Introduction to Rescue by China - Shanghai


The Japanese army occupied the Chinese port city of Shanghai in November 1937. 

Japanese occupying authorities did not require refugees to have entry visas.  As a result it became the largest refuge for Jews in Asia.

By February 1939, there were 2,500 Jewish refugees in Shanghai.  By March, there were 4,000.  By May, there were 9,000.  By the end of 1939, there were more than 17,000 refugees.

More than 18,000 Jewish refugees found safe haven in the port city of Shanghai, China.  On February 18, 1943, the Japanese government declared Jewish refugees to be stateless, and established a ghetto for them in the Hongkew area of Shanghai.

Two diplomats, in particular, were responsible for issuing transit visas to Jewish refugees who eventually went to Shanghai.  One was Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat stationed in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania.  He issued thousands of transit visas to Polish Jews while he was stationed in Lithuania.  These Jews were given visas to enter Japan.  Many of them stopped over in Kobe, Japan.  They were eventually sent to Shanghai, China, which was occupied and controlled by the Japanese Imperial Army.  The other diplomat was Consul Dr. Feng Shan Ho.  Ho was stationed in Vienna, Austria, in 1940.  He provided thousands of visas to Austrian Jews who, likewise, were able to find refuge in Shanghai.  At least two other Chinese diplomats stationed in Europe issued visas to Jewish refugees.

German officials tried to stop the flow of immigrants to Shanghai.  Japanese officials, however, guaranteed the relative safety of Jews for the duration of the war.

A number of important Jewish rescue and relief organizations operated to support the refugees there.  They included the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), represented Laura Margolis; the Victor Sassoon Committee; and the International Committee for European Immigrants (IC), also set up by Victor Sassoon, in July 1938, and headed by Paul Komor.  The Relief Committee for German Jews was established by Karl Marx in October 1938.  It later became the Committee for the Assistance of European Jewish Refugees in Shanghai (CFA), led by Michael Speelman.

In 1948, Shanghai became part of Communist China, and Jews were forced to leave.  About half of the Jewish community emigrated to Israel.


Updated October 29, 2017