70 years since the liberation of the Shanghai Ghetto

September 4, 2015 by Henry Benjamin
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Members of Sydney’s Chinese and Jewish communities have attended an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Shanghai Ghetto.

Organised by The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies the warm cultural mix heard tales from

The Acca Dance Group Photo: Giselle Haber

The Acca Dance Group Photo: Giselle Haber

the past and were entertained by delightful Chinese dancing.

Highlighting the evening at the Sydney Jewish Museum was a short but wonderful address from Gertie Jellenik who shared memories of her time in Shanghai.

Before she spoke the audience heard from Jackie Seow who translated an address by 89-yr-old Professor Tang Dan Yuan describing what life was like for the Jews of Shanghai who had fled from Nazi persecution in Europe.

At the beginning of 1938, the Japanese occupied Shanghai and most Jewish refugees were living in the

Professor Tang Dan Yuan and Jackie Seow

Professor Tang Dan Yuan and Jackie Seow Photo: Giselle Haber

Hankow. She translated that “the Chinese residents organised schools for the Jewish children with the local Chinese children. She said as the Japanese collusion with Hitler increased “Jewish refugees suffered even more”.

The Japanese forced the Jews into stateless refugee quarantine in an area called Two Alleys surrounded by barbed wire and Japanese military where they were confined for one year. She translated: “Hankow residents took the risk of throwing flour, rice and other food over the barricades to save them.”

Professor Yuan said that of the 20,000 refugees “most of them survived”.

“I was just a young boy at the time and what I can remember that the suffering and the difficult times during WWII of the Jews have created a special bond between the Jewish refugees and Shanghai residents.”

Gertie Jelenik

Gertie Jellenik   Photo: Giselle Haber

Gertie Jellenik told the gathering that she had been born in Vienna and fled to Shanghai with her family in 1939 at the age of 12. She told the gathering: “The only place in the whole world which would allow refugees to come was Shanghai. Nowhere else in the world allowed mass immigration. We are forever grateful to Shanghai which was an open port. They saved 20,000 of us from the Nazis.”

She added: “It was not an easy life. We were very poor but we had a lovely connection to the Chinese who were nice and friendly to us. We had a wonderful understanding with the Chinese people.”

Addressing the Chinese in the audience, Gert Jellenik said: “I love you all”.

 

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