Dvir Bar-Gal: Shanghai’s Jewish history

Shanghai’s Jewish history

 Source: AP, 6-5-11

Not far from the Bund district in Shanghai, with its hordes of tourists and view of the city’s famous skyscrapers across the Huangpu River, is a quiet neighborhood called Hongkou.

Walk here along Zhoushan Road and you’ll stumble on a sign that signifies an otherwise unremarkable building at No. 59 as a landmark.

“During the World War II,” the sign reads in imperfect English, “a number of Jewish refugees lived in this house, among whom is Michael Blumenthal, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury of the Carter Government.”

The marker offers a clue to the hidden Jewish history of Shanghai and the incredible story of thousands of Jews who fled the Nazis and found refuge here in what was the Far East’s only Jewish ghetto. Among them was Blumenthal, who fled Europe with his family, spent part of his youth in Shanghai, then moved to the United States.

The best way to learn about this unusual slice of Jewish and Shanghai history is on a tour with an Israeli expat, Dvir Bar-Gal. But be warned: This is no superficial glance at the highlights; this is a five-hour, $60 mini-course with Bar-Gal as professor. With his encyclopedic knowledge and intense passion, he brings to life a vanished world, attracting visitors from every continent, many of them descended from the Jews who survived World War II only because they found refuge in Shanghai.

“No other place in the whole world saved so many Jewish lives,” Bar-Gal said, adding that “there is no anti-Semitism in China.”…READ MORE

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