How China saved more than 20,000 Jews during WW2


One of the most extraordinary stories in Shanghai’s history took place the neighbourhood of Tilanqiao, which served as “a modern-day Noah’s Ark” for Jews during WW2. It is a symbol that looks entirely out of place. In central Shanghai, near the city’s nest of gleaming skyscrapers, I spotted a timeworn brick building adorned by a Star of David. This Jewish emblem is small enough that few passers-by would ever notice it. Yet it testifies to of one of the most extraordinary stories in Shanghai’s history, which took place here in the neighbourhood of Tilanqiao. For thousands of desperate people in the 1930s, this Chinese metropolis was a last resort. Most countries and cities on the planet had restricted entry for Jews trying to flee violent persecution by Nazi Germany. Not Shanghai, however. This multicultural oasis — that included British, French, American, Russian and Iraqi residents — was among the very few places Jewish refugees were guaranteed to be accepted, with no visa required. Despite Shanghai being more than 7,000 km from their homes in Germany, Poland and Austria, more than 20,000 stateless Jews fled to China’s largest city to escape the Holocaust between 1933 and 1941.

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