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Wandering through city’s wartime Jewish ghetto

SEVENTY-EIGHT years ago, going to Shanghai seemed to be a poor man’s choice for many Jewish refugees fleeing the horrors of Nazi Germany.

Shanghai was then under Japanese occupation.

Life was little better than where they already were.

Food was a constant problem. So was the lack of proper housing, medicine and education.

It is estimated that Shanghai was home to about 25,000 Jewish refugees during World War II.

That is more than all of those who fled to Canada, Australia, India, South Africa and New Zealand combined, says history professor Wang Jian, an expert on Jewish communities in China.

Today, when those former ghetto dwellers journey back to the familiar lanes in Hongkou District, many fondly recall their Chinese neighbors who opened their doors and helped them go through those difficult years.

They see Shanghai as their second home. As a matter of fact, it was even first home for many refugees, who lost their homes in Europe due to the war.

For those who are interested in this part of history, follow the WeChat ID “Shanghailibrary” for an exclusive guided walking tour, “Jewish Refugees in Shanghai,” on the last Saturday of April.

The two-hour tour begins at the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum on Changyang Road, and passes by the old residence of Jewish musician Alfred Wittenberg, the roof garden restaurant on top of the Broadway Theater, Huoshan Park, the former Joint Distribution Committee, former Tilanqiao Prison, Ohel Moishe Synagogue and stops at the White Horse Café.

Learn what life was like for both Jewish and Chinese residents in the Hongkou ghetto under the Japanese occupation and how the neighborhood has been transformed ever since then.

Even more, enjoy the rare chance to meet the friendly locals and hear their unique Shanghai stories. To make a reservation, call 6445-5555 ext 4301 for English service.


Date: April 29, 1-3pm

Venue: Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum

Address: 63 Changyang Rd


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