Tanja Olson

German Jew immigrant from Shanghai

That trip was quite interesting in some ways. I thought it was very exciting being almost 11 years old. We got onto a ship in Shanghai, the SS General Gordon. And we were on third class, so we had – were not in the greatest of places. But, we landed in San Francisco. The trip over was like I said, interesting because we stopped in three different places – we stopped in two different places. We stopped in Yokohama, Japan and we stopped in Hawaii and then we landed at San Francisco. And we went to Worcester due to the fact that there were –some of the churches in the Worcester area were, at that point, getting involved in trying to sponsor people and the people that- in, it was I think a Baptist church-the family that decided to sponsor us were here in Worcester. And when we got to San Francisco we got a ticket on a train and went all the way across the country from San Francisco to Chicago, from Chicago to Worcester.


Tanja Olson was born in Berlin, Germany on November 12, 1938 and later lived in Worcester for a good portion of her life. As a Jew in Nazi Europe, she and her family were forced to flee their home and came to reside in Shanghai, China. During their time in Shanghai, both Tanja’s mother and father passed away, but luckily Tanja’s grandmother, Margaret Mendel, was there to take care of her. Once leaving Shanghai, Tanja and her grandmother came to live in Worcester. In this interview, Tanja discusses the portion of her life spent in Shanghai. Tanja also shares her family history, work and volunteer experience, and life in Worcester as a whole. Tanja also talks about the role of religion in her life, something that is obviously prominent as someone that was forced to flee from home because of religion. Tanja even reflects upon her husband’s life and experience in Worcester before his death. Thus, Tanja presents a compelling personal history that is historically informative both in general and specifically about Worcester.

Interview Date: 
March 11, 2014
Interview Focus: