Exhibit honors Shanghai's aid to European Jews

Updated: 2015-09-11 15:59

By HEZI JIANG in Philadelphia hezijiang@chinadailyusa.com(China Daily USA)

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Exhibit honors Shanghai's aid to European Jews

Zhang Qiyue, the Chinese consul general in New York, spoke at the private reception celebrating the opening of the AJC Jewish Refugees & Shanghai Exhibit in Philadelphia on Thursday evening. [Photo for China Daily]

Seventy-six years ago, Michael Blumenthal, the former US treasury secretary, fled with his parents from Berlin to Shanghai, where he made a living delivering bread.

"We may not have our secretary of the treasury if the Chinese didn't open their arms," said Fred Strober, president of AJC Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey, at the opening reception for the AJC Jewish Refugees & Shanghai exhibit on Thursday evening in Philadelphia.

"Between 1933 and 1941, nearly 30,000 Jews came to Shanghai and found shelter in Shanghai," Zhang Qiyue, the Chinese consul general in New York, said at the reception. "With this number, actually, Shanghai and China took more Jews than Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India combined," she said to applause.

The six-part photo exhibit highlights the story of the Jewish refugees who fled the horrors of the Holocaust, finding refuge in Shanghai at a time when few countries were willing to admit European Jewish refugees.

The only place in the world that didn't require entrance visas was the international city of Shanghai.

Most of the Jewish refugees were penniless getting off the ship. They settled, went to schools, got technical and professional training and started dozens of newspapers and magazines.

Though life was hard, no Chinese ever complained that we were there, said Betty Grebenschikoff, a Holocaust survivor who shared her account of 11 years of life in Shanghai. She met and married her husband in the city and had her wedding dress made by her Chinese tailor.

"It was a very difficult life, but had we not been able to go to China, we never would have lived at all," she said.

Many of the Jewish refugees joined the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, such as Jakob Rosenfeld, a doctor whom Chinese will always remember, said Zhang.

Zhang shared the news that the Shanghai government is going to expand the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, invest in the repair of the synagogue in Shanghai, and further expand the Jewish research and study center.

"We have warm sentiments toward each other that can be traced back to thousands of years," said Zhang. "I firmly encourage the Chinese community and the Jewish community to work more closely together."

The ties also will enrich the Sino-American relationship, Zhang added. And she hopes more Americans can go to China and go to Shanghai to learn about the country.

Grebenschikoff has been back for four times. "Every time I go back, I feel that I'm coming home."

Last year, she brought her wedding dress back, and donated it to the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.