The launch of the pilot phase of the Global Archives China Project was marked by a German-Chinese workshop, which took place at the German Literature Archive in Marbach and was sponsored by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Arts and Sciences. The focal point of the workshop was the emigration of German artists and scholars to China, particularly to Shanghai, in the 1930s and 40s, and the traces this left in collections held at Marbach. In order to avoid religious and political persecution, many Jewish citizens and supporters of the Communist party left Germany and Austria after 1933, and in even larger numbers after 1938. Shanghai became a popular destination for those who fled, since it (at least temporarily) did not impose visa restrictions.

For most emigrants, Shanghai was only a place of transit. Many left China at the end of the 1940s and travelled to America. Some settled in the GDR. The dramaturge Alfred Dreifuß (1902-1993) and the translator and publisher Walter Czollek (1907-1972), for example, belonged to a group of politically and culturally active emigrants who returned to East Germany. The German Literature Archive holds letters which Dreifuß and Czollek exchanged with Mary Tucholsky or the Suhrkamp publishing house, for instance, during the years they lived in the GDR. Other correspondence includes letters discussing the situation of Jewish emigrants and of migrant literature sent from Shanghai and later from Melbourne by the literary critic and journalist Fritz Friedländer to Kurt Pinthus, who had emigrated to New York.

One exceptional figure among those artists and scientists who emigrated to China is the writer Klara Blum. Her work has so far received little scholarly attention. Blum, who came to China via Moscow, wrote novels and poems and taught German language and literature in the 1940s. Part of her unpublished work is held by the German Literature Archive along with other important documents, reflecting her views on the country and its society.

A selected bibliography regarding emigration to China can be found here