• Born in Berlin, Germany in December, 1917.
  • Father, Carl Abraham, fought in German army in World War I. Mother worked as a typist/ office manager to support the family.
  • After WW I, father opened shoemaking shop. He also worked as administrator of Berlin’s Jewish cemetery. Father worked full time in cemetery while mother worked in shop.
  • Had one sister, Vera, born in 1920.
  • Horst was the only Jewish student in his elementary school.
  • In 1922, German bank wanted to buy family’s shop to use as office space. Paid large sum of money to Abraham family. Due to economic depression and inflation in Germany, check was worthless after one day.
  • In 1934, became member of  Jewish Rowing Club called Ober Spree located on River Spree.
  • In 1935, Horst and friend won important rowing race but were not allowed to try out for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin because they were Jewish.
  • In April, 1934, after Nuremberg Laws enacted, father’s shoe repair shop was boycotted with all other Jewish owned shops.
  • Horst was told he could not attend University. He and his sister (age 16 and 14) had to find jobs to help support the family. Horst worked at a Jewish owned moving company.
  • On Nov. 9, 1938, the night of Kristallnacht, Horst remembers smelling smoke from burning synagogues.
  • In 1939, a family came to the shipping company where Horst worked to ship their suitcases to Shanghai, China. They told Horst that Shanghai was permitting German Jews to settle there. They told him that there was a way for him to get a ticket on board the SS Conte Biancamano, sailing  from Italy to China.
  • Horst left Berlin on May 29, 1939 with his suitcase and a bicycle. The trip to Shanghai took 27 days by sea. Several passengers died on the ship.
  • Upon arrival, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee found housing for the refugees in bombed out factories and schools in Hongkew, the poorest section of Shanghai.
  • Horst was assigned to the Kinchow Home.
  • Horst spoke English, German, French, and Spanish but tried to learn Chinese and Japanese so he could get a job.
  • Found job as delivery man because he had his bicycle. Later, he worked as a tailor.
  • In 1940, Horst was able to get 2 permits from Japanese military for relatives to escape to Shanghai.  He tried desperately to get a third permit for his sister.
  • His sister Vera got married 4 days before his parents left Germany. 17 relatives attended the wedding. 14 of them, including Vera and her husband, would be killed in Auschwitz and other camps.
  • Parents arrived in Shanghai in October, 1940. Shocked by unsanitary conditions in the Jewish area.
  • Received last letter from sister in winter of 1943.
  • In 1943, all Jewish refugees in Shanghai forced to live in a ghetto.  Jewish men called “Pao Chia” acted as police. Conditions were terrible.
  • In 1945, American bombers, trying to destroy a Japanese radio station, bombed a building in the ghetto. Horst’s old friend, Julius Wolff, a member of the Berlin rowing club was killed, along with his entire family.
  • After the war in 1949, Horst and his mother traveled to San Francisco and later, to Chicago. His father was considered a Polish citizen and was not able to get a visa.
  • Shanghai was occupied by the Communists which made it more difficult to get refugees out. Horst’s father finally arrive in Chicago in 1951.
  • In 1967, Horst returned to find his childhood home in Berlin where he recognized former neighbors.