Doc­u­ments tell wartime tale of Jews in Shang­hai

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By ZHANGKUNin Shang­hai zhangkun@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Shang­hai Jewish Refugees Mu­seum hopes that doc­u­ments about Jewish refugees’ life ex­pe­ri­ence in Shang­hai dur­ing World War II will even­tu­ally be listed in China’s na­tional legacy ar­chives.

The mu­seum said it will con­tinue en­rich­ing and im­prov­ing its col­lec­tion of his­tor­i­cal ma­te­ri­als and make them part of the na­tional legacy ar­chives, and then global ar­chives.

It revealed the plan at the third Jewish Stud­ies Youth Fo­rum on Tues­day.

At least 20,000 Jewish peo­ple sought shel­ter in Shang­hai dur­ing the war, or used the city as a jump­ing-off point for other safe des­ti­na­tions.

Doc­u­ments re­lated to Jewish refugees’ lives in Shang­hai dur­ing the 1930s and 1940s were listed in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s legacy ar­chives last year.

The mu­seum has reg­is­tered 549 items doc­u­ment­ing the Jewish ex­pe­ri­ence so far, in­clud­ing tick­ets for the voy­age from Europe to Shang­hai, cer­tifi­cates for job ap­pli­ca­tions and au­dio and video record­ings of in­ter­views with for­mer refugees.

The ma­te­ri­als cap­ture the chain of life of Jewish refugees, but they are in­suf­fi­cient to qual­ify for the na­tional ar­chives, said Liao Guangjun, a se­nior ad­viser for the mu­seum.

“We hope to work with the mu­nic­i­pal ar­chives and other in­sti­tu­tions to ac­cess more of­fi­cial doc­u­ments. We also hope to col­lect more ma­te­ri­als from the sur­viv­ing refugees, who are pass­ing away be­cause of old age. We are run­ning out of time,” Liao said.

Hongkou district was Shang­hai’s Jewish quar­ter in the 1940s, whena largenum­ber of Jewish refugees poured from Europe into the open har­bor of Shang­hai, which didn’t re­quire a visa for en­trance.

The city had a Jewish com­mu­nity as early as the late 19 th cen­tury whose mem­bers started busi­nesses, cre­ated ar­chi­tec­ture and re­sumed a nor­mal liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment, with cafe­te­rias, clubs, photography stu­dios and many other el­e­ments. Shang­hai was known as the “Noah’s Ark of the East” for refugees.

“We have re­ceived dona­tions not only from for­mer refugees and their fam­i­lies but also from Shang­hai res­i­dents who lived next door to Jewish neigh­bors,” saidZhou Xiaoxia, deputy di­rec­tor of the mu­seum.

The mu­seum has re­ceived a col­lec­tion of books in He­brew and other for­eign lan­guages that were left be­hind in a lo­cal house­hold, as well as an­tique fur­ni­ture pieces and a vin­tage sew­ing ma­chine.

“The donors of­ten have touch­ing sto­ries to share — of the friend­ships be­tween Chi­nese and Jewish fam­i­lies and the mu­tual help in hard times.” It’s a pity though, in­suf­fi­cient doc­u­ments have sur­vived the his­tor­i­cal tur­bu­lence through the past decades, she said.

The donors of­ten have touch­ing sto­ries to share — of the friend­ships be­tween Chi­nese and Jewish fam­i­lies.”

Zhou Xiaoxia, deputy di­rec­tor of the Shang­hai Jewish Refugees Mu­seum

LIU YING / XIN­HUA

Items doc­u­ment­ing the Jewish ex­pe­ri­ence in Shang­hai dur­ing the 1930s and 1940s are ex­hib­ited on Tues­day.

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