On June 19, 2012, Chinese Deputy Consul General Mr. Zhu Wanjin attened the opening of LBI’s current exhibit, “Destination Shanghai” and addressed over 150 guests, many of whom were former Shanghai refugees and their families.
“It is my honor to attend the opening ceremony of the exhibition entitled “Destination Shanghai” about the Jewish Community of Shanghai at the Leo Baeck Institute. The Chinese and Jewish people are both nations with a long history and have a time-honored relationship with each other, which dates back to as early as the first century A.D. The past 2,000 years of our relationship have stood witness to many touching and inspiring stories, and those on display today are part of them.
Having been brutally persecuted by the German Nazis and denied entry by most European countries, the Jews took refuge in China in the late 1930’s and were warmly received by the kind-hearted Chinese people. Jewish refugees in China outnumbered those in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India combined. They not only found refuge in China, but also enjoyed unfailing support from the Chinese, who were in dire conditions themselves. As a result, most of the Jewish refugees in China overcame the hardships and survived the second world war.
From 1933 to 1941, Shanghai had sheltered more than 30,000 European Jewish refugees. The pressure of Nazi Germany and the vagaries of Japanese policy toward the Jews kept Shanghai’s Jews in difficult straits. Despite their own deprivations and at the risk of their own lives, many natives of Shanghai shared their homes, food and fuel with the Jewish refugees. And local hospitals also took in many Jewish refugees.
Sharing weal and woe with the Chinese people, some Jews in China participated in the resistance against Japanese aggression. An example would be Dr. Jacob Rosenfeld, who came to Shanghai from Austria as a Jewish refugee in 1939 and left Shanghai to join the anti-Japanese war two years later. He had saved many Chinese lives and was highly respected by the Chinese people.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A look back into history paves the way for a brighter future. Fascism and militarism have brought tragedies to the world, and the war highlighted the importance of peace and brought out the light of humanity even in the darkest corners. Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. So may the world not repeat its past mistakes, and may the Chinese and Jewish people enjoy ever-lasting friendship.