Exile in Shanghai
After the 1938 November Pogrom, Shanghai became one of the most important sanctuaries for Jewish emigrants. In the period up to 1941, some 20,000 refugees, most of them German Jews, made their way to the infamous city on the East China Sea.
Shanghai was literally at the end of the world for German-speaking Jews. Still it became a last resort for many, since unlike other countries, entry there required neither visa nor debt guarantee. This easy accessibility made the town the "exile of the little people."
After weeks of travelling by ship or with the Trans-Siberian railway, the refugees would arrive in Shanghai, often destitute and dependent on the support of Jewish aid organizations.
An unfamiliar environment
with primitive, mass accommodations shaped daily life and only a few
managed to establish secure livelihoods. The artists and writers among
them saw the emergence of a diverse cultural life.
The city's occupation by the Japanese Army at the end of 1941 worsened the circumstances of the refugees, declared "stateless" by the German government.
In 1943, they had to move to a ghetto in the district of Hongkew, where they lived together in a confined space and suffered under the reprisals of the Japanese ruler.
After the war ended, great uncertainty prevailed among the refugees. In addition to the question of how things might continue, came worries about the relatives and friends left behind in Europe. Most of them moved on to the U.S., Australia or Palestine. Only a few returned to their former homes.
Even though they were later scattered throughout the world, the experience of exile led to a lifelong connection of the "Shanghailanders," as this website documents: www.rickshaw.org.