Tag Archives: Shanghai Jewish Refugees

Jewish Refugees of Shanghai during WWII

Shanghai pic_street

Jewish “Little Vienna” neighborhood in Shanghai (circa 1930s)

I’m a woman of Chinese heritage who converted to Judaism after a long personal and soul-examining journey.  The connection had surprised even me.  So much so, that I searched for a link that would tie these two seemingly different cultures together.  In an unusual discovery, I found there was a historical connection:  World War II.

Young Jewish Refugee surrounded by Chinese friends

 From the early 1930s to mid-1940s, approximately 20,000 stateless Jewish refugees fled Hitler’s wrath and horrific Nazi persecution to one of the few places that would accept them without the required and hard-to- obtain immigration visa – Shanghai.  This fascinating and little-known past had me captivated –I had to learn more.

Serendipitously, I discovered a Jewish Tour of China, being led by Professor Xu Xin of Nanjing University.  It turned out that Professor Xu Xin is one of the premiere experts on Jewish history in China.  So in 2003 I traveled with him and a small group through China and Shanghai.

The highlight of the trip for me was of course our time in Shanghai.  Here we visited the Hongkew District, walked along the Bund, where many of the buildings of the 1930s still stand, and the longtangs where the Chinese resided and operated their businesses.  We also went to the synagogue frequented by the WWII Jewish population.  Here I met the elderly Chinese caretaker who was there during those times.  I felt a bridge to the people who fascinated me so.

The intermingling of cultures here has and continues to be a source of inspiration for me, so much so that I wrote the recently published novel, Shanghai Love.

Who would have known that it would’ve caused such a barrage remarks about the subject?  I’ve been inundated with questions about the history, the people and cultures.  Happily surprised and with so much rich material to share, I’ll explore these and other related topics here in my blog.

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And please comment and let me know your thoughts and connections.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Until next time,

Layne