The Jewish Refugees in Shanghai
The Jewish Refugees in Shanghai
——A Miracle in the History of Holocaust
Pan Guang Wang Jian
During the whole period of World War II, more than 6 million European
Jews were killed by the Nazi Germany and its accessaries. But from 1933 to 1941, about thirty thousand Central-European Jews fled to Shanghai, excluding those who left Shanghai for other countries, the city contained a total of 25,000 Jewish refugees at the time of the outbreak of the Pacific War. This means that Shanghai accepted more Jewish refugees than those taken in by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India combined. So it could say a miracle in the history of Holocaust.
I. Why they escape to Shanghai?
There are a few reasons for the Shanghai becoming the Noah’s Ark for the Central-European Jews during the World War II.
First, from the perspective of history, ‘indigenous’ anti-Semitism had never existed in Shanghai and China. The accepted historical account is that Jews came to China as early as the Tang Dynasty. Some scholars think that the date even could be extended back to the Han or Zhou Dynasty about 2,000 years ago. Whatever the actual date, the Jewish community in Kaifeng, which took shape during the Song Dynasty, was known to all. In modern times, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Harbin had become the places where Jews chose to live, usually to close-knit communities. Shanghai, in particular, had a Jewish community of about 5,000 souls in the early part of 1930s, comprised of Sephardic Jews who came to the city from British-ruled Baghdad, Bombay, and Hong Kong in the second half of last century and a large number of Russian Jews who came to make a living in the city via Siberia and Harbin after the pogroms and revolutions in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. The community had its own communal association, synagogues, schools, hospitals, clubs, cemeteries, a chamber of commerce, political groups, newspapers, magazines, and a small fighting unit (a Jewish company belonging to the Shanghai Volunteer Corps). The important point is that although many Jews have inhabited China from ancient to modern times, no indigenous anti-Semitic activity has ever taken place on Chinese soil. While anti-Jewish movements flooded over Western Europe between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries, the Jewish community in Kaifeng prospered. Again, when pogroms occurred in Eastern Europe and Russia, the Jewish community in Shanghai remained secure. We use the word ‘indigenous’ because there had been some anti-Semitic activities in Shanghai and Harbin in 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, but they were all committed by White Russian and Japanese anti-Semitists, and later by Nazis. We call this ‘imported’ or ‘imposed’ anti-Semitism. No such sentiment has ever emerged naturally and spontaneously on Chinese soil, or has it exerted any substantial influence on Chinese lives.
Second, viewed culturally, most Chinese are influenced by Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism rather than Christianity, and Chinese and Jewish cultures share a great deal in common. For example, both lay great stress on family ties and educational values, and although both have absorbed various exotic cultures, their central core has never changed. On a stone monument erected in 1489, the Kaifeng Jews wrote: ‘our religion and Confucianism differ only in minor details. In mind and deed both respect Heaven’s Way, venerate ancestors, are loyal to sovereigns and ministers, and filial to parents. Both call for harmony with wives and children, respect for rank, and for making friends’. For this reason, the ideological roots of anti-Semitism which lie in religious prejudice and racial discrimination against Jews do not exist in China, and never have. Therefore, Jewish people living in China enjoyed a sense of security. No doubt, this environment was strongly appealing to Central-European Jews who had suffered untold tribulations. As the most Europeanized city in China, Shanghai above all other places in China combined Chinese tradition with Western civilization and provided the most favourable conditions in which the European Jews could settle down and make a livelihood.
Third, after occupied by Japanese Army in 1937, Shanghai was in a special status of so-called visa out of control. Shanghai after the concessions of 1843, Shanghai opened its door to foreigners and became ‘Adventurers’ Paradise’. In what was very nearly one century between 1843 and 1941, all kinds of immigrants and refugees found no difficulty in seeking their living space in Shanghai, especially in the Western-held sector. After the August 13 Incident in 1937, Japanese troops occupied most parts of Shanghai and the regions around it so that the city’s International Settlement and French Concession were transformed into ‘isolated islands’ in a Japanese controlled area. The Chinese government was powerless to continue its control of the Shanghai region, while the Japanese occupation forces, pressing westwards in pursuit of the Chinese troops, did not have enough time to set up a puppet regime in the city. As a consequence, Shanghai was the only metropolis in the world where foreigners could enter without visas and financial guarantees in the two years between the autumn of 1937 and the fall of 1939. These advantages were particularly important to Central-European Jewish refugees, most of them were penniless and some of whom had just escaped from concentration camps.
Forth, the international environment of that time also accounted for Shanghai’s popularity among Jews. In the wake of the global economic Depression and imminent threat of war, many countries refused to accept immigrants. This made it very difficult for Jewish refugees from Europe to find a haven. In May of 1939, the British government issued the ‘White Paper’ which imposed strict restrictions on the entry of Jewish immigrants into Palestine. The United States, which has the world’s largest Jewish community, also set a limit on the entry of Jewish refugees. Meanwhile, many neutral states, afraid of bring troubles upon themselves, also refused to take Jewish refugees. It was in these desperate days that the European Jews found Shanghai.
II. How they came to Shanghai
Different works express different opinions about the routes, times of arrival, and the number of Jewish refugees in Shanghai. Based on several years’ research, we have come to the following conclusions which we shall approach chronologically.
The first period involved the five years between 1933, when Hitler began his campaign against Jews, and August of 1937, when Japanese troops invaded Shanghai. During these years, the conditions of German Jews, though unpleasant, were not as atrocious as those they were to suffer later. Many of them had enough insight to sense that imminent disaster was at hand, and, while they still had a chance, left their homes. Not many of these German Jews came to Shanghai because many countries had not yet closed their doors to Jews. In 1933, the first group of German Jews who arrived in Shanghai was composed of twelve families consisting in all of about 100 people. It is hard to know exactly how many German Jews had arrived in the city by the summer of 1937, because some of them moved on to other places from Shanghai. We have estimated the number at 1,000 to 1,500, excluding those who later moved on. Strictly speaking, the Jews who came to the city during this period should be considered immigrants and not refugees. Because there were no major wars in Europe and Asia at that time, these German Jews made their way directly from Germany to Shanghai via the normal sea routes.
The second period extended from August 1937 to August 1939 when the Shanghai authorities began to set a limit to the entry of Jewish refugees into the city. These two years were peak years in which Jewish refugees from Germany and other Central European countries swarmed into Shanghai. This great influx was a response to the aggravated persecution by Nazi Germany and its propagation in other parts of Europe following the German annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia. It was also affected by the strict restraints many countries had imposed on the entry of Jewish refugees by that time. In contrast to these countries, Shanghai remained open to Jews because of its special position in the war.
Jewish refugees who had left the areas occupied by Nazi Germany for Shanghai suffered indescribable tribulations. Some of those who arrived in Shanghai in December 1938 said: ‘many of our 187 refugees were wealthy local merchants with millions in capital. But when we were expelled from Germany, each of us was allowed to take only 10 marks, not counting our passage money. The rest was confiscated.’ The routes they could take to Shanghai were three: most of them went first to Italy, and from there travelled to Shanghai by sea; some of them first entered France, Holland, or Belgium, then took ships for Shanghai at the Atlantic ports; a small number of Jewish refugees travelled by ship to the Balkan states, from where they found vessels to get to the Far East. Estimates about the number of Jewish refugees who arrived in Shanghai during this period differ. Some say it may have reached 15,000. Others have thought the figure at 17,000 to 19,000. Based on an analysis of comprehensive data, We would argue that the two figures, which are derived mainly from the statistics of refugee settlements, are incomplete, because large numbers of refugees did not go to the refugee camps, but either moved in with relatives or rented houses in which to settle down. If the numbers of these refugees are added as well, the total number could reach as high as 20,000.
The third period lasted from August of 1939 to June 1940 when Italy proclaimed war against Britain and France. In August 1939, the authorities in the Shanghai International Settlement and the French Concession reached an agreement with the Japanese occupation forces concerning the entry of Jewish refugees, declaring that the European Jewish refugees holding a ‘J’-passport had to ask for permission before setting foot on Shanghai soil. The conditions for obtaining permission were that each person paying a bond of US$400 (US$100 for children under 13); the applicant should either have a close relative resident in Shanghai or have work in the city or plan to marry a local resident. When the regulation was put into effect, shipping companies in Europe began to refuse to sell tickets for Shanghai to Jewish refugees who did not have such permission. The implementation of the regulation put refugees halfway on the voyage to Shanghai in a difficult position. Undeterred, many refugees still found ways to enter Shanghai with the aid of Jewish organizations throughout the world. At this point in time, after declaring war against Germany Britain began to drive German nationals from its territories and possessions. Falling victim to this expulsion, more than 100 Jews with German nationality came to Shanghai from Hong Kong and Singapore, despite the fact that these expelled Jews had already been deprived of their German nationality in accordance with Hitler’s decrees. Though the number was falling, it is estimated that the city still accepted 2,000 to 3,000 refugees from Germany, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and the three Baltic States. The routes Jewish refugees took to Shanghai during this period were similar to those they had taken in the previous period.
The fourth period covers just one year, from June of 1940 to June of 1941 when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. This year should be counted as a separate period, because after June 1940 the routes Jewish refugees would take to Shanghai changed greatly. In June 1940, Italy proclaimed war against Britain and France. Soon afterwards, France was defeated and surrendered. Britain continued to carry on a fierce sea and air war against Germany and Italy in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The upshot was that the regular sea routes taken to Shanghai by European Jewish refugees were completely cut off. This critical time was marked by a last, agitated tide of European Jews desperate to escape Europe, because West European countries such as France, Holland, Belgium, and the Balkan states like Yugoslavia and Greece had fallen into the hands of the Nazis, because the three Baltic states were then being confronted with the Nazi threat and were later merged into the Soviet Union, and because the German Occupation meant that the anti-Jewish movement had systematically begun to operate in the Central European countries. By now, the rate of success of these refugees in their efforts to escape persecution was rapidly declining. During this period some Jewish refugees still wanted to come to Shanghai but this meant they had to cross the Soviet Union, then reach their destination by way of Manchuria, Korea, or Japan. The journey usually took several months, during which they braved numerous dangers and hazards to reach Shanghai. Lack of material means it is very hard to determine the exact number of Jewish refugees who arrived in Shanghai during this period, but We estimate the figure at about 2,000 persons.
The fifth period lasted the six months from June to December 8 1941 when the Pacific War broke out. Because the war between the Soviet Union and Germany erupted in June 1941, the land routes available to European Jewish refugees were completely cut off. The German invasion of Russia meant it was no longer possible for Jewish refugees to leave Europe for Shanghai. However, some Jewish refugees, who had left Europe before the war and had settled in the far eastern part of the Soviet Union, Manchuria, or Japan still continued to seek a haven in Shanghai, for the flames of the world war left them little other choice, in the face of the strict limits set by most countries. Therefore, over 2,000 Jewish refugees set foot in Shanghai during this period, most of whom came from Poland and Lithuania. The tortuous journey on the way to Shanghai, experienced by over 1,100 Polish Jews, including about 400 teachers and students from Mir Yeshiva and some other Yeshivas, is particularly worthy of note. They fled to Lithuania in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. Driven to the wall, they thought up a way to escape from Europe by acquiring Japanese transit visas on the excuse that they were going to the Dutch colony of Curacao, then by trying their best to go to the United States from Japan. Their unremitting efforts were rewarded when they were unexpectedly granted transit visas by Chinue Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kovno, and then were able to obtain exit permits from the Soviet government (by that time Lithuania had been merged into the Soviet Union). When all was in order, as arranged by the Soviet Travel Service (each had to pay US$200), they went across Siberia by train and arrived at Vladivostok, from where they reached Kobe, Japan, by ship. They remained there about half a year. Since they felt there was no hope of obtaining entry visas from the American government, during the second half of 1941 they decided to go to Shanghai. It was the last big group of Central European Jewish refugees to get into Shanghai in wartime.
After the outbreak of the Pacific War, it became impossible for Jewish refugees to enter Shanghai either by sea or by land. In total, Shanghai accepted almost 30,000 Central European Jews who came in successive waves from 1933 to December of 1941.
III. How they make a living
After escaping the Nazi concentration camps and arriving in Shanghai, Central European Jewish refugees were faced with the problem of making a living in a completely strange environment.
First, They should find places to live in. At first, the refugees sought to individual rooms and apartments in various parts of the city, but when the bulk of the refugees flooded into Shanghai, they were obliged to settle in Hongkew, an intersectional district wedged between the International Settlement, the Japanese-held sector, and the Chinese area, with a lower living price due to the heavy fighting there in 1937. At the beginning of 1940, 11,000 refugees were living in Hongkew with another 1,500 in the International Settlement and 4,000 in the French Concession. Two types of dwellings were made available in Hongkew: shelter camps and what was known as Lane Housing. By the end of 1940, about 3,000 to 4,000 refugees lived in the camps; about 10,000 refugees had settled in the lane houses.
Second, they should find a job. Although few refugees who could speak English well or had friends in Shanghai were lucky and did find jobs, most Central European Jews found it so difficult to get professional or even regular work, and of course they were in no position to compete with Chinese coolie labour. Turning to their own resources, the vast majority of refugees began to set up their own domestic businesses. They reconstructed dozens of shattered streets, using the rubble to erect the new building and shops, and Hongkew soon began to take on the appearance of a small German or Austrian city. Chusan Road, once a small, dingy, typically Chinese lane, now looked like a street in Vienna. A few enterprising souls even established small factories, turning out such products as soap, candles, knitwear, leatherwear, and especially European-type food products like sausages, confections, soft drinks and the like. There were a large number of medically trained personnel among refugees, including 200 physicians. These doctors, dentists, and nurses soon set up little clinics in Hongkew. They even established the first hospital for refugees, with 120 beds, and the Association of Central European Physicians.
Third, they should establish their own community. In the midst of the utter confusion of wartime, it was only natural for the Central European Jewish community to adopt a certain amount of self-government. The various relief committees formed the nuclei of all social organization and were often treated as the official representatives of the community by the Japanese authorities. Although the traditional Jewish Communal Association was established in the summer of 1939 by Central European Jews in Shanghai, in general, there was no single overall community government. The Japanese were content to let the refugees run their own affairs, so long as these did not interfere with any Japanese plans.
It was also quite natural that the Central European Jewish community should feel the need to organize its own religious establishments. Most of the refugees who originated from Germany and Austria were Reform Jews and accustomed to the liberal or reform type of service, with an organ and a mixed choir. Up until November 1941, the Reformist Congregations held their services in such places as school auditoriums, meeting halls, and rented theatres. Then, in November, the ‘Juedische Gemeinde’ dedicated its own synagogue on MacGregor Road. In some camps, the services were conservative, the more orthodox Jews made use of a small Russian Jewish temple, the Ohel Moshe synagogue, on Ward Road. On the whole, religion did not seem to play a prominent role in the community. One exception that must be noted was the Polish Jews. Most of them remained completely orthodox and maintained several Yeshivas and Talmud Thoras. Four hundred rabbinical students and their teachers from the Mir Yeshiva and some other Yeshivas had come all the way from Poland as a unit, and had reached Shanghai without a single student, teacher, or book being lost or even a lesson missed. Upon arrival they set up their school in the Beth Ahron synagogue in Museum Road and continued with their studies, refusing to be deflected by all the difficulties.
Fourth, they should conduct cultural activities. One of the chief factors which made life bearable for refugees was the amount and variety of recreation they could enjoy. There were many cinemas in Shanghai, which specialized in American films, and these were quickly patronized by refugees - eager not only for entertainment, but also for an opportunity to learn English. Actors and actresses organized drama groups, even a Yiddish theatre; musicians set up bands and orchestras; several singers even formed a light opera company, which put on some highly successful operettas. In Hongkew, there were, of course, the ubiquitous coffeehouses and bridge clubs, and even a few nightclubs, including a very pleasant roof-terrace on one of the neighbourhood’s tallest buildings. Shortly after their arrival, refugees set up soccer teams and, within a few months, they had succeeded in establishing a three-division amateur soccer league. Other popular sports included boxing, ping-pong, a little tennis, and even some baseball. From 1938 to 1943, editors and journalists among refugees ran more than ten German publications, and several Polish and Yiddish ones. They included Shanghai Jewish Chronicle (Shanghai Echo), Shanghai Woche, Acht Uhr and so on.
Fifth, they experienced the hard time in Hongkew Ghetto. As Japan had declared war against the United States in December 1941, Germany assumed that Japan would be certain to begin implementing German-type anti-Semitic policies. In July 1942, eight months after the Pacific War broke out, Colonel Josef Meisinger, chief representative of the Nazi Gestapo in Japan, arrived in Shanghai and put forward a plan for ‘the Jewish Solution in Shanghai’ to the Japanese authorities. Although the ‘Meisinger Plan’ was not put into effect, the Japanese authorities proclaimed ‘the Designated Area for Stateless Refugee’, ordering all Jewish refugees from Central Europe to move into the area. The whole operation was similar to setting up a concentration camp.
Although few refugees, who were lucky enough to keep their jobs and business out of ‘The Designated Area’, were permitted to leave the ghetto during the daytime, most people lost their jobs and business when they were moved to the ghetto. During this time the situation in Hongkew continued to deteriorate drastically as the economy continued to shrink. Some of the more physically robust members of the community began to compete with Chinese coolie labourers to earn a few pennies. A few of the more desperate ones resorted to begging. Approximately 6,000 refugees were dependent upon relief from the Kitchen Fund by the beginning of 1944. Malnutrition and disease brought the total mortality figures for 1943 to 311. Everybody waged a vital, dire struggle to survive.
Despite such difficult conditions, on the whole the community showed a surprising amount of solidarity. The majority of refugees maintained a remarkable degree of stability and equilibrium. They did their best to help each other. On July 17, 1945, American aircraft accidentally bombed the refugees area in Hongkew, causing the death of thirty-one refugees and leaving 250 refugees injured. At this moment of tragedy, the moral, physical, and mental resources of the refugee community were marshalled very quickly and effectively. Almost all the refugees rushed from where they happened to be to the nearest medical offices and other emergency stations to offer help. The refugee air-raid wardens and stretcher-bearers proved their worth. This bombing was to be the last blow the Central European Jewish community suffered during the war years. One month later, Japan surrendered.
IV. Why they could survive
A number of factors accountable for the survival of the Jewish refugees in Shanghai under the control of fascist Japan could come down to the following three aspects.
The refugees’ struggle. Among the refugees from Germany, Austria and Poland, there were many super-eminent intellectuals and professionals, including doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, architects, accountants, managers, editors, journalists, writers, actors, artists, musicians and skilled workers in various industries. They helped and depended on each other during their hardship. For instance, 200 physicians worked as the backbone of a clinic set up in the end of 1938 together with other medical personnel in the refugees. The first refugee hospital was set up in March,1939, having 60 beds. As recorded in the Shanghai Municipal Council gazette, the refugee hospital on Ward Road had 120 beds, and “X-ray office, dental, ophthalmic and obstetric departments, and could make both ends meet.” Teachers among the refugees also continued their work with difficulties and offered vocational training for adults, and some of them later worked in the two refugee schools for children. Similarly, editors and journalists ran their own newspaper, and it is obviously very difficult for them to have several newspapers in German from the end of 1939 to the end of 1941. Even greater efforts were made by the artists to perform dramas and stage concerts, particularly the first Yiddish play in Shanghai.
Apart from their struggle to maintain a normal life, the solidarity at the critical moment is also admirable. From 1942 to 1944, the refugees endured the most difficult period in Shanghai since help form the outside was cut off. As a result, the death toll rocketed from 130 in 1942 to 167 in 1941 and 320 in 1942 and 311 in 1943. The situation became extremely terrible in Feb. 1943, when they were forced into the Hongkew ghetto, and many were reduced to begging. Yet they stood with each other in time of trouble. Some former refugees recalled that “although there were many frictions among them, the Jewish community was amazingly solidary in general.” They had bands and football teams to organize activities in the narrow spaces in Hongkew, and they could also exchange books in the mobile library to enrich their life during the hardship.
Support from all sides. First, the Jewish community in Shanghai made great efforts to help their own compatriots settle in. The Committee for the Assistance of European Refugees in Shanghai (CFA) and the International Committee for Granting Relief to European Refugees (IC) were established in 1938 mainly by Sephardic Jews and Russian Jews. The wealthy Sephadic Jews played a particularly big role in aiding Jewish refugees. The Kadoorie family donated a large amount of money to help Jewish refugees settle down and also set up the Shanghai Jewish Youth Association School, which accepted the children of penniless refugees free of charge so that the school enjoyed a high reputation during the wartime. Students form the Kadoorie schools benefited a lot and later became talents in various fields. The Sassoon family did not lag behind in the granting of assistance. At the beginning of 1939, Sir Victor Sassoon contributed US$150,000 for the settlement of Jewish refugees. Russian Jews were not as rich as the Sephadic Jews, but there were many of them with considerable influence. They were brimming with initiative and worked assiduously in all sorts of ways to help their Ashkenazi compatriots. After the Pacific War broke out, Jewish residents with British and American nationalities were interned by the Japanese as ‘enemy nationals’, but Russian Jews still enjoyed treatment as ‘neutral nationals’ because there was no war between Japan and the Soviet Union. This meant that the Russian Jews shouldered the burden of aiding Central European Jewish refugees until the end of war. They tired their best to help their compatriots live through the hard times with savings from their barely ample income from their restaurants, bakeries, and groceries.
Thirdly, kind effort by Chinese civilians to help the Jewish refugees. When Shanghai was occupied by the Japanese after the 813 Incident, Shanghai citizens became refugees themselves. Despite their own difficulties, they accepted and helped the Jewish refugees kindly in the late 1930’s. As recorded in 东方杂志 published in Shanghai in 1939, “although it is not easy to manage with 10,000 refugee citizens, we would try to help the Jewish refugees as long as we can… we should stand on the united frontline of weak and small nations to fight against the enemies who bully us…” Under such extremely difficult circumstance, residents in Hongkew and other districts made room for the Jewish refugees, and before the refugee clinics were set up, they were treated in Chinese hospitals and many lives were saved there. The Jewish refugees and their Chinese neighbors helped each other through the most difficult time from 1942 to 1944. One of the most touching scene took place in July 1945. American fighters bombed Hongkew ghetto by mistake, 31 Jews died and 250 were injured. Chinese in the neighborhood were also victimized yet they risked their own lives to save the Jews.
The pro-Semantic policy of the Japanese government and its difference from the German policy . How did the Japanese fascists allow the Jewish refugees to come into Shanghai and spare their lives? This is an intriguing question for many, which can be traced back to the development of the Jewish policy of the Japanese. Japan faced intense interest conflicts with Britain, U.S. and France after 1931, when Japan invaded the North-east of China and gradually approaching Under such circumstances, many so-called experts in Jewish issues, including安江仙弘、犬冢惟重、鲇川义介、小迁proposed that pro-semantic policies should be adopted to strengthen Japanese rule in North-east China and improve its relationship with Britain and the USA. These ideas were unofficially called the “Fugu Plan”, and some of these measures were actually implemented by the Japanese government from 1931 to 1937. Jews in Harbin, Shanghai and Kobe were granted permission to set up the Far Eastern Jewish Conference. Jewish capitalists were encouraged to run businesses and enterprises and thus attract more investment to “develop Manchuria”. The Japanese government also tried to please Jewish financers and acquiesced in the refugees’ entry into Shanghai, and made every effort to get involved with Jewish organizations in the USA, thus expecting to influence American policies towards Japan. Based on the unreliable illusion that the Jews could control American policy-making and influence policies of the former Soviet Union, all these measures certainly missed the diplomatic target, yet the Jews in China were actually conciliated.
The “July 7th ” aroused strong condemnation and criticism in the USA, Great Britain and France as well as among the Jews in China Japanese prime minister, minister of foreign affairs attended a special conference on December 5th, 1938 to discuss policies towards the Jews, which seemed to be a great concern . A general agreement was reached to ratify the proposals and efforts of the “Jewish issue experts” at the conference and shortly afterwards a more specific plan was put forth by 安江 and other experts, and therefore the “Fugu Plan ” was materialized. The 90-page plan, entitled “Research and Analysis of Attracting Jewish Investment”, is mainly concerned about a Jewish reserve to be built in China. The project was to be financed by American Jewish capitals to first accommodate 30,000 Jews with USD100 million and expanded later. Then eminent people would be invited to visit the reserve. In addition, the reserve would also be an attraction to attract Jewish capitals and help improve Japanese relationship with the USA and other western countries. After the plan was approved, the “experts” were busily engaged in advocating it, especially with Jews in Shanghai and Harbin and even sent people to lobby in the USA. Therefore, the Japanese authorities acquiesced in the entry of the Jewish refugees into Shanghai in 1937.
However they tried to carry out the “Fugu Plan”, the Japanese failed in their attempt. It is simply because when Japan joined the German fascists to launch a world war, the fascist nature of the Japanese ruling parties was self-evident to Jews all over the world. Consequently, the “reserve plan” was completely turned down. The “Fugu Plan”was eventually given up in December 1941 when the Pacific War broke out. In his letter to the “embassador ” to the Chinese Kuomingtang Government, Japanese foreign minister 东乡 wrote, “we have to reconsider our measures with the Jews since the war has broken out in Eastern Asia.” Even so, there were great differences in the Japanese policies towards the Jews from the Germans, and they did not want to slaughter the Jews, which was shown by the abortion of the “Meisinger Plan” mentioned above. Obviously, this is an important reason why the Jewish refugees could survive in Shanghai.
Why did the Japanese not carry out the ‘Meisinger Plan’? I think that there are four main reasons, which are: (1) The lobby within Japan which advocated peace with the United States still considered the Jews in China to be a means by which good relations with the United States could be restored and exerted their limited influence over the Japanese leadership to this end. (2) At that time Japanese leaders were still hoping to maintain non-belligerent relations with the Soviet Union. If the Jews in Shanghai were to be slaughtered as Germany demanded, no doubt this barbarism would involve Russian Jews and would have an adverse influence on relations between the two countries. (3) The Jews in Harbin and Japan, who spoke up for the Jewish community in Shanghai with Japanese senior officials in an attempt to persuade Japan not to carry out the ‘Meisinger Plan’, also exerted some influence. (4) As a result of the Confucian cultural tradition, East Asia did not foster the same religious, racial, and cultural prejudices against Jews which were prevalent in Christian Europe. Even the Japanese and the puppet officials at the middle and lower levels in Shanghai found it hard to accept the ‘Meisinger Plan’ both intellectually and emotionally. For example, Mr Shibata, Japanese Vice-Consul in Shanghai, was arrested because he gave secret support to Jews.
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