Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hope, Chefoo Concetration Camp, and the Choices Made

I was out walking and listening to This American Life on WNYC. The show aired, Captain's Log, was from June 2015.  Act I, Cookies and Monsters, was fascinating as it was hopeful.  Here the discussion was about Girl Guides (what we call Girl Scouts here in the US). It was an old notebook found in the basement of a Girl Guide center in London that spurred Janie Hampton to begin to make sense of a particular entry:

And it said, we did skipping, and we did knots, and we did all sorts of jolly things. And then I came across this song that they'd written. And it said, "We sang our song yesterday. And it went, 'We might have been shipped to Timbuktu. We might have been shipped to Kalamazoo. It's not repatriation, nor is it yet starvation. It's simply concentration in Chefoo." And I thought, what on earth does that mean? Concentration in Chefoo?
She wondered about the song.

Mary Previte and siblings on September 10, 1945 eating a meal shortly after
being flown from Weihsien – “When the plane touched down in Sian [Xian],
the men at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) base served us
ice cream and cake and showed us a Humphrey Bogart movie. I think it
was “Casablanca.” Kathleen and I slept that night in an officer’s tent
– unaccompanied by bedbugs. The next night – 9/11 – we were home.
We hadn’t seen our parents for 5 1/2 years.” – courtesy of Weihsien-Paintings
from here
What follows is an amazing story about perspective, about 82-year-old Mary Previte who lives in New Jersey and served as a Democrat in the Assembly, and about 74-year-old Leopold Pander. He is a resident of Belgium.  What unites them?  Both were incarcerated in the Concentration Camp in Chefoo as children. Mary was 9 and Leopold was 2-years-old when he was arrested for having round eyes.

I won't say more.
The narrative from Ira Glass and the American Life folks is stunning.

Hope you find some time to listen.


  1. Not sure how I missed these, as such an Ira Glass fan, but how fascinating! The power of attitude.