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China / Across America

Story of Shanghai's shelter of Jews told

By Hong Xiao and Niu Yue in New York (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-11-17 12:11

 Story of Shanghai's shelter of Jews told

From left: Song Jongming, managing director of news at Shanghai Media Group; Zhang Qiyue, consul general of China in New York; Rabbi Arthur Scheneier, founder and president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation and senior rabbi of Park East Synagogue in New York; Liu Jieyi, China's permanent representative to the United Nations; Betty Grebenschikoff, survivor of the Shanghai Ghetto from World War II; and Amir Sagie, deputy consul general of of Israel in New York, pose for a group photo at the premiere of the documentary Survival in Shanghai on Monday at the Park East Synagogue in New York. Hong Xiao / China Daily

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 brutal strategy of annihilation.

"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.

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 told China Daily.

The documentary produced by SMG TV News Center took eight months to produce and included travel to Germany, Austria, Israel and the US.

"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, deputy consul general, also attended.

Long Yifan contributed to this story.

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