Jewish refugees in Shanghai during World War II

Jewish refugees in Shanghai during World War II

During World War II, Shanghai was one of the few cities in the world that welcomed Jewish refugees. When Nazi Germany began persecuting Jews, many fled their homes and were left with nowhere to go. The Chinese government at the time allowed Jewish refugees to enter Shanghai without visas, making it one of the few places where they could escape persecution.

Between 1933 and 1941, approximately 20,000 Jews fled to Shanghai, a city that was already home to a small Jewish community. Many of these refugees were from Germany and Austria, and they faced tremendous challenges in their new home. Shanghai was crowded, impoverished, and lacking in basic necessities like food and water. Furthermore, the refugees had to deal with the language barrier, as few of them spoke Chinese, and the cultural differences.

Despite these challenges, the Jewish community in Shanghai managed to build a thriving community. They set up schools, synagogues, and community centers, and formed close bonds with the Chinese residents of the city. Many of the refugees found work in Shanghai’s thriving business community, and some even started their own businesses.

The situation for Jewish refugees in Shanghai became more difficult in 1941 when Japan, which had occupied Shanghai, declared war on the United States and its allies. The Japanese imposed strict restrictions on the Jewish community, including forced relocation to a designated ghetto in Hongkou district, which became known as the Shanghai Ghetto. Conditions in the ghetto were challenging, with overcrowding, lack of food and medicine, and the threat of disease.

Despite these challenges, the Jewish community in Shanghai remained resilient. Some even managed to maintain contact with family members who had been left behind in Europe. The Shanghai Jewish community continued to thrive until the end of the war, and many of the refugees chose to remain in Shanghai even after the war ended.

Today, the legacy of the Jewish community in Shanghai lives on. There are still synagogues and Jewish community centers in the city, and many of the refugees who fled to Shanghai during World War II have descendants who still live in the city. The story of the Jewish refugees in Shanghai serves as a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

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