A young Jewish refugee with her Chinese playmates. Shanghai, China (x)
Between 1933 and 1941, it is estimated that 20,000 Jews escaped persecution by fleeing to the Chinese port of Shanghai. Shanghai was one of the few places in the world that would accept Jewish refugees at this time, Japan being another.
i am furious that i am just now learning about this important fact.
Because it has nothing to do with the USA being the superhero and saving all the Jews
I love that people are talking about this!
But I have a small nitpick. I wrote my MA thesis on this community. Knowing this, one of my former professors invited me to an event on Capitol Hill. This event was the kick-off to a week long exhibit about this community put on by the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum in cooperation with AJC East Asia Institute. And all the speakers could talk about was how China rescued the Jews and opened its arms to them. That is the narrative constructed as well by the Shanghai Refugees Museum.
And it makes me angry because China did not save these 17,000-20,000 refugees. Shanghai did not open its doors to them. That ~20,000 Jewish refugees were able to flee to Shanghai between 1938 and 1941 was actually an accident of Shanghai’s history. And I’m about to over-simplify a lot of history because I’m at work and I shouldn’t be on tumblr (but Shanghai I can’t resist). Because of nearly a century of imperialist engagement in Shanghai, by 1938 Shanghai was governed by three seperate parties: the Shanghai Municipal Council in the International Settlement, the Conseil in the French Concession, and the Japanese over the formerly Chinese governed section of Shanghai.
All three of these governments were alarmed by the sudden influx of Jewish refugees. Especially because the city was already overwhelmed with millions of Chinese refugees fleeing Japanese aggression in the interior in the wake of the Second Sino-Japanese War. While the three governments came up with some permit systems and attempted to create bureaucratic hurdles, they didn’t really work together so none of the three could truly enforce any of the roadblocks they’d put up with the intention of stemming the flow of Jewish refugees. In the end, what ended Jewish overland and overseas travel to Shanghai was Italy’s entrance into WW2, and breakout of hostilities between Hitler and Stalin.
In reality, one of the very few countries which can arguably said to “saved the Jews” was the Dominican Republic, and even that only happened because of Trujillo’s own violently racist eugenic ideas about the benefits of European blood.