Understanding North Korea through Stamps

Online Collection: https://luna.lib.uchicago.edu/north-korean-stamp-collection 

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fifth Floor
Dates: September 23 – December 23, 2019
Visitors without a UChicago ID can enter to see the exhibit by obtaining a visitor pass from the ID and Privileges Office in Regenstein Library during its hours

Stamp on the 20th anniversary commemoration of Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong-il's elevation to Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army

위대한 령도자 김 정일 동지 를 조선 인민군 최고 사령관 으로 높이 모신 20돐 기념 / The 20th anniversary commemoration of Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong-il’s elevation to Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) / Widaehan yŏngdoja Kim Chŏng-Il Tongji rŭl Chosŏn Inmin’gun Ch’oego Saryŏnggwan ŭro nop’i mosin 20-tol kinyŏm

The East Asian Collection at the University of Chicago Library acquired more than 2,000 North Korean stamps this year, each of which has been digitized and accompanied by a wide range of in-depth data to form the first digital collection of its kind developed by any library worldwide. Compiled from 19 stamp books on 30 individual sheets, the North Korean Stamp Collection spans more than five decades, from 1962 to 2017, as well as a striking variety of subject areas. During the fall quarter, this stamp collection will be displayed on the Fifth Floor of the Joseph Regenstein Library. In cooperation with the Visual Resources Center (VRC), the stamps will also be accessible via an online Collection with identifying information such as Korean and English titles, description, publication, year and Juche as well as keywords.

Stamp depicting the 90th anniversary of the One Thousand-ri Journey for national liberation

위대한 수령 김 일성 동지 께서 광복 의 천리 길 을 걸으신 90돐 기념 / The 90th anniversary of the One Thousand-ri Journey for national liberation / Widaehan suryŏng Kim Il-sŏng Tongji kkesŏ Kwangbok ŭi Chʻŏlli Kil ŭl kŏrŭsin 90-tol kinyŏm

Introducing the North Korean Stamp Collection carries great symbolic meaning in terms of the expansion of Korean Studies. Due to the country’s long history of dictatorial rule and closed borders, information on North Korea has remained limited to much of the outside world. Through the many images found in the collection, even (everyday/non-specialist) library users will gain an easy opportunity to come into visual contact with the shifting politics and culture of North Korea, not to mention changing perspectives on subjects ranging from natural resources to tourist attractions and day-to-day life.

In the decades following North Korea’s issuing of its first stamp in 1946, these printed items were limited to postal usage. After 1970, however, production increased greatly as stamps turned into profitable items for export to both Asian and European countries.

Stamp depicting rhododendron

진달래 / Rhododendron mucronulatum / Chindallae

There are a number of notable points in the Collection. For those interested in North Korean politics, the propagation of ideas and theories appears diversely throughout the years, on stamps displaying shifting slogans, mottos or educational comments about the Korean Worker’s Party (조선노동당). Here, we can see how North Korea promotes views on important historical figures and events by adapting them to effectively communicate with other countries. Amongst the commemorative stamps found in the Collection are such events as the UN International Year of Peace, national anniversaries of the People’s Republic of China and the 25th Anniversary of July 4th North-South Joint Statement. Not all items are strictly political however, as the animal collection includes images of a Poongsan dog (풍산개), a traditional Korean dog breed, dinosaurs, and a red-bellied turtle. Also on view are all important locations found in the capital of Pyongyang, such as the Central Zoo and memorial structures such as the Triumphal Arch, National Theatre, Future Scientists Street, and Seven-story pagoda of Hyeonhwa Temple (현화사 7층탑). Elsewhere, we also see selected masterpieces of European painting are displayed alongside traditional Korean works dating back to the 16th century. 

Interested researchers and students who want to see the stamps in person are more than welcome to visit the East Asian Collection  at the Joseph Regenstein Library.  Contact Jee-Young Park at jeeyoungpark@uchicago.edu to make arrangements.

Stamp depicting the Battle of Hansan Island

한산섬 앞 바다 싸움 / Battle of Hansan Island / Hansansŏm ap pada ssaum

Collecting North Korean Stamps for the University of Chicago Library

Two of the main research areas in the History Department at the University of Chicago are the Korean War and North Korean studies. Korean Studies professors and graduate students strive to broaden their understanding of North Korean politics, economics, education and religion. As I worked to build collections that would support their research, while collecting materials about North Korea, I was able to acquire one North Korean stamp album by chance. I expected the stamps would focus primarily on politically related subjects. However, the subjects in the stamps show a more diverse view of everyday North Korean society. Seventeen stamp albums (1,700 stamps) were acquired from China, and 300 early stamps came from a private collector in Germany. This private collector was a sailor who was on overseas ships and collected stamps and money from different countries. These acquisitions have been compiled, digitized and developed to provide Korean Studies scholars at the University with a valuable resource.

Stamps depicting the traditional Korean Bongsan masked dance

봉산 탈춤 / The traditional Korean Bongsan masked dance / Pongsan t’alch’um

Project Team

Many colleagues from the Library and the VRC were involved in the digitization of North Korean Stamp Collection. Korean Studies Librarian Jee-Young Park curated the project. At VRC, Associate Director Bridget Madden and Assistant Director Kat Buckley, assisted by student workers, managed the scanning of the 2,000 images and uploaded them to LUNA. Korea Foundation Visiting Librarian Intern Jisu Yeom and EALC graduate student Ethan Waddell did in-depth meta-development work. Other colleagues from the Library provided advice about the acquisition from Germany, copyright issues, and final LUNA site review.


Discovery, Collection, Memory: The Oriental Institute at 100

Exhibition Dates: September 16 – December 13, 2019
Location: Special Collections Research Center Gallery, 1100 E. 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Breasted in his Haskell Office

James Henry Breasted in his Haskell Office, ca. 1926. Courtesy of the Oriental Institute Museum Archives.

The Oriental Institute is one of the world’s premier institutions for the study of the Ancient Middle East. Its roots developed as the University of Chicago was being founded, when President Harper mentored a young scholar named James Henry Breasted to pursue a degree in Egyptology. Breasted went on to direct the Haskell Museum around 1900 and secured funding from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in May 1919 to begin the Oriental Institute.

This exhibition explores the Oriental Institute’s 100 years of excavation, research, and scholarship. Focusing on the geographical areas of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan, OI scholars have worked rigorously to discover cultural heritage, decipher ancient languages, and to reconstruct the histories of long-lost civilizations. The exhibition remembers the OI’s past through archival fragments, artifacts, and ephemera as it celebrates its centennial.

Curator: Anne Flannery, Head of Museum Archives, Oriental Institute

Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., and, when University of Chicago classes are in session, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m. Visitors without a UChicago ID can enter to see the exhibit by obtaining a visitor pass from the ID and Privileges Office in Regenstein Library. 

Exterior of Oriental Institute viewed from street

Oriental Institute, 1931. Courtesy of the Oriental Institute Museum Archives.

Associated Museum

The Oriental Institute
The University of Chicago
1155 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637

Use of Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download to members of the media and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.

For more information and images, contact Rachel Rosenberg at ra-rosenberg@uchicago.edu or 773-834-1519.


Man at top of ladder and three men near base of ladder near wall

The Epigraphic Survey staff photographing inscriptions. Courtesy of the Oriental Institute Epigraphic Survey.


Aerial view of pyramids at Abu Sir

Aerial view taken by James Henry Breasted of the pyramids at Abu Sir. It was taken with a bellows camera in an open-cockpit plane. 1920. Courtesy of the Oriental Institute Museum Archives.

When Fascism Wins: 80 Years from the Spanish Anti-Fascist Exile

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Third Floor
Exhibit Dates: April 1 – June 15, 2019

Photograph of María Teresa León

María Teresa León, 1938 (Source: Archivo Isabel Clara Ángeles Alarcón, Barcelona)

Curated by Collegiate Assistant Professor Miguel Caballero, with a selection of poems and prose translated into English by Maya Osman-Krinsky (Class of 2021)

In the spring of 1939, General Francisco Franco and his allied Nazi and Fascist forces took Madrid and Catalonia. After three years of war, the Spanish Republic eventually collapsed. Hundreds of thousands died or went into exile, among them dozens of writers and artists. Many fled to Europe, which was on the cusp of the Second World War. Many others moved to Latin America, the Soviet Union and even the United States, where they spent decades, as Franco’s military dictatorship continued in Spain.

The Regenstein Library has a rich collection of works by these authors who died fighting fascism or had to flee Spain. Some never came back. This exhibition, on the 80th anniversary of the beginning of their mass exile, is a homage to their political commitment and literary endeavors. Curated by Collegiate Assistant Professor Miguel Caballero, with a selection of poems and prose translated into English by Maya Osman-Krinsky (Class of 2021), it presents a selection of works written in the 1930s or during exile organized around three themes: uprooting and death; domestic epics; and self-sufficiency and power.

“A Case for Reparations at the University of Chicago”: Sources

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: April 25 – June 30, 2019

Old University of Chicago Library bookplate alongside gift recognition bookplate from the current University of Chicago Library

Old University of Chicago Library bookplate alongside gift recognition bookplate from the current University of Chicago Library

“The origin narrative of the University of Chicago does not begin with John D. Rockefeller in 1890. It does not even begin in the city of Chicago. It actually begins on a 3,000-acre cotton plantation in Lawrence County, Mississippi. Hundreds of enslaved African American men, women, and children lived and died on that plantation to make the University of Chicago, and its $7 billion endowment, possible. The University of Chicago refuses to acknowledge this part of its heritage.”

(Caine Jordan, Guy Emerson Mount, and Kai Perry Parker. “‘A Disgrace to all slave-holders’: The University of Chicago’s Founding Ties to Slavery and the Path to Reparations.” The Journal of African American History 103, no.1-2 [2018]: 163-178)

In 2017, members of the Reparations at UChicago Working Group (RAUC) published “A Case for Reparations at the University of Chicago,” in Black Perspectives, the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society. RAUC argued that there are inextricable ties between UChicago and the Old University of Chicago, which was founded in 1856 on land donated by Stephen A. Douglas, owner of a slave plantation in Mississippi.

This exhibit presents original manuscripts, publications, and legal documents that trace the connections and continuities between the Old University of Chicago and the new University, founded in 1890.  In this first case, we highlight the primary sources used by RAUC to establish the University of Chicago’s ties to slavery. The adjacent case brings together materials documenting the interconnectedness of the two institutions with evidence drawn from early university and seminary catalogs, and books with rarely-seen bookplates and inscriptions from Regenstein Library’s circulating collection.

Stone from Douglas Hall in Old University of Chicago as part of current University building

This stone from Douglas Hall at the Old University of Chicago, named after the University’s benefactor Stephen A. Douglas, is part of the Classics building in the Hyde Park campus of the University of Chicago

This two-case exhibit is presented in conjunction with the (U)Chicago Reparations Summit taking place on campus April 26, 2019. Learn more @TheRAUC on Twitter. Visitors without a UChicago ID can enter to see the exhibit by obtaining a day pass from the ID and Privileges Office in Regenstein Library during its hours.

The Adaptations of Augie March: A Novel by Saul Bellow, A Play by David Auburn, A Production Directed by Charles Newell, An Exhibition by Special Collections and Court Theatre

Exhibition Dates: April 29 — August 30, 2019
Location: Special Collections Research Center Gallery, 1100 E. 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Rendering of costume for Augie March with blue shirt and blue pants

Sally Dolembo’s costume design for “The Adventures of Augie March,” final rendering of Augie March

Saul Bellow’s 1953 masterpiece, The Adventures of Augie March, launched his reputation as a novelist and established the future Nobel Laureate’s literary renown. In 2015, Court Theatre commissioned the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning playwright David Auburn, AB ’91, to adapt Augie March for the stage. This exhibit showcases treasures from Special Collections Research Center’s Saul Bellow Papers in juxtaposition with materials generated by theatre artists working toward Court’s May 2019 world premiere. On display are early handwritten drafts of Bellow’s novel; the original drafts of David Auburn’s stage adaptation; Charles Newell’s artistic notes and plans for building the world of the play; costume designer Sally Dolembo’s sketches; the mind-bending design work of shadow puppetry collective Manual Cinema; and John Culbert’s minimalist, non-literal design for a set capable of evoking disparate places. The exhibit invites visitors to step into the world of Augie March—as Bellow imagined it, Auburn adapted it, and Newell envisioned it on stage. 

Curator: Nora Titone, Dramaturg at the Court Theatre

Photo of David Auburn

David Auburn


Associated Production

The Adventures of Augie March
Court Theatre
May 9 — June 9, 2019

Use of Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download to members of the media and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news. For more information and images, contact Rachel Rosenberg at ra-rosenberg@uchicago.edu or 773-834-1519.

Photo of Saul Bellow with his signature in passport

U.S. Passport, 1951, Saul Bellow Papers, Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library

Independent Nations Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Second Floor
Exhibit Dates: March 28 – June 27, 2019

Map of Baltic States

The Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have long and complex histories.  They have rarely been allowed independence or any individuality. Now in the 21st century, each nation finds itself creating its own path, as an independent country.

How Jewish refugees found a wartime home in Shanghai

Brother and sister

Karin Zacharias (right) and her brother Hans Peter Zacharias, pictured in 1941 on the day of his bar mitzvah in Shanghai. (Courtesy of Jacqueline Pardo)

Scholar’s novel, exhibit explore lives of those who fled World War II Europe

Asst. Prof. Rachel DeWoskin has visited Shanghai every summer for nearly a decade, walking along streets that more than 18,000 Jewish refugees once called home. Spanning roughly a square mile, those blocks were where they established schools and businesses, rebuilding their lives in one of the few cities that accepted World War II refugees without visas.

food ration coupons

These food ration coupons entitled refugees in Shanghai to basic necessities such as flour, sugar and coal briquettes. (Photo by Vidura Jang Bahadur)

DeWoskin’s years of research culminated in the January publication of Someday We Will Fly, her fictionalized account of a young Jewish girl fleeing war-torn Poland. Described as “a beautifully nuanced exploration of culture and people,” the book is the fifth from DeWoskin—an award-winning novelist and assistant professor of practice in the arts who has taught at the University of Chicago since 2014.

In writing her novel, DeWoskin also relied in part on the family possessions of UChicago staff psychiatrist Jacqueline Pardo, whose German mother Karin Pardo (née Zacharias) lived in Shanghai as a child. A selection of those objects and photographs are displayed on the third floor of Regenstein Library.

That exhibit is sponsored by the Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies, which is also supporting two events: a March 13 conversation between DeWoskin and former Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal followed by a concert of wartime music by Civitas Ensemble, and a May 14 symposium on the legacy of the Shanghai Jews.

DeWoskin spoke recently about her writing process, and what people can learn from this overlooked aspect of World War II history.

A display you saw in 2011 at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum planted the seeds for Someday We Will Fly. What was it that stuck with you?

There were two photographs in particular, of children who had escaped Nazi-occupied Europe and were living out World War II in Shanghai. The first was of a group of teenage boys, holding table tennis paddles and wearing matching polo shirts monogrammed with school insignias. The boys have the hollowed-out look of kids growing up in the context of war, but they also look like teenagers anywhere, mischievous and sweet.

Two paper dolls and an envelope

These German paper dolls, which would have been a rare toy and thrilling to receive, were mailed to Karin Zacharias from Berlin by her grandmother, Helene Zacharias. Helene later died in Theresienstadt. (Photo by Vidura Jang Bahadur)

I tried to imagine the lives of their parents, who had fled murder and persecution and brought their children to Shanghai, which had to be unimaginably unfamiliar and difficult for them. From there, they had built a school, created a table tennis team, and then gone to the trouble to make shirts. Those tiny insignias seemed to me iconic of the way human beings save each other and our children—not to mention the resilience refugees demonstrate, in ways both too small to be seen and too vast to be measured.

Next to that image was one of two toddlers holding rag dolls. The girls were in rags themselves, but someone who loved them—their parents, maybe, or friends or neighbors—had sewn dolls for them, and painted on those dolls lovely, expressive faces. The records of these children’s lives, and the objects that revealed their community’s devotion to them, inspired Lillia Kazka, the 16-year-old refugee at the center of Someday We Will Fly.

Lillia let me ask, in as many complicated ways as possible, the horrifying question of how human beings survive the chaos of war. Who loves us enough to keep us safe in the face of staggering danger and violence, and how can children come of age in circumstances as un-nurturing as those of occupied cities? How do we figure out how to live, to use languages both familiar and unfamiliar to tell stories that make our lives endurable? How do we hold on to the possibility of hope, even when we feel the constant pulse of dread?

Jacqueline Pardo and W. Michael Blumenthal were among the many people whose stories, books and lives helped shape your research and writing. How did the two of them inform your work?

I met Jacqueline Pardo by almost miraculous coincidence on campus. I went to her house in 2014 and was stunned to discover that she has a world-class archive of objects, documents and photographs that belonged to her mother in Shanghai during World War II.The objects, documents, and photos of Karin’s girlhood gave me the sweep and scope of a lived girlhood in Shanghai during the war: her school bag; notebooks and diaries; a thank you note she and her fellow Girl Guides wrote to American soldiers who had given them chocolate; and her exemplary report card, tarnished only by her music teacher’s hilarious note, “Can’t sing.”

Cigar box with letters

This cigar box was owned by Karin’s father, Leo Zacharias. Like many other Jewish refugees, Leo—a lawyer in Germany—found unfamiliar work in Shanghai. He established a cigar shop, a lending library, and, with two other families, a short-lived restaurant called the Wayside Diele. (Photo by Vidura Jang Bahadur)

I also talked with and read the books of the supremely generous Michael Blumenthal, a former Treasury secretary under President Jimmy Carter. Michael is a Shanghai Jew who grew up in the neighborhood of Hongkou, which in 1943 became a ghetto—all Jewish refugees were forced to move there. He gave me a view of China and humanity both profound and intricately detailed. He remembered the boys walking in circles around Hongkou, like teenage boys anywhere, hoping for the notice of their crushes.

He also described what it felt like to come to understand as a child that some adults rally in the face of hardship, while others disintegrate. While working in the White House, he asked himself of each powerful person he met: “How would he or she do in 1940s Shanghai, dressed in flour sacks?” His wonder and empathy informed and continue to inform mine.

Why did you also want to build an exhibit out of Jacqueline Pardo’s family possessions?

Whenever I find something astonishing or profound in the world, I want to show it to my students. This is why the Program in Creative Writing works so hard to bring our favorite writers and their brilliant work to campus, and why I was determined to have Blumenthal come and talk with us. When I saw Jacqueline’s mother’s belongings, and percolated how instrumental they had been to me in writing Someday We Will Fly, I wanted to show them to my students. I also assigned my writers to bring in objects, documents, and photographs that were parts of or necessary to their novels-in-progress.

Ring shaped like a snake

This ring was made for Karin by her brother, who, after he finished school in Shanghai, held an apprenticeship with a silversmith. (Photo by Vidura Jang Bahadur)

Writers are doing research all the time. It’s not always formal, but all of our looking, asking, and listening—it counts. I wanted to say to my students how much their work in the world matters, that they’re creating a record so they can convey meaning or ask questions. We gain emotional and intellectual knowledge by looking at picture or object and asking: “How did this picture come to be?” Or looking at somebody’s mother’s book bag, report card, or paper dolls, and being transported by those objects into 1940s Shanghai.

Seeing one family’s record of wartime daily life gives us a way to wonder about how to help people who are now at risk, who are now separated, who are now fleeing violence and danger. I hope our exhibit elicits both empathy and activism.

Was there any part of the research process that surprised you?

What was surprising to me was the combination of the unbelievable difficulty families faced, and at the same time the normalcy a lot of them worked to achieve. As I’ve worked on the book, I’ve felt more and more that the world of 1940s Shanghai is maybe not that different from the contemporary world that we’re inhabiting right now. There are children facing the same sorts of risks as the kid at the center of my book. There are parents facing the same astronomical obstacles. There are people behaving heroically, and there are those behaving unforgivably.


This passport, stamped with a red J for “Jewish,” belonged to Leo Zacharias. The Nazis required all Jewish men to take the middle name Israel. (Courtesy of Jacqueline Pardo)

If we look at history and imagine ourselves into it in ways both empathetic and literary, we can create ways to move toward a more socially just world.

Former Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal spoke with DeWoskin on March 13 at 5:30 p.m. in Fulton Hall, a conversation followed by a performance of wartime classical music from the Civitas Ensemble. On March 14, the Franke Institute hosted a daylong symposium exploring the legacy of the Shanghai Jews through historical scholarship, literature and music.

DeWoskin will discuss Someday We Will Fly on May 1 at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore.

A University of Chicago news story

Book display for Women’s History Month

Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, First Floor, near the Dissertation Office
Dates: March 8–31, 2019

View our new book display in celebration of Women’s History Month. MAPH student Juno Yingzhi Dong, the Library’s new Research Services Support Fellow, created this display of books from Regenstein’s collections highlighting women’s experiences in wartime. Juno describes the focus of the display:

Part of the forgotten history in the modern societies, the role of women during wartime often receives little recognition. From serving in the military to filling the vacated jobs on the home front, from seeking a new life after years spent at the internment camps to being forced to become “comfort women,” the sexual slaves in the military bases, with and without their consent, millions of women around the world participated in WWII. Rarely under the spotlight in wartime historical discourse, the stories of these women deserve to be told and heard.

Women's History Month Book Display

A selection of the books on display on Regenstein Library’s 1st floor.

To learn more about materials on women’s history in our collections, visit our accompanying Women’s Studies Guide, which can point you more resources such as e-books, music, video etc.

If you need help locating research materials on women’s history of any particular country or region, or help in general with your research paper, ask a librarian!

Robert G. Schloerb Honorary Exhibit

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois
Dates: March 5–31, 2019

“I recently had that feeling of power in a man who was working for peace. He has been maligned many times. He has been called a dreamer. His methods of striving for peace may not be right, but he works with a faith that God is working for peace. He believes that selfishness and national greed and hatred are ultimately self-defeating. The universe is against such policies. So, although he suffers and is rejected, he retains power and poise.”

Rolland W. Schloerb, God in Our Lives (New York; London: Harper & Brothers, 1938), 114.

Ten books have been added to the Religion Collection at the University of Chicago Library in honor of trustee emeritus Robert G. Schloerb (JD, ’51) on the occasion of his 95th birthday (March 5, 2019). An exhibit to commemorate Mr. Schloerb is on display in the Fourth Floor Reading Room of the Regenstein Library during March. Patrons will be able to peruse or check out the books added in Mr. Schloerb’s honor. Anne K. Knafl, Bibliographer for Religion, Philosophy, and Jewish Studies, selected these titles to reflect Mr. Schloerb’s exceptional support of the Divinity School, especially its Ministry Program. The books reflect the broad interdenominational and global breadth of the Ministry Program and its commitment to integrating academic rigor and public discourse.

Bookplate in honor of trustee emeritus Robert G. Schloerb

Bookplate in honor of trustee emeritus Robert G. Schloerb

Robert Schloerb and Mary Schloerb have a longstanding partnership with the University and the Divinity School, including decades of generosity and service. Through a generous gift, they created the Rolland Walter Schloerb Ministry Fellowship, in honor of Robert’s father, to support ministry students at the Divinity School. Rolland W. Schloerb (quoted above) served as pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church, now Hyde Park Union Church, from 1928 until his death in 1958. Sara Lytle, the current recipient of the Schloerb Ministry Fellowship, studies Buddhist studies and pastoral care, with particular interests in gender/sexuality, mental health, and death/dying. In addition, Robert and Mary Schloerb contribute to the Divinity School’s Annual Fund and the Baptist Theological Union International Ministry Fellowship. This fellowship supports travel for two Divinity Students, annually. Recent recipient Jair Pinedo traveled to Mexico, where he examined issues of immigration and migration, specifically as relates to children in migrant families. Co-winner Yitzhak Bronstein, studied intentional communities in Israel and how these communities transform the societies they inhabit.

Robert and Mary Schloerb have supported initiatives in the Biological Sciences, the Hospitals, the Law School, the Library, and the Oriental Institute. Robert Schloerb served on the University’s Board of Trustees from 1983 to 1994, and currently is a trustee emeritus. He is a current member of the Baptist Theological Union Board. His and Mary’s youngest son John serves as the current Vice President of the BTU Board. Robert Schloerb is also a life member of the Library Council, Oriental Institute Council, Divinity School Council and Medical Center Council. Mary Schloerb is a current member of the University of Chicago Medical Center’s Chicago Lying-In Board. She has served on the Women’s Board and Oriental Institute Council.

We thank Mr. Schloerb and his family for their continued commitment to the University of Chicago community. These books represent that ongoing commitment as they too will support current and future Divinity School students.

The Shanghai Jews: Risk and Resilience in a Refugee Community

Update:  The exhibition closing date has been moved up to March 24.

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Third Floor
Dates: January 15 – March 24, 2019

This three-case exhibit is part of an event series at the University of Chicago exploring the experience of many thousands of Jewish refugees who escaped to Shanghai during World War II.

The Exhibit

Exhibit poster, including a 1939 photograph of Karin Zacharias and Rudy Oppenheim en route to Shanghai, courtesy of Jacqueline Pardo.

This series opens with an exhibit featuring unique historical objects, documents, and photographs donated by families who lived in Shanghai during the war.

Author and UChicago faculty member Rachel DeWoskin, who co-curated the exhibition, describes the contents and tells the story of the exhibit:

“This exhibit came to life because I had the almost miraculous fortune to meet Dr. Jacqueline Pardo while researching my historical novel, Someday We Will Fly. Jacqueline’s mother, Karin Pardo (nee Zacharias), lived out World War II in Shanghai after fleeing Germany with her parents and brother in 1939. Many thousands of Jewish families survived the war by escaping to Shanghai when much of the rest of the world closed its borders.

Life in Shanghai was almost unimaginably unfamiliar for the Zachariases. Karin’s mother was a concert-level pianist in Germany; in Shanghai, she had to focus her energy on feeding and keeping her family safe. Karin’s father, trained as a lawyer in Germany, created a lending library in Shanghai, out of the more than 3,000 books he had managed to bring from Germany. He also started businesses from a cigar shop to an inspired if short-lived restaurant. Both parents worked relentlessly to make sure Karin and her brother had food, books, and friends; that they were educated; and that they grew up with as much normalcy as possible in the context of war.

The objects, documents, and photos of Karin’s girlhood — her school bag; notebooks and diaries; a thank you note she and other members of her Girl Guide troupe wrote to American soldiers who had given them chocolate; and her exemplary report card (on which her music teacher writes hilariously, “She can’t sing.”) — highlight the sweep and scope of a lived girlhood in Shanghai during the war. We have also displayed here Karin’s Chinese language notes; Japanese language notes; Girl Guide logbooks; a shirt with embroidered dragons twisting up its sides, and paper dolls her grandmother sent her from Germany, before dying at Theresienstadt.

The books from the family’s lending library, as well as Karin’s father’s sweater, bag, and cigar box, are juxtaposed to census documents, passports, food ration coupons for basic necessities; and money. We hope to give a sense of the fiber of daily life for refugees in Shanghai, including moments of joy and generosity: a Passover menu; a concert program; a lovingly painted wallet made by a friend; and a ring made for Karin by her brother, who, after finishing school in Shanghai, did an apprenticeship with a silversmith.

Records of the lives of families who survived WWII in Shanghai informed my creation of Lillia Kazka, the young refugee at the center of my novel Someday We Will Fly. Lillia escapes Warsaw for Japanese-occupied Shanghai because it is the only remaining place her family can land in 1939. Of course Lillia and the other characters in my novel are fictional, but the Shanghai they inhabit was real, and the objects in this exhibit brought that city and era to life for me.

We hope visitors will find this record of one family’s survival moving, and that it honors the many thousands of other Jewish families who survived WWII by seeking refuge in Shanghai. In important ways, the world of 1940’s Shanghai is perhaps not so different from the world we live in. The dangers faced by children and their parents remain real, as do the courage and resilience refugees demonstrate in ways both too small to be seen and too vast to be measured. These objects from wartime family life allow us to imagine how, in catastrophic contexts, we keep alive the possibilities of childhood, hope, and love.”


This exhibit is co-curated by Rachel DeWoskin, Jacqueline Pardo, and Vidura Jang Bahadur.

DeWoskin is the author of four novels including Someday We Will Fly (Penguin, 2019); and the memoir Foreign Babes in Beijing (WW Norton, 2005). She is on the core fiction faculty at the University of Chicago, and is an affiliated faculty member of the Centers for East Asian Studies and Jewish Studies. Pardo is a Staff Psychiatrist, Student Counseling Service; and Clinical Associate of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago.

The Keynote Conversation and Concert

On March 13, at 5:30 p.m. in Fulton Hall, the University will host Michael Blumenthal, who came of age in Japanese-occupied Shanghai and then went on to become President Carter’s Secretary of the Treasury. Following his keynote conversation with Creative Writing faculty member and novelist Rachel DeWoskin, there will be a concert of war-time classical music, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s assistant concertmaster, violinist Yuan-Qing Yu, and her quartet, Civitas Ensemble.

The Symposium

On March 14, a day-long symposium will be held at the Franke Institute, featuring conversations between University of Chicago faculty and invited guests on topics including the experience of the Shanghai Jews; Iraqi Jewish business networks and the financial history of the Jewish elites in China; the literature of war-time childhood and adolescence; the role of fiction in creating and remembering history; the musical and artistic history and legacy of the Shanghai Jews; and readings of both Holocaust-era and contemporary poetry and prose.


This series was made possible by support from the Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies; The Franke Institute; The Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS); the Departments of Anthropology, East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC), and History; the Program on Creative Writing; the University of Chicago Library; and a Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the U.S. Department of Education.