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Jewish Museum of Australia

Current Exhibitions

The Story of a Haven: The Jews in Shanghai

21 October 1997 - 22 March 1998

Picture this:
Shanghai in the 1920's and 30's - a city of almost three and a half million people. Once a quiet port, now, in the wake of the Opium Wars and the Treaty of Nanking (1842), it is a city carved up and controlled by foreign powers. Shanghai is the commercial metropolis of the Orient.

Shanghai is an open city, an "outpost" of the foreign powers that control it. No visa required.

By early 1939, what has been a trickle of Jewish refugees into Shanghai from Europe has become a steady stream, with around 1,000 new arrivals each month. After Italy enters the war in June 1940 and it is no longer
possible to reach Shanghai by boat from Europe, alternative routes are sought. Many travel by train across Russia and Siberia to Vladivostok, and from there by sea, via Japan, to Shanghai - until Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. By December, Shanghai is home to some 25,000 Jews.

Europe in the 1920's and 30's - the rise and spread of Nazism has begun to threaten the very survival of millions of people, Jews in particular. People desperately try to leave, but quota systems and waiting lists mean many
doors are closing fast.

This is not a blurb from an about-to-be-published historical thriller but the true-to-life setting for The Story of a Haven: The Jews in Shanghai.

Curated from personal histories, documents, newspapers, letters, memorabilia and photographs, Australian Jews from Shanghai tell their stories of this little known chapter in recent history. How does a city accommodate
such an influx of newcomers? How does a community support its refugees? How does a culture survive such dislocation?

These are stories of resolve, resourcefulness, humanity and survival. These are experiences so powerful that that they continue to draw "Shanghailanders" together, around the globe, to renew their ties and friendships.

There are no longer any members of the Jewish community in Shanghai.

The Jews in Shanghai will give you an insight into what happened to these people, and the contribution they have made to their new homelands around the world.

man bicyle
Policeman investigating transport of "suspicious goods"
i.e. matzah for Passover - Hongkew - Shanghai
Photo: H. Eisfelder.


          Remembering Shanghai: Voices From the Past

          Those taking part will be:
              Mr. Eddie Weidman, who was born and raised in Shanghai
              Mr. Horst Eisfelder, who came as a German-Jewish refugee
              Dr. Antonia Finnane, who has made a special study of Jews in Shanghai
              Dr. Mark Baker, who will reflect on how we memorialise seminal events

          Jewish Museum of Australia       back
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