I have to be completely candid here about the fact that this my independent study for this week is rather challenging. As I just figured out my course timetable and this class has just been added to my course lists this Friday, I do not really have time to conducting my plan as I planed this week. Accordingly, since I just started this project, I would like to give a general introduction in concerning with this history project.
As the name of this project suggests, this project focuses on exploring the historical connection with the city of Shanghai and Jewish diasporas during World War II. Now, you may wander that is there a connection between Shanghai and Jewish since it is not a historical fact that everyone knows about. But the city of Shanghai, indeed, has a huge connection with Jewish people.
In the World history, Jews have experienced numerous mass expulsions or ostracism by various local authorities and have pursued refuge in other countries. One of the most infamous mass expulsions or ostracism is the Holocaust. From 1941 to 1945, Jews were systematically murdered in a genocide, one of the largest in history, and part of a broader aggregate of acts of oppression and killings of various ethnic and political groups in Europe by the Nazi regime. The most commonly cited figure for the total number of Jews killed has been six million. About the same time with Holocaust, Shanghai was a divided city. Following the Battle of Shanghai in 1937, the city had thousands of casualties and was under the shadow of Japanese occupations. Food was lacking, necessities were absent, and people suffered greatly. At this time of urgency, the fate of Shanghainese and Jewish people was somehow connected. People, at the first glace, will not connect words such as Jews, China and Shanghai together. However, the Jewish, factually, were deeply associating with Shanghai during World War II. During World War II, Shanghai was the only city in the world, unconditionally accepting Jewish refugees. An estimated 30,000 German and Austrian Jews fled to Shanghai before or during World War II. Even though Shanghai was under great economic and social pressures, Shanghai still allowed more refugees to come in. At that time when Jewish refugees arrived in Shanghai, the food was scarce, as almost everyone was in starvation. The living spaces were so limited that people were even sleeping in the bathrooms. Despite such difficult conditions, Shanghainese residents in Hongkew vacated their own living spaces to put up refugees, ensuring no one would end up sleeping on the street. They shared food and all the necessities with each other. They supported each other, helped each other, and protected each other just like a family would. In a time of precariousness like that, on the whole people of both the Shanghainese and Jewish showed a surprising amount of solidarity and understanding. And this history came to be integral to both Jewish people and Shanghai as the Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu thanks the city of Shanghai in a video marking the 70th anniversary of World War 2: “We’re committed to remembering the Righteous Among the Nations, those who aided Jews in our time of greatest need… And we are entirely grateful to Shanghai and its people.”
(Hope you enjoy the video by the way)
However, people usually do not have any knowledge in regarding to this chunk of history. Accordingly, this project would focus on revealing this important history of Jewish people and Shanghainese people. The six subfields of this project concerned mainly with: an introduction to the history of excommunication of Jews before WWII, the reason for Jews to choose Shanghai as their final destination, refugees’ life in Shanghai before the Pacific War, refugees’ life during the Pacific War, the relation between Shanghainese and Jews, and the cooperation between Jewish Community and government of Republic of China. With this six subfields of the topic, I believe I am able to disclose the real history of Jewish people at Shanghai that time period. I will post the next blog in the following couple days and start to discuss the first subfield: an introduction to the history of Jews before WWII. I hope both you and I able to learn something from my project. And it is truly my honor to start this project!