U.S.

Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 12.3 MB)

View Transcript Page (PDF, 554 KB)

Tape 4, Side 2
  • Immigrating to New York, 1953
  • Side trip to Vienna
  • Life in New York and marriage
  • Moving to Wisconsin, 1969, working with foreign students in Madison

Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 12.5 MB)

View Transcript Page (PDF, 554 KB)

Tape 5, Side 1
  • Reflections on immigrating to the U.S.
  • Relations among American Jews
  • The role of religion in her life in 1980
  • Reading habits and social life in Madison

Download Audio (MP3, 26 minutes, 12.2 MB)

View Transcript Page (PDF, 554 KB)

Tape 5, Side 2
  • Public attitudes toward the Holocaust
  • American politics and government
  • Anti-Semitism in Wisconsin and the U.S.
  • Her sense of ethnic and national identity

Download Audio (MP3, 22 minutes, 10.2 MB)

View Transcript Page (PDF, 554 KB)

About the Interview Process

  • The recordings were made during two sessions on February 7 and October 8, 1980. The first conversation was held in Susanne's Madison home, where she was visibly shaken by the memories evoked in telling her story. The second took place at the Wisconsin Historical Society. The researcher noted Susanne's conscious effort to make the second session less emotional than the first.

    Susanne describes her Holocaust experience through a child's eyes. She has clear memories of Jewish life as a child in Vienna and the anti-Semitism that followed the German Anschluss in March 1938. Susanne's interview is valuable because it reveals the fate of thousands of European Jews who fled to China in the face of Nazi persecution.

Audio and Transcript Details

  • Interview Dates: Feb 7, 1980; Oct 8, 1980
  • Interview Location: Goldfarb home and Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, WI
  • Interviewer: Archivist Jean Loeb Lettofsky
  • Original Sound Recording Format: 5 qty. 60-minute audio cassette tapes
  • Length of Interviews: 2 interviews, total approximately 5 hours
  • Transcript Length: 96 pages
  • Rights and Permissions: Any document may be printed or downloaded to a computer or portable device at no cost for nonprofit educational use by teachers, students and researchers. Nothing may be reproduced in any format for commercial purposes without prior permission.


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