Jewish Refugees and Shanghai

May 1, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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A travelling exhibition from Shanghai has opened at the Chinese Cultural Centre, Sydney.

When many other countries refused entry, it was Shanghai that provided European Jewish refugees with a safe haven in 1933.

Wang Faliang and Ruth Chaim

Wang Faliang and Ruth Chaim

It is estimated that between 1933 and 1941 at least 18,000 European Jews entered Shanghai, and the influx only ended when the city was cut off from the outside world after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

In July 1942, Colonel Josef Albert Meisinger, chief representative of the Gestapo in Japan, travelled to Shanghai , now under Japanese rule, and proposed the idea of the “Final Solution” to Japanese authorities.

Although his request was not put into effect, the Japanese proclaimed a Designated Area for Stateless Refugees in Hongkou District (formerly Hongkew), and forced all Jewish refugees into this area.

The Hongkou ghetto brought the refugees into close proximity to 10,000 native Chinese residents and despite crowded conditions, the original Chinese community absorbed the foreigners.

Fred Antman who eventually settled in Melbourne wrote in his book “A Tale of Three Cities: Berlin, Shanghai, Melbourne”

“The wartime experiences we shared with the Chinese people in Shanghai made us all aware of the love and respect which had developed between us.”

Almost all the refugees survived and after the war many went to the United States and Israel. Others ended up in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Very few returned to Europe.

In 2007 the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue was renovated and turned into the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. The museum tells the history of the Jewish refugees in Shanghai, and has since welcomed more than 200,000 visitors.

From its large collection of historical records, materials and stories, the Museum has put together a travelling exhibition, Jewish Refugees and Shanghai, which toured Germany in 2011, Israel in 2012 and the United States in 2013.

Hosted by the Chinese Cultural Centre in Sydney, the exhibition gives an insight into a Chinese slice of Jewish history. It will visit Melbourne in August 2015. for opening hours

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