Turning an Eye on Jews of Shanghai

Fleeing Nazis, Refugees Found Way to Far East

New Home: A Jewish refugee child plays with Chinese friends in Shanghai, where thousands escaped from Nazi Germany.
Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum
New Home: A Jewish refugee child plays with Chinese friends in Shanghai, where thousands escaped from Nazi Germany.

By Haaretz

Published August 25, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Between 1933 and June 22, 1941, when Germany declared war against the Soviet Union, roughly 20,000-25,000 Jewish refugees escaped Nazi persecution and the coming Holocaust by fleeing to the Far Eastern port city of Shanghai. Because of its extra-territorial status prior to Japanese occupation in 1941, Shanghai was one of the few places in the world that would accept Jewish refugees without requiring hard-to-get immigration visas.

This fascinating period of history is the subject of the current exhibition at the Jerusalem House of Quality called “Jewish Refugees and Shanghai” which opened last Thursday and is set to close this Saturday, August 25.

”We sincerely hope that, based on the common history of the Chinese people and the Jewish refugees in Shanghai, and the significance attributed to it by Chinese and Israelis, this exhibition will increase the mutual understanding and cooperation between the people of both countries,” reads the curator’s introduction. And it is through this lens that the exhibit provides visitors with a snapshot of Jewish refugee life in the Hangkou district of Shanghai around the time of World War II.

“Jewish Refugees and Shanghai” was developed by the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, founded in 1997 in what was once the main synagogue in the Jewish Shanghai ghetto, known as Ohel Moshe. The current exhibition in Jerusalem isn’t the first time it has been shown in Israel this year, previously having a short run in Haifa in February, followed by a stint in Be’er Sheva. The Israeli city tour, as well as stops in Germany and in the United States, can be viewed as part of a larger effort by the Chinese government to strengthen people-to-people ties between Israelis, Jews and the Chinese with special events marking 20 years of normalization between the two countries in 1992.

The central focus of the exhibit, and its most interesting element, is the testimony of 20 or so former residents of the Shanghai Jewish ghetto. Photographs and official documents accompany the words, capturing the essence of Jewish life in the ghetto leading up to, during, and after World War II. The exhibit divides the material into six separate periods in the Jewish refugee experience in Shanghai: Fleeing to Shanghai, Refugee Life in Shanghai, The Hongkou Ghetto: Striving for Survival, Affectionate Neighborhood, Leaving Shanghai and Unforgettable History.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.