On the dark, rainy afternoon of November 28,1938, a slight 18-year-old Austrian man took in his first impressions of Shanghai. Paul Hoffmann had left his family and all that was familiar to him in Vienna and was now among a forlorn stream of thousands of Jewish refugees into China to escape Nazism. For the next thirteen years, Shanghai would be his home, and he made the most of the last years of the foreign-dominated world of old Shanghai. Witness to History is the moving memoir of a man caught up in the tides of history, who witnessed and experienced the Nazi revolution in Europe, the Japanese invasion of China and the Communist victory in China in 1949, and emerged from the challenges all the wiser. In Shanghai, he taught mathematics, lived the high life, and worked for an American lawyer, Norwood Altman, who was also secretly the US spy chief in China before and after the Communist takeover.
“Hoffmann’s memoir furnishes the reader with a deep sense of a life forced into movement by the Nazi Regime. It is through his story, that we become acquainted with life as a refugee in Shanghai during the Holocaust. This aspect of the Holocaust is underrepresented in Holocaust literature. His quips provide a glimpse into to his personality and a human quality to his story.” — Sarah Snyder, Director of the Holocaust Education Resource and Outreach (HERO) Center