A memorial wall is testament to the contributions of some of the Jewish community to China’s development. Photo: Thepaper.cn
Shanghai’s role as a place of refuge for Jews during the second world war was remembered on Sunday with the opening of a memorial park in the city’s suburbs.
The Shanghai Jewish Memorial Park in Qingpu district was cofounded by the Shanghai Jewish community, the Shanghai Centre of Jewish Studies and Hong Kong-listed Fu Shou Yuan International Group.
Its opening comes as China marks the 70th anniversary of the second war, around the time when about 20, 000 Jewish refugees fled Nazi persecution in Europe for the safe haven of Shanghai as other countries closed their doors to them.
The community dispersed after the founding of the people’s republic, with many moving to the United States and Australia.
Read more: How Shanghai opened its doors to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution
Pan Guang, director of the Jewish studies centre, said the park was dedicated to the Jews who contributed to China’s recent history.
“We built the park not only to commemorate the more than 20, 000 Jewish people who sought refuge in Shanghai, but also to show our respect for the many Jewish people who contributed to Shanghai’s prosperity and liberation through business, wisdom or courage, ” Pan said.
The park, which covers 200 square metres, features a series of statues as well as a memorial wall with the names of 24 Jewish people who were involved in Shanghai’s development during the early 20th century.
Those names include Silas Aaron Hardoon, the “real estate king of Shanghai”; and Elly Kadoorie, a tycoon whose descendents are still active in business in Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Several members of the community are also remembered for their roles helping the Chinese army fight the Japanese.
There is also a Chinese name on the wall – He Fengshan, the Chinese consulate general in Vienna in the late 1930s, who issued thousands of visas to Jewish refugees.
Pan said the park also had two Jewish tombstones and hoped to collect more scattered across the city. He said that in the early 1950s, Shanghai had four Jewish public cemeteries with a total of 3, 700 graves.
“But they were badly damaged during the Cultural Revolution and it’s hard to find them now, ” Pan said. “So when Jewish people come to Shanghai and want to see the graves of their parents or grandparents, they can’t find them. That’s why we want to have this park and we want to replace the cemeteries that have disappeared.”
Fu Shou Yuan general manager Wang Jisheng said Shanghai and the Jewish community had “a connection and feeling that dates back to a long time ago”.
As part of the second world war commemorations, the Israeli consulate general in Shanghai released a 77-second film Thank you Shanghai two weeks ago.
In the film, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We are eternally grateful and we will never forget. Thank you.”
Community leader Maurice Ohana said there were nearly 4, 000 Jews living in Shanghai today and very few of them were descendents of those who sought refuge in the city decades ago.