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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                       STEVEN LOW

INTERVIEWERS:                 SARA GHITIS

                                           RUTH EINSTEIN

DATE:                                  SEPTEMBER 25, 2003

LOCATION:                           MARIETTA, GEORGIA

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Steven Low was born Werner Stephan Loewy, in Berlin, Germany on March 15, 1938. His biological mother died while Steven was still an infant and his father soon remarried. Steven was the only child of Walter and Lotte Loewy, the woman he grew up knowing as his mother. Life became increasingly difficult in Germany and Steven’s parents reluctantly decided to leave. They travelled by train to Italy where they boarded a ship. In May 1940, they arrived in Shanghai, China.

At first, the family lived in the French Concession. His father earned a living by playing the piano in nightclubs. In 1943, the family was forced to move to the Jewish ghetto in Hongkew. In the ghetto, Steven attended school and was cared for by a Chinese nanny. His father was able to get a pass to continue working at nightclubs outside the ghetto. Towards the end of the war, Steven witnessed heavy bombing. At the end of the war, he remembers a big celebration in the streets.

After the war, the family learned his father’s brother in Berlin had committed suicide and other family members had died in concentration camps. They remained in Shanghai in their home in the ghetto for two years after the war ended. Steven’s father continued to work in nightclubs and his mother enjoyed her regained freedom. In 1947, a cousin was able to help the family secure visas for the United States and the family set sail for San Francisco, California. The family then settled in New York City, where Steven’s mother had a brother. Steven’s family lived in apartments owned by his landlord uncle. His father eventually found work as a pianist in the nightclubs of Manhattan’s German neighborhood. The family joined a synagogue and Steven celebrated his bar mitzvah. The family became US citizens and changed their name to Low.

In the ninth grade, Steven was admitted to Brooklyn Technical High School. He then studied electrical engineering at the City College of New York. After college, Steven began a career with the Federal Aviation Administration. During the Apollo moon missions, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration employed him and he moved to Washington, D.C., where he met his wife. The couple moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico for four years before moving to a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia in 1982. They have two sons and are active members of their synagogue.

Scope of Interview

Steven discusses his family in Berlin, Germany. He shares his knowledge of the journey his parents took with him from Germany to Shanghai, China. He remembers a comfortable life in Shanghai until the occupying Japanese forced them into a ghetto. Steven recalls a relatively happy childhood in the ghetto. He recounts experiencing fear during bombing raids and relief at the war’s end. Steven describes leaving Shanghai for America and sailing to San Francisco, California. After the family finally settled in New York City, New York, Steven recalls his parents pressuring him to succeed at school and be bar mitzvahed. He describes feeling guilty at their admonishments for all that they had suffered and overcome. He also describes his feelings upon learning that his mother was really his stepmother. Steven discusses attending college and beginning his career. He reflects on traveling around the US and the world and then meeting his wife. He reflects on his desire to embrace his Jewish heritage and to reconnect with other Shanghai refugees. Steven describes his involvement with the Jewish community now. He recalls the separation between the Chinese and the Jewish population in the ghetto. He considers how fortunate his sons are to be accepted by their community and contrasts his family’s experiences returning to Germany after the Holocaust.

 


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