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    Shanghai: Jewish Refugee Haven

    Many Jewish people of the older generation across the world identify themselves as Shanghainese and look upon the city as their home town.To outsiders this sound incredible but in fact,from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century,Shanghai was home to some 30000 Jewish refugees who managed to escape the Nazi onslaught,more than Canada,Australia,New Zealand, South Africa and India combined.
    Jews have lived in China since at least the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) in the 8th century.Many were traders,who made their way from Europe to Asia via the Silk Road.They prospered there and many of them considered China a safe haven.According to the report from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, there were three waves of Jewish influx into Shanghai.
    In the early mid-19th century when the city had just opened to the outside world.Sephardic Jewish merchant groups from Iran and British colonies in the Middle East came to Shanghai.Old Shanghai's renowned millionaires Hardoon and Sassoon were all of sephardic Jewish origin.
    The second wave of Jewish immigration came in the early 20th century as many White Russians and Jewish people  from Russia and Eastern Europe came to the city,whereby the Jewish  population increased.
    The largest Jewish influx, however,came during the second world war.The Nazis massacred 6 million Jews in Europe.For a large number of Jewish people,flight to Shanghai became the only choice since at that time Shanghai was the only city in the world allowing Jews to enter and requiring of them no visa,guarantee or other document.
    Between 1937 and 1939,about 30000 Jewish people started to immigrate to Shanghai from Germany,Austria,Poland and some other European countries.When the rest of the world closed its doors,Shanghai opened its arms to embrace the 30000 refugees,the same as the total of all Jewish refugees accepted by Canada,Australia,india,South Africa and New Zealand.Many of them arrived with little money in their pockets,because the rest of their property was confiscated by the Hitler government.
    In the early 1940s, the Jews in shanghai became the largest Jewish community in the Far East.They had their own religious associations,synagogues,schools,hospitals,club,cemeteries,chamber of commerce,publishing establishments and even political groups.
    At the end of the year 1941,when the Pacific War broke out, the Nazis tried to persuade the Japanese to persecute Jews in Shanghai,and they even suggested death camps be built on nearby Chongming island for Jewish refugees. But the Japanese chose not to,out of various considerations.Finally in February 1943,However,the Japanese authorities declared a "designated Area For Stateless Refugees" and forcefully ordered all Jewish refugees to move into the area within a month.
    Mony Jews lost their property overnight and moved to the ghetto,from which they were not permitted to leave without permission. During the Japanese occupation, the Chinese and Jewish people suffered great hardships together and they forged a deep friendship. Many Chinese women married Jewish men.
    Jewish people made many contributions to the prosperity of the then largest cosmopolitan city in the Far East. The influx of Jewish musicians had a lasting impact on the Shanghai Conservatory of Music which remains a pillar of the local arts scene.After the war,Jewish refugees gradually moved out of the ghetto,though nearly 25000 Jews remained in the city.
      Though the Shanghai Jewish community no longer exists today,the Jewish heritage is still alive in some buildings and places,such as from wealthy families like the Sassoons and Kadoories who left a splendid architectural heritage,including some of the finest colonial buildings in the city - among them the Peace Hotel and Children's Place.A visit to some of these places is quite reminiscent of the old days.
    Remembering the history also helps today's development. Many former refugees have an emotional attachment to Shanghai and are still ready to contribute their efforts to the city.
     The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum is built in memory of the war years.It is  housed in the former Ohel Moishe Synagogue, established by the Russian Jewish  community in 1927,where the Jewish refugees gathered for religious activities.Now the museum is the Shanghai historical and educational base for the younger generation.
    In the nearby Huoshan Park,there is a memorial dedicated to the Jewish refugees in Shanghai during World War II.Visitors can also go to the former commercial center of the Jewish ghetto.Old Jewish houses which still stand there,look heavily laden from experience and weathering.Many Jewish dignitaries from around the world lived in that ghetto.Former US Secretary of Treasury M.Blumenthal lived on No 50 Zhoushan Rd for 10 years.Shanghai will forever occupy a place in the history of the Jews.
    In the former French Concession,The Shanghai Jewish Club was opened in 1932 and served as gathering place and recreational center for Jewish people.Now the club mansion is the office building of Shanghai Conservatory of music.On weekends students of the conservatory give performances in the auditorium which is open to the public.
    Erected in the 1920s,the Gothic Sassoon building, now the peace hotel was once a symbol of the Sephardic Jewish millionaire Sassoon family in the Far East and even a trademark of Shanghai for decades.many world leaders and literary greats stayed in the hotel ,such as General Marshall, George Bernard Shaw,Charlie Chaplin and Bill Clinton,just to name a few.
    The Marble Hall,was built in 1924 Elly Kadoorie,British business ,and served as the residence of the Kadoorie family between 1924  and 1949.Now the building is the China Welfare Institute Children's Palace.
    In December,2009, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees's Museum,commemorate the fate that Shanghai protected more than 30000 Jewish refugees during World War II. At Jewish people seeking asylum.It is written on the plaque that "during the time of Nazi persecution,thousands of Hamburg Jews were driven out of their hometown.As with many other German and European Jews,they found the opportunity to flee to and survive in Shanghai.The District of Hongkou give them shelter from the holocaust.The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is grateful to its sister city Shanghai and commemorates all those who were persecuted and murdered by the German in the years between 1933 and 1945.


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