Rising up out of Adversity: The Story of Michael Blumenthal, the US Secretary of Treasury

- Michael Blumenthal
Michael Blumenthal was born on January 3, 1926 in Oranienburg, near Berlin. In 1939, when he was 13, Blumenthal and his parents followed other refugees to Shanghai. They lived at 59 Chusan Road (now Zhoushan Road), where he made a living by delivering bread. In 1947, the family emigrated to the USA as refugees. He once served as the US Secretary of Treasury and Director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany.

In his autobiography From Exile to Washington, Blumenthal writes that he was euphoric to be out of China and determined never to return. However, since 1970s, he has been back to China a dozen times. He first returned to Shanghai in 1973 as a member of the National Committee on United States-China Relations Delegation. Then, in 1979, Blumenthal returned as the Secretary of Treasury in President Jimmy Carter’s administration. He led a negotiation with China to agree on mutual asset unfreezing. He also attended the opening ceremony of the US Embassy in China on President Carter’s behalf. His recent visit to China was in February, 2015.

Blumenthal has depicted his life in Shanghai as a refugee as well as his feelings towards Shanghai and China, “I thought life was passing me by and that these were wasted years. Yet I now realize that I was wrong. The tough refugee war years were precious lessons for the future; I lived them intensely, and they taught me much that was valuable and that I might never have learned in normal circumstances. Today I am grateful for that.” He says in the book, “In the course of these many visits I have become acquainted with China and the Chinese people as I never did when I lived there, and have grown quite fond of them. I have learned more about the Middle Kingdom’s ancient culture, and become more aware of the great hardships the Chinese people endured throughout much of the twentieth century, and of the energy and resilience with which they have weathered those storms.”