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Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum
Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum
|Location Shanghai, China|
|Address 62 Changyang Road|
|Open to visitors yes|
|Need appointment no|
|Handicap accessibility no|
|Geographical Coordinates 31.23042,121.4737|
The Ohel Moshe Synagogue served as a religious center for the Russian Jewish community since 1907 (currently the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, located at 62 Changyang Road, Hongkou District). In April 1941, a modern Ashkenazic Jewish synagogue was built (called the New Synagogue).
The International Settlement of Shanghai was established by the Treaty of Nanking. Police, jurisdiction and passport control were implemented by the foreign autonomous board. Under the Unequal Treaties between China and European countries, visas were only required to book tickets departing from Europe.
Following the Battle of Shanghai in 1937, the city was occupied by the army of Imperial Japan, and the port began to allow entry without visa or passport. By the time when most German Jews arrived, two other Jewish communities had already settled in the city: the wealthy Baghdadi Jews, including the Kadoorie and Sassoon families, and the Russian Jews. The last ones fled the Russian Empire because of anti-Semitic pogroms pushed by the tsarist regime and counter-revolutionary armies as well as the class struggle manifested by the Bolsheviks. They had formed the Russian community in Harbin, then the Russian community in Shanghai. Many in the Polish-Lithuanian Jewish community were saved by Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania. Sugihara is said to have cooperated with Polish intelligence, as part a of bigger Japanese-Polish cooperative plan. They managed to flee across the vast territory of Russia by train to Vladivostok and then by boat to Kobe in Japan. The refugees in number of 2,185 arrived in Japan from August 1940 to June 1941. Tadeusz Romer, the Polish ambassador in Tokyo, had managed to get transit visas in Japan, asylum visas to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Burma, immigration certificates to Palestine, and immigrant visas to the United States and some Latin American countries. Finally, Tadeusz Romer arrived in Shanghai on November 1, 1941, to continue the action for Jewish refugees. Among those saved in the Shanghai Ghetto were leaders and students of Mir yeshiva, the only yeshiva in occupied Europe to survive the Holocaust.
Similarly, thousands of Austrian Jews were saved by the Chinese consul-general in Vienna Ho Feng Shan, who issued visas during 1938-1940 against the orders of his superior the Chinese ambassador in Berlin, Chen Jie.
History and time period
The refugees who managed to purchase tickets for luxurious Italian and Japanese cruise steamships departing from Genoa later described their three-week journey with plenty of food and entertainment — between persecution in Germany and squalid ghetto in Shanghai — as surreal. Some passengers attempted to make unscheduled departures in Egypt, hoping to smuggle themselves into the British Mandate of Palestine.
The first German Jewish refugees — twenty-six families, among them five well-known physicians — had arrived in Shanghai already by November 1933. By the spring of 1934, there were reportedly eighty refugee physicians, surgeons, and dentists in China. On August 15, 1938, the first Jewish refugees from Anschluss Austria arrived by Italian ship. Most of the refugees arrived after Kristallnacht. During the refugee flight to Shanghai between November 1938 and June 1941, the total number of arrivals by sea and land has been estimated at 1,374 in 1938; 12,089 in 1939; 1,988 in 1940; and 4,000 in 1941. In 1939-1940, Lloyd Triestino ran a sort of "ferry service" between Italy and Shanghai, bringing in thousands of refugees a month - Germans, Austrians, a few Czechs. Added to this mix were approximately 1,000 Polish Jews in 1941. Among these, all the faculty of the Mir Yeshiva, some 400 in number, who with the outbreak of World War II in 1939, fled from Mir to Vilna and then to Keidan, Lithuania. In late 1940, they obtained visas from Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kaunas, to travel from Keidan, then Lithuanian SSR, via Siberia and Vladivostok to Kobe, Japan. By November 1941 the Japanese moved this group and most of others on to the Shanghai Ghetto in order to consolidate the Jews under their control. Finally, a wave of more than 18,000 Ashkenazi Jews from Germany, Austria, and Poland immigrated to Shanghai until the Attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan in December 1941.
Much needed aid was provided by International Committee for European Immigrants (IC), established by Victor Sassoon and Paul Komor, a Hungarian businessman, and Committee for the Assistance of European Jewish Refugees (CFA), founded by Horace Kadoorie, under the direction of Michael Speelman. These organizations prepared the housing in Hongkew (today known as Hongkou District), a relatively cheap district compared with the Shanghai International Settlement or the Shanghai French Concession. They were accommodated in shabby apartments and six camps in a former school. The Japanese occupiers of Shanghai regarded German Jews as "stateless persons".
In 1943, the occupying Japanese army required these 18,000 Jews to relocate to a 3/4 square mile area of Shanghai's Hongkew district where many lived in group homes called "Heime" or "Little Vienna".