Nadine 2

Daughter of a Chinese Ambassador, educated lawyer and honorary colonel in the 1920s Chinese army. What happened to her after 1945?

Nadine Hwang

Born in Madrid, Spain in 1902. Nadine Hwang was the daughter of a Chinese diplomate father and a Belgian mother. She grew up in the upper class of both China and Spain. She trained to be a lawyer and was also as an honorary colonel in the Chinese army in the 1920’s, during the Civil War. In her mid 30’s Nadine moved to Paris and became the mistress of the well-known author Natalie Clifford Barney. For decades Barney hosted a famous literary salon at Rue Jacob in Paris, where intellectuals and artists like Romaine Brooks, Dolly Wilde, T S Eliot, F Scott Fitzgerald and Jean Cocteau were regular visitors. Nadine also worked as Barney’s personal chaffeur and secretary for several years.

For unknown reasons Nadine was deported to the concentration camp Ravensbrück in 1944. In the camp she became friends with Rachel Krausz and her 9-year-old daughter Irene. Nadine helped them to get on the White Buses transports to Sweden. Nadine arrived in Malmö on April 28, 1945, with Rachel and Irene. They stayed at the Malmöhus museum, which was used as quarantine for refugees at the time. Many years later when Irene had her own daughter she named her after Nadine (as seen in the film ‘Harbour of Hope’).

Nadine’s face is one of the most recognisable in the films ‘Every Face Has a Name’ and ‘Harbour of Hope’, Many people have been wondering who this mysterious woman was and what happened to her after the arrival in Malmö.

Until recently our investigation into her enigmatic persona seemed to have come to a standstill. A document from the Chinese Legation in Stockholm states that Nadine left Sweden for China. She disappeared without a trace. After many years of searching for more clues we were contacted by a woman in Paris, Alexandra Lovera, whose father Jose Rafael had got to know Nadine in Caracas, Venezuela. She had actually looked after Alexandra as a baby. Jose Rafael Lovera recollects:

“I first met Nadine in the early 1960s. She was working as a secretary at a bank in Venezuela. Soon after meeting her I realised that Nadine was a highly cultured and educated person who had fluently mastered several languages including Spanish, English and French. I also knew that she was a Law graduate and often heard her boss and other colleagues praise her special expertise.”

After her release from Ravensbrück, Nadine passed through Scandinavia to Brussels. There she met a relative on her mother’s side of the family who had a daughter; Nelly Mousset Vos. She was also a survivor from the German concentration camps, who had participated in the resistance during the war. The two lived together in Brussels but the horrors of the Second World War along with the outbreak of a war in Vietnam drove them to search for a new destination. Nelly Mousset Vos worked at the Embassy of Venezuela in Brussels and due to the country’s favourable status as a nation at peace they thought it would be a suitable destination.

“When I met Nadine she was already settled in Venezuela. She and Nelly often invited groups of friends, amongst others my wife and I. The Consul General of France and his wife, and the fashion designer Guy Meliet, were also part of this group. In their new home Nadine and Nelly hosted a New Year’s dinner at which my wife and I took some photographs.”

Jose Rafael recalls other stories from the war that Nadine had confided in him. She had always been interested in the military and had even learned to fly aeroplanes. During her time in Paris she had socialised with many prominent figures including Gertrude Stein and T.S. Eliot. At the Ravensbrück concentration camp she had been hospitalised and during that time overheard many delicate issues discussed between the army officers and Nazi Gestapo. She also recounted having met the young Mao whom her father had helped with an economic matter.

“Nadine was an excellent cook and she had a special grace; I remember a Chinese dance which she performed on one occasion with such delicate movements. Her outstanding intelligence and impressive talents were other powerful characteristics of her personality.”

Early signs of baldness were a great concern for Nadine and forced her into wearing a wig. She was prescribed a strong medication and suffered a stroke before completing the treatment. This diminished her capabilities considerably and forced her and Nelly to return to Brussels. Jose Rafael and his wife visited them there one last time before Nadine died shortly after.

The reasons behind Nadine’s capture and later detainment at the concentration camp remain unclear but the discovery of a lost shoebox by Alexandra, containing photographs and letters, including correspondence with a Gestapo officer, have shed new light on the case.

“When I was a teen I found a box with some of her belongings (letters, photos etc). At the time it was tabu to talk of her sexuality so most unfortunately my parents got rid of the box. I managed to read some of the letters, the ones in English and French. The others were in German. I remember there was one picture of her with a young man, both of them in what seemed German military attire.”

 

 

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If you can help us with further information about Nadine Hwang we will be very happy to hear from you. Please write an email to our researcher Sebastian.

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Nadine Hwang in quarantine at Malmö museum in May, 1945.

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Nadine Hwang with survivors Rosetta Achmed (left), Elsie Ragusin (right) and Mary O’Shaugnessy (back). In Malmö harbour on April 28, 1945

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The Chinese legation requesting permission from Swedish authorities for Nadine Hwang to move to Stockholm in July 1945.

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Nadine’s passport application at the Swedish immigration authorities

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Passenger list from the ferry to Malmö.

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Nadine pictured with her lover, Claire Mousset (second in from left) and other friends at a New Year's party in their apartment in Caracas, Venezuela circa 1965

Nadine pictured with her lover, Nelly Mousset Vos (second in from left) and other friends at a New Year’s party in their apartment in Caracas, Venezuela circa 1965.