While most people have had one life, Sidney Rittenberg has had three. Born to a prominent Jewish family in Charleston, South Carolina in 1921, his early adult years were spent as a successful labor organizer, and a member of the American Communist Party.
Drafted during World War II, he was found to have great potential as a linguist, and was sent to Stanford to study Japanese. Thinking this would mean he'd be stuck with the occupation forces in Japan, Sid connived his way into the small Chinese course, where he fell in love with the language.
He was sent to China as the Japanese were surrendering, and eventually had himself discharged there during the mounting fighting between the Chinese Nationalists and Communists. He made his way on foot to the Communist headquarters, the caves of Yan'an, and offered his services.
Sid worked for the revolution as a trusted translator, but was accused by Stalin of being part of an international spy ring. He was imprisoned in solitary confinement for six years. When Stalin died he was released, and went back to work, marrying and starting a Chinese family.
Unlike many of his era, he supported the Cultural Revolution and rose to prominence as a speaker. He also became more active politically, and eventually became the head of the Broadcast Administration, a position of power never before or after being held by a foreigner. But he ran afoul of Jiang Qing, Mao's wife and member of the Gang of Four, and was sent to solitary for another 10 years.
In 1980 Sid returned to the United States with his family. He slowly built a new life for himself, eventually becoming a successful liason between American businesses and China.
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