Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Shanghai Ghetto הגטו בשנחאי

« Back to Projects Dashboard

view all


The Shanghai ghetto, formally known as the Restricted Sector for Stateless Refugees (無国籍難民限定地区 mukokuseki nanmin gentei chiku?), was an area of approximately one square mile in the Hongkou District of Japanese-occupied Shanghai, to which about 20,000 Jewish refugees were relocated by the Japanese-issued Proclamation Concerning Restriction of Residence and Business of Stateless Refugees after having fled from German-occupied Europe before and during World War II.

A vibrant Jewish community appeared on the banks of the Huangpu River in old Shanghai, for a brief flash in history. By Ron Gluckman/Shanghai

During World War II, there seemed no hope for millions of European Jews running from the horrors of the Holocaust. But one city offered sanctuary to all - Shanghai. This little known story of survival in the intriguing international settlement is retold in a gripping new documentary. By Ron Gluckman /Hong Kong and Shanghai

Notable refugees in the Restricted Sector for Stateless Refugees

  • Rabbi Meir Ashkenazi, a Lubavitcher chasid, served as the spiritual leader of the Jewish refugees.
  • Aaron Avshalomov, Russian composer.
  • Abba Berman, Haredi rabbi, Rosh yeshiva.
  • Charles K. Bliss, whose Chinese experience inspired him to create Blissymbols.
  • W. Michael Blumenthal, served as the U.S. Treasury Secretary.
  • Morris Cohen, known by his nickname Two-Gun Cohen, he served as bodyguard and aide-de-camp to Sun Yat-sen, eventually becoming a Chinese general.
  • Shaul Eisenberg, who founded and ran the Eisenberg Group of Companies in Israel.
  • Gunther Gates (Gassenheimer), Rabbi, served as rabbi of Temple Israel in Alameda, CA (1947-1981).
  • Eduard Glass, Austrian chess master.
  • Eric Halpern, a cofounder of the Far Eastern Economic Review and its first editor.
  • Leo Hanin, leader of Shanghai Betar.
  • Otto Joachim, German composer.
  • Shimon Sholom Kalish, Hasidic rebbe of Amshinov–Otvotsk.
  • Vivian Jeanette Kaplan, Author of Ten Green Bottles (book).
  • Yisrael Mendel Kaplan, Haredi rabbi, served as Reb Mendel.
  • Abraham Kaufman, a prominent Zionist in China
  • Yechezkel Levenstein, Haredi rabbi, served as Mashgiach Ruchani.
  • Francis Mankiewicz, Canadian film director, screenwriter and producer.
  • Peter Max, American pop artist.
  • Michael Medavoy, a Hollywood executive at Columbia, Orion and TriStar Pictures.
  • Rene Rivkin, Australian financier.
  • Jakob Rosenfeld, more commonly known as General Luo, who spent nine years overseeing health care and who served as the Minister of Health in the 1947 Provisional Communist Military Government of China under Mao Zedong.
  • Otto Schnepp, professor at University of Southern California
  • Chaim Leib Shmuelevitz Haredi rabbi, served as Rosh yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Shanghai (1941–1947), and in Jerusalem (1965–1979).
  • John G. Stoessinger, Distinguished Professor of Global Diplomacy at the University of San Diego
  • Isaac (Itche) Topol. Successful haredi businessman who donated generously to charity to many Jewish organizations, Jewish causes and to Yeshivas as well as to the needy and the poor, in Brooklyn and in Jerusalem
  • Laurence Tribe, professor, Harvard Law School, Carl M. Loeb University Professor
  • George Zames, a control theorist and professor at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec.
  • Rabbi Yechiel Menachem Zynger, 5th Aleksanderer Rebbe (NY, USA)


Mir Yeshiva

Mir Yeshiva in Shanghai--Rabbi Meir Ashkenazi, a Lubavitcher chasid who served as the spiritual leader of the Jewish refugees, arranged for the yeshiva to occupy the Beit Aharon Synagogue, built in 1920 by a prominent Jewish Shanghai businessman, Silas Aaron Hardoon. For the first few weeks, until funds could be sourced for provisions, the yeshiva community suffered from malnutrition.

Following the end of the war, the majority of the Jewish refugees from the Shanghai ghetto left for Palestine and the United States. The yeshiva's leaders, Rabbi Shmuelevitz and Rabbi Levenstein, left Shanghai for New York in early 1947 with the last contingent of students. Three months later they set sail for Palestine, where they joined the faculty of the Mirrer Yeshiva that had been established by Rabbi Finkel.

After their arrival in NY from Shanghai some of the yeshiva's older and most respected students established the Beth Hatalmud Rabbinical College in Brooklyn NY to serve as a continuation of the original yeshiva that went to Shanghai.


Read Article below in original French by F.E.R. Allouche

The outbreak of war in Poland in September 1939 ensnared nearly three and a half million Jews in the territories occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union.

At the end of 1940 and early 1941, a few months before the beginning of the mass extermination of Jews by the Germans, a group of about 2,100 Polish Jews managed to flee Europe thanks to the tireless efforts of many people . Several Jewish organizations and communities furnished funds and other relief.

The most decisive support arose from unexpected sources: representatives of the Dutch government in exile and a member of the Axis ally of Nazi Germany and Japan. In 1940, their humanitarian work was instrumental in the rescue of hundreds of Polish Jewish refugees settled temporarily in Lithuania.

In Japan, the Polish Jewish refugees arrived from Lithuania had heard that the free port of Shanghai was a city overcrowded, unsanitary where there was a significant crime. However, they were amazed at the sight that met them when they arrived offrirt. In the International Concession of the city, hundreds of thousands of Chinese living penniless in a foreign community dominated by an elite of wealthy merchants and financiers British and American.

The refugees were also to attend an established community of some 4,000 Russian Jews and more than 17,000 German and Austrian Jewish refugees who fled Nazi persecution in 1938 and 1939. Most of these German and Austrian Jewish refugees in Shanghai lived in dilapidated housing overcrowded. Most vulnerable economically live in barracks funded Joint (American Jewish Joint Distibution Committee, American Jewish charitable organization). These early immigrants still managed to survive and even thrive. Some had opened small shops and small craft businesses. Others became entrepreneurs and owners, turning swathes of Hongkew, an industrial area of ​​the Colony international was severely damaged by the fighting between China and Japan in 1932 and 1937.

Trapped in Shanghai after the Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor that caused the entry in war of the United States in December 1941, Jewish refugees suffered from lack of food, clothing and medicines, which added to unemployment and isolation. They knew nothing of the fate of their families. The war disrupted the flow of funds in Shanghai. The number of refugees undernourished increased after Pearl Harbor. Refugees were also subjected to the decrees Japanese.

After the Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor, the Japanese authorities in Shanghai imposed security measures more stringent. In early 1943, accepting the fact that their Nazi ally had made the German and Austrian Jews "stateless" by taking away their citizenship, the Japanese ordered them - especially the Jews of Poland - to move to a "reserved area" of the International Settlement. Many refugees from this area lived in small apartments located in alleys. These dwellings were often devoid of modern toilets and buckets every morning "manure" (human excrement) were emptied and taken away by Chinese workers.

Services stateless refugees, led by former Japanese naval officer Tsutomu Kobota, oversaw the reserved area, but had little direct contact with refugees who hated and feared his subordinates and Okura Ghoya. Traffic restrictions and deprivations of war made life difficult in what people called the "Shanghai Ghetto", but there existed no daily terror experienced by the Jews of the ghettos of Europe. The treatment of the Jews of Shanghai by the Japanese was relatively mild.

Polish Jewish writers used a Yiddish expression to describe Shanghai, "shond khay", "a life of shame." But life continued in this context and isolated abroad. Poetry reading, the publication of newspapers in Yiddish and Polish and the creation of works of art and theater, although limited because of logistical problems and censorship Japanese lee moral support helped refugees transplanted from Poland.

The Japanese forbade political life, but the Zionists and the Bund remained secretly active. Students yeshiva (Talmudic school) refugees spent the war years to continue their studies. They used some reprints of books they had brought from Poland or had received their supporters, including Rabbi Kalmanovich New York. Students and rabbis of the Mir Yeshiva regrouped in the Beth Aharon synagogue that was built by one of the wealthiest members of the Sephardic Jewish community of Shanghai. Through the vicissitudes of fate and the decisions of their leaders who led the students from Poland to Japan and Shanghai, the Mir Yeshiva proved to be the only European yeshiva to survive the Holocaust intact.

Shortly before the end of the war, a U.S. air raid on the industrial area of ​​Hongkew killed 40 Jewish refugees, including seven Polish Jews, and several hundred Chinese. The entry of U.S. troops in Shanghai was greeted with joy quickly tempered by the news of the Holocaust. Since spring 1941, most refugees remained without news of their relatives remained in occupied Poland. It took several more months to know the fate of their relatives and friends. (Google Translation of the original French)