A community takes shape

Before the outbreak of war in Europe, Jewish refugees tended to live in the affordable yet middle-class district of Kowloon Tong. They worked as merchants, teachers, doctors, engineers, musicians, butchers and artists, and their children also attended local schools. Evidence suggests that a loosely defined ‘community’ took shape among Jewish refugees in Hong Kong. Newspaper reports indicate that some refugees met and married each other in the colony, while others opened businesses together.  

So in December 1938, Erich Porges, an Austrian pianist, fled from Vienna to Hong Kong with two of his bandmates. All three musicians were hired by Aaron Landau, the Jewish proprietor of Jimmy’s Kitchen and the Parisian Grill. Erich became a renowned musician in Hong Kong. He performed light opera and popular dance music on Hong Kong’s Z.B.W. radio station, and gave music lessons to aspiring young musicians. In September 1939, Porges was interned as an ‘enemy alien’ at La Salle College and in June the following year he was ordered to leave Hong Kong. Porges subsequently left for Shanghai, one of the only places still open to refugees. He spent the war years in the Hongkew Ghetto, where he met his future wife, Hedy. After the war, the couple emigrated to Australia where Porges worked as a salesman. He continued to perform music until his death in 1992.      

Timeline Hongkong

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