Growe (Grosz), Charles

Growe (Grosz), Charles

Vienna (Austria), Shanghai

Growe, born in 1924 is the younger of two sons born to Friedrich and Stella Grosz. He lived with his family first in the thirteenth district of Vienna (Hietzing) and later in the eighth district (Josefstadt); middle class areas with a relatively small Jewish presence. He attended public schools including a gymnasium, a combination of junior and senior high school for more gifted children. His father was a forwarding and shipping agent, a business that was undergoing hard times due to poor economic conditions in Austria. The family was Jewish but assimilated in the Austrian culture with very limited involvement in religious Jewish life.

Following the annexation of Austria by Germany in March 1938, the effects of the various anti-Jewish laws and directives began to affect the family’s everyday life. Growe was dismissed from his school because he was Jewish. However, his father’s shipping business had a sharp increase from the mass emigration of Jews from Austria providing considerable, much needed funds. Realizing that there was no future for Jews in Nazi Germany, Growe and his parents emigrated to the only place available to Jews without a visa, to Shanghai, China. Growe’s older brother had previously left for England on the so-called Kindertransport.

Since no funds could be taken out of Germany, the family used their available money for first class accommodations on the ship taking them from Italy to Shanghai; in 1939 a thirty-day sea journey. Upon arrival in Shanghai, they were assisted in finding accommodations and in obtaining provisions by the local Jewish reception committee. A small Jewish presence existed in Shanghai from the time prior to World War I, heavily supported by some very wealthy Sephardic Jewish families.

After a few weeks in Shanghai it was recommended to Growe’s father to move to Tsingtao, a city approximately 400 miles north of Shanghai. Although under Japanese control, Tsingtao was used by the U.S. Pacific Fleet as a naval station for rest and recuperation prior to World War II. The presence of Americans enabled the Growe family to secure an income from the rental of rooms and apartments to U.S. naval personnel. Growe also worked as a hotel clerk.

Following the outbreak of World War II, relatively few problems arose since the Japanese did not persecute Jews as requested by their German ally. All foreigners were required to wear armbands showing the nationality. Growe does not recall whether his armband showed ‘Austrian’ or ‘Jewish’. Only about 2,000 Europeans lived in Tsingtao with a total population of about 500,000. However, after the dropping of atomic bombs on two Japanese cities by the American army, Growe was arrested by Japanese police. He was in jail for ten days and was released following the Japanese surrender.

After the war, the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corp re-established a base in the Tsingtao. Because of his knowledge of English, Growe became a partner and bartender in a bar servicing American naval personnel. His income was sufficient for his and his parents’ well-being and for their forthcoming voyage to the United States. Trough the efforts of an uncle residing in Detroit, Growe and his family came to the United States in 1948.

Growe was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1949. He participated in the Korean war earning one battle star. After the Korean war, Growe married a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Of his immediate family, his grandmother perished during the Holocaust.

Interview Information:
Date: January 9, 2001
Length: 52 minutes
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Format: Video recording