Born in Berlin, John Hans Less (1923 – 2011) fled to Shanghai in September 1940 as a 16-year-old together with his family to escape Nazi persecution. Largely dependent on relief organizations to survive, the Less family soon went through further disruptions when the Japanese occupied the city and later confined Jewish refugees to the Hongkew Ghetto. The sudden uprooting, immersion in a completely unfamiliar environment, and exposure to precarious conditions throughout the seven years Less endured as a refugee in Shanghai deeply affected both his life and art. Thankful to find employment and help support the family with his meager earnings as a commercial artist, he refused, however, to resign himself to the situation and forsake his wider artistic ambitions. Utilizing the limited supplies at hand, he kept a visual record of his refugee existence – mostly as rough sketches – to which he subsequently gave expression in the form of watercolor drawings and oil paintings. The original images became templates, for example, for a series of pictures created decades after he immigrated to the USA that were meant to illustrate an autobiographical account for young people. These drawings and related works reveal Less’ attempt to reassure himself about the reality of his own experience while preserving the memory of Holocaust refuge in Shanghai for a future generation. While his artistic efforts never narrowly focused on his time in China or the past, the works that do have these motifs are more than reflections on a traumatized youth or flight from Nazi persecution; in them, he experimented with various styles and deconstructed stereotypical European perceptions of Asian culture. Thus, they also form part of a much bigger story about European-Asian encounters and European fascination with an “exotic” Orient.