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Film tells story of Shanghai's shelter of Jews in WWII

By HONG XIAO and NIU YUE in New York (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-11-17 13:45

The story of how Shanghai helped shelter Jewish refugees during World War II is being told in New York.

The 90-minute documentary Survival in Shanghai produced by Shanghai Media Group premiered at the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan on Monday evening along with a photo exhibition.

"What happened in Shanghai and the lasting friendship they found is one of the most memorable chapters of the long relations between the Chinese and the Jewish people," said Zhang Qiyue, consul general of China in New York.

During World War II, Shanghai was one of two visa-free regions. Approximately 25,000 Jews who were persecuted in Nazi Germany fled to Shanghai.

Those Jews refugees mainly came from Germany, some from Poland and other war-torn areas. According to statistics issued by the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, the surge of Jewish immigration started in 1937 and peaked in 1939, when the Nazis began their strategy of annihilating the Jewish people.

"We must not forget this incredible lifesaving act of generosity", said Amir Sagie, deputy consul general of Israel in New York. "(Though) people in the Chinese mainland were suffering from the darkness era of Japanese inhumane occupation, citizens in Shanghai lent their hands to help their unfamiliar Jewish strangers," Amir added.

Some survivals attended the film event. Betty Grenbenschikoff lived in Shanghai's Jewish ghetto as a young girl.

"Life was hard at that time. We lived in an extremely dilapidated house, but we still lived happily, and it was safe in Shanghai," she said.

The documentary produced by SMG TV News Center took eight months to produce and included travel to Germany, Austria, Israel and the US. The team interviewed around 40 Shanghai Jewish refugees.

"Their emotional telling of their own stories brought back that part of history before us. … And their peaceful life nowadays makes us feel how important an open city with a diversified civilization is," said Song Jiongming, managing director of news of Shanghai Media Group.

Liu Jieyi, China's permanent representative to the UN, and Zhang Meifang, China's deputy consul general in New York, also attended the premier.

Long Yifan contributed to this story.

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