China / Regions

Exhibition to recall memories of 'Shanghai Jews'

( Updated: 2015-08-10 14:03


On November 9, 1938, synagogues and Jewish properties across Europe were destroyed by Nazi forces in what became known as Kristallnacht ('Night of Breaking Glass'). Hundreds of thousands of Jewish people escaped from home to avoid the fate of life-threatening concentration camps. However, at that particular time, hardly any country in the world was ready to officially accept them as war refugees, except for one place, Shanghai. Shanghai was one of the very few places in the world that those Jewish refugees could obtain a visa and find a shelter with the hope of surviving the war. During the decade-long World War II, almost 30,000 Jewish refugees arrived in Shanghai from central Europe. Shanghai, became the Noah's Ark for Jews in the Far East.

Jewish refugees lived in the shelters and refugee camps in Shanghai, more specifically, in Hongkou District, which used to be known as Ghettos in Hongkew. They gradually moved to the local communities, opened their own businesses and worked in Shanghai to make a living. There was a harmonious relationship between those two ethnic groups. Neighborhoods around Zhoushan Rd, Huoshan Rd and Huimin Rd, where Jews resided and congregated, made a reputation as 'Little Vienna'.

In 1941, Shanghai fell as the Japanese forces invaded the city. Under the Japanese military rule, the Jewish refugees in Hongkou were driven to a restricted small area, which is called 'Segregated Precinct for Stateless Refugees'. The Jewish refugees had a tough life there, just as Shanghai local residents suffered cruel oppression outside that area. During this period of hardship, Jewish refugees and locals built up friendship for the same goal of survival.

On September 3, 1945, Japan surrendered. It is a miracle that, apart from those who died due to illness, nearly all those Jewish refugees survived. There were even more than 400 newly-born Jewish babies in Shanghai. Then, they left Shanghai to other places, including Australia, the United States, Canada and Israel. For this particular group of Jewish refugees, who have escaped from Europe and lived in Shanghai for a decade, they have a very special title, the 'Shanghai Jews'. Currently, there are still approximately 1,500 ‘Shanghai Jews’ living in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia.


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