The former site of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Shanghai, China; during World War II, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee set up this branch office in the Jewish ghetto — it became the most important international organization in support of European Jewish refugees
On our first visit to Shanghai in 1995, our family visited the Jewish Ghetto of Shanghai with an English-speaking guide who gave us a very good overview of the history of the Jewish “stateless refugees” (predominantly from Germany and its neighboring countries) who arrived in the 1930s. At that time there were no museums and virtually no plaques on the walls of the ghetto houses to tell the story of that era. On our present visit, we had a tour with an expert local guide who toured us through the ghetto (“the designated area for stateless refugees”) and introduced us to several restored buildings that now serve as a museum and reminders of the history of the era. From 1933 to 1941, Shanghai became a modern-day “Noah’s Ark”, accepting around 18,000 Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust in Europe. By the time World War II ended in 1945, most of the Jewish refugees survived in Shanghai. Dr. David Kranzler, a noted Holocaust historian, called it the “Miracle of Shanghai” and commented that within Jewry’s greatest tragedy, i.e. the Holocaust, there shone a few bright lights. Among the brightest of these is the Shanghai haven
[An interesting aside – our guide was in fourth grade in 1966 when the Cultural Revolution was launched by Chairman Mao. He then started to learn English in school (a lucky opportunity!), and continued to learn English through high school and then college, going on to work for the Chinese government and, later, the American Consulate as a translator early in his career. His stories were fascinating. He had studied the history of the Jewish refugees and was able to share quite a bit of history with us in a few hours.]
A tai chi class in Huoshan Park was underway during our walk through the small neighborhood park in Shanghai, China; it was built in 1917 and was frequented by the Jewish refugees living nearby for breaks and parties during World War II
“Huoshan Park covers an area of 3,700 square meters (40,000 square feet). In 1917, the park started construction and opened to the public in 1918, named Stark Hadley Park. In the early 1920s, Zhoushan Road was built in front of the park, so the park was renamed again as Huoshan Park. The Park was closed during the decade of the ‘Cultural Revolution”. Brick kilns and fortifications were built and the original facilities were destroyed completely. In 1978, the Park was rebuilt and opened again.
“From the 1930s to the early 1940s, large numbers of Jewish refugees came to Shanghai seeking asylum. The park became an activity and meeting place for Jewish people. In 1994, a monument was set up for explaining the location of Jewish residential area by the Hongkou District People’s Government [see photo and text, below]. In June 2015, a landscape renovation was started. Multi-functional corridors, wisteria frames and transparent pavilions were newly added. In June 2016 the park was officially (re)opened to the public. – a sign in the park (in English) provided by the local government
This monument in Huoshan Park (erected sometime after our 1995 visit) notes that the neighborhood was the “designated area for stateless refugees (Jews)” who arrived in the 1930s in Shanghai, China
The plaque in the monument in the photo, above, reads (as translated by the Chinese government): THE DESIGNATED AREA FOR STATELESS REFUGEES” From 1937 to 1941, thousands of Jews came to Shanghai fleeing from Nazi persecution. Japanese occupation authorities regarded them as “stateless refugees” and set up this designated area to restrict their residence(s) and business(es). The designated area was bordered on the west by Gongping Road, on the east by Tongbei Road, on the south by Huimin Road, and on the north by Zhoujiazui Road” – Hongkou District People’s Government
All across China we saw the commemorative plaques, banners and plantings that the People’s Republic of China’s government had erected in advance of the October 1, 2019, celebration of the 70th anniversary of the birth of the modern nation (PRC) with the victory of Chairman Mao and the Communists over the Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-Shek; this sign was in Huoshan Park, Shanghai, China
In Huoshan Park this building served as an administrative center in the Jewish ghetto during World War II, Shanghai, China; the renovations were paid for by donations from the State of Israel and Israeli companies in collaboration with the Honghou District People’s Government in appreciation of the absorption of Jewish refugees by the people of Shanghai before and during World War II
Several local ladies from the neighborhood nearby Huoshan Park in what was the Jewish ghetto during World War II, Shanghai, China
Today it is easy to see the 1940s boundary of the Jewish Ghetto (“the designated area for stateless refugees”) as the modern skyscrapers have been built outside the former ghetto (mostly 2 and 3 story buildings dating back to the early part of the first half of the 20th century), Shanghai, China
LITTLE VIENNA: Around 1940, the European Jews in Shanghai ran a number of businesses in the Tilanqiao neighborhood of the Hongkou District, including cafés, restaurants, pubs and bakeries. The area around Chusan Road (now Zhoushan Road) was especially noteworthy as German signs for businesses, including outdoor cafés similar to those found in Austria, were very common, forming a prosperous cityscape. The neighborhood was known as “Little Vienna” – an indication that the Jewish refugees had not only become accustomed to the local culture, but also sought to reinvent their own culture in Shanghai. When this neighborhood was renovated in 2008, several business signs were preserved from the years of “Little Vienna” and are now on display here. The café at the Museum is named after one of these historical landmarks: Café Atlantic. – sign at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum
Typical three-story homes in the 1940s Jewish Ghetto (“the designated area for stateless refugees”) along Zhoushan Road, Shanghai, China
59 Zhoushan Road, Shanghai, China, in the Jewish Ghetto, was the former home of W. Michael Blumenthal, former United States Secretary of the Treasury (who lived here as a child refugee with his family from 1939 to 1947)
Built in 1910, the house at 59 Zhoushan Road is deemed veranda-style architecture typical in modern times Shanghai. During World War II a number of Jewish refugees lived in this house, among whom is Michael Blumenthal, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury of the Carter (Presidency) Government. – sign attached to 59 Zhoushan Road, Shanghai, China
Michael Blumenthal, the former US Secretary of the Treasury, lived at 50 Chusan Road (now called Zhoushan Road) when his family took refuge in Shanghai during World War II. He came when he was a teenager, and he spent his adolescent years in Shanghai. He came to the USA after WW II and served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1979. Michael Blumenthal has come back to Shanghai many times together with his family, and calls Hongkou his “second homeland”. When he visited his former residence [pictured above], this 90-year-old man said that he had seen the bright side of humanity in Shanghai. — sign in front of 59 Zhoushan Road, Shanghai, China
The former Ohel Moshe Synagogue in the Hongkou neighborhood (Jewish Ghetto during World War II) was converted to the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum by the Shanghai Municipal Government in 2007
The interior of the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue in the Hongkou neighborhood (Jewish Ghetto during World War II), now part of the restored complex of buildings making up the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum
The Ohel Moshe Synagogue was established in 1907 and moved to the present site in 1927. The building was funded in 1927 by a group of Russian Jews. It was an important religious site for Jewish refugees during World War II. In the year of 2007, the People’s Government of the Honghou District of Shanghai, China, allocated a special fund to renovate the building and had it restored to its historical appearance in 1928.
The long wall behind the memorial plaque — depicting some of the European Jewish refugees who found sanctuary in Shanghai in the late 1930s and during World War II – lists the names of the refugees who settled in the “Designated Area for Stateless Refugees” in the Tilanqiao area of Shangai (in the Hongkou District)
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