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China Judaic Studies Association 
Promoting Judaic Studies in China

Articles

From the newsletter of the China Judaic Studies Association; Beverly Friend, editor

Preface to The Jews in Shanghai

by Pan Guang

The publication of this album on Jewish life in Shanghai on the fiftieth anniversary of the victory of World War II is of great significance.

While the Nazis were frenziedly persecuting and slaughtering Jews in Europe over of Nazi terror. Raoul Wallenberg, a prominent Swedish diplomat, saved thousands of Hungarian Jews by distributing Swedish passports. Chinue Sugihara, Japan's consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, granted transit visas for more than 2,000 Polish Jews, enabling them to escape from the Holocaust. The true story told by the film Shindler's List is now known to all. However at the same time, the government of many countries imposed strict restrictions on the entrance of Jewish refugees. Especially after 1938, almost all countries closed their doors to the desperate Jews. Their refusal to accept those people struggling for survival on the verge of death was tantamount to choking living beings.

Viewing what the non-Jewish world had been doing to Jews in retrospect, we, the people of Shanghai, are proud of the fact that when all the civilized world closed its doors to Jewish refugees, Shanghai provided a vital haven and every possible relief for them. The authentic and vivid pictures of this album will tell readers the unforgettable story about the Holocaust survivors in Shanghai and also remind them of the unique history of the Jewish community of Shanghai.

From the middle of the 19th Century, Shanghai served as a focus of Jewish immigration to China. By the end of the 1930's, Sephardic Jews, Russian Jews and Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe in Shanghai amounted to over thirty thousand, forming the largest Jewish community in the Far East. The community had its own communal association, synagogues, schools, hospitals, clubs, cemeteries, chamber of commerce, publications, active political groups (especially Zionist parties).

Sephardic Jews immigrated to the city from British-ruled areas like Baghdad, Bombay and Hong Kong as early as the second half of the last century. After entering Shanghai they soon demonstrated their trading capability and did very successful business. Among them, several notable families like the Sassoons, the Hardoons, and the Kadoories became economically strong in Shanghai and even across China. Close ties with international corporations and the financial centers of New York and London enabled the Shanghai Jewish community to support a wide range of political and cultural activities. In the period when the European Jewish refugees swarmed into Shanghai, financial support to them from both Shanghai Jewish business circles and American Jewish organizations like JDC was abundant and vital.

Russian Jews came to make a living in Shanghai via Siberia and Harbin after the pogroms and revolutions in Russia at the beginning of this century. Most of them arrived in Shanghai with hardly any money and struggled to open some small business. As time went by, through their own endeavor. A number of Russian Jews became middle class, and with their every increasing number, far more than the Sephardic Jews, very soon they were beginning to play an active role in the social life of Shanghai.

There were many outstanding intellectuals and professionals among the Jews coming to Shanghai. Their influx infused the Shanghai Jewish community with a singular level of creativity and variety. Enriched by their contributions, the community organized active and vigorous educational, recreational and sports activities. All the teachers and students of Mir Yeshiva, a famous Yeshiva in Europe, some 400 in number, miraculously survived the Holocaust and continued their studies in Shanghai through the war. Particularly, Shanghai Jews had extraordinary success in the print media. From 1903 to 1949, more than fifty Jewish newspapers and magazine came out in Shanghai in English, Russian, German French, Chinese, Japanese, Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish. From 1939 to 1946, more than thirty German,Yiddish and Polish newspapers and magazines were published by Jewish refugees in Shanghai. This intellectual experience would not have even been contemplated by them their authoritarian countries of origin.

What is especially worth mentioning is the mutual respect, sympathy and support between Shanghai Jews and Chinese people. In history, both the Chinese and Jewish nations contributed so much to the civilization of the world And Chinese people experienced untold sufferings as Jewish people did. Over 35 million Chinese were killed and wounded by Japanese fascists during wartime. This same experience gave Chinese people deep respect and sympathy for Jewish people. As early as April 24, 1920, in his letter to Mr. N.E.B. Ezra, one of the leaders of Shanghai's Jewish community, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Republic of China, wrote, "All lovers of Democracy cannot help but support the movement to restore your wonderful and historic nation, which has contributed so much to the civilization of the world and which rightfully deserves an honorable place in the family of nations." Soon after Hitler's anti-Semitic campaign started, Madame Sun Yat-sen (Ms. Song Qingling) headed a delegation to meet with the German Consul in Shanghai, and lodged a strong protest against Nazi atrocities. Her delegation included all the important leaders of the China League for Civil Rights: Dr. Cai Yuan-pei, Mr. Lo Shun, Dr. Lin Yu-tang and so on. After the middle of the 1930's, Shanghai witnessed more and more denunciations and protests against anti-Jewish outrages in Europe. The indignation they expressed at German fascists was undoubtedly meant as an inspiration to Chinese people who were strenuously resisting Japanese fascists.

Likewise, Shanghai Jews also gave firm support to the Chinese national- democratic movement and resistance against Japanese aggression. Besides the well-known Morris "Two Gun" Cohen, who was a faithful friend of the Chinese national democratic cause, there are some more examples. Mr. Hans Shippe, a writer and reporter from Germany, was the first Jewish volunteer to fall in battle on China's soil during her war against Japanese aggression. He left Shanghai and joined the New Fourth Army in 1939. On November 30, 1941, several days before Pearl Harbor, he died with a gun in his hand in an engagement with Japanese troops in Yinan county, Shandong province. Chinese people erected a monument for him near the battlefield. I should also mention Dr. Jacob Rosenfeld with deep respect. He came to Shanghai from Austria as a Jewish refugee in 1939 and left Shanghai to join the anti-Japanese war in 1941. He served in the ranks of the Communist-led army for ten years, obtaining the highest rank as a foreigner of Commander of the Medical Corps. Chinese people will never forget his great contribution in helping resist Japanese aggression and establishing the People's Republic.

Half a century has passed. "Shanghai Jews," and their descendants are now living in all parts of the world. But they still regard Shanghai as their "homecity." Their energy, creativity and influence have gone far beyond their numbers. Especially, they have become an important force in promoting the development of the traditional friendship between Chinese and Jewish people, between China and Israel, and between two of the oldest civilizations in the world.