“Shanghai revisits its forgotten Jewish past”

LA Times (via Ratty):

…During World War II, 20,000 European Jews fled to Shanghai, one of the few places in the world they could go without a visa, and one of the few that put no limit on the number of Jews it would accept. Under Japanese occupation, they were squeezed into one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, living cheek by jowl with working-class Chinese such as Wang.

“They were good friends. They lived together. They played together. They suffered together under the Japanese occupation,” said Wang Fanglian’s 21-year-old granddaughter, Wang Kaiyan.

The old man learned English and French from his Jewish neighbors — and Japanese from the occupiers. He bought his house, the one with the Western luxuries, at the end of the war from a departing Jewish family.

Then when the remaining Jews, along with other foreigners, fled China after the communist victory in 1949, this chapter of Shanghai history was tucked away and forgotten.

“Because of the Cultural Revolution, people didn’t want to talk about relations with foreigners,” said the granddaughter, referring to the communist purges of the 1960s and 1970s against what were seen as bourgeois influences.

To call it a revival would be an overstatement, but the Jewish history of Shanghai is gradually coming out from the shadows.


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