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December 11: Ruth Weiss and the Chinese Revolution

December 11, 2014

00016c8b5de00f615b1857Ruth F. Weiss, aka Wèi Lùshī, who was the last surviving European eyewitness of the 1949 Chinese Revolution, was born in Vienna on this date in 1908. Weiss visited Shanghai in 1933, where numerous European Jews and leftists had come to escape Nazism. She stayed on as a freelance journalist; her parents would be killed by the Nazis in 1939. Weiss worked as a teacher at the Jewish School in Shanghai, and married Yeh Hsuan, a Chinese engineer, with whom she had two children and went to the U.S. so he could pursue studies at MIT. Once the Chinese Revolution reached a climax in 1949, however, Weiss returned with her children to China, leaving Yeh in the U.S. She became a correspondent at the United Nations Picture News Office and, in 1954, received Chinese citizenship. Nearly three decades later, still in China, she was named one of eleven foreign policy experts by the Chinese Communist Party. She wrote a memoir in 1999, and died in China at 97 in 2006.

“The eventful history of [her] group of ‘friends of China,’ their assistance to Mao’s socialism, and their persecution during the Cultural Revolution because they were foreigners has not been explored by historians.” —Jewish Women’s Archive