A month or two ago I made a post about the “Shanghai Ghetto,” the probable topic of my Master’s thesis. Since making that post I’ve done a large amount of research and spent about a month writing a research paper about a subset of life for the Jewish refugees in Shanghai. So, in light of that, I want to clear up a few things I got wrong, or over-simplified in my last post on the subject.
-German and Austrian Jews fleeing Germany first took a train from Germany to either Naples or Genoa. There, they would sail through the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, into the Indian Ocean, and all the way to the coast of China. Their ship would then make its way down the Whangpoo River until it docked at the Bund (Shanghai’s harbor-side financial district).
Jewish refugees flooded into Shanghai via this route from 1938 until it was closed upon Italy’s entrance into the war on June 10, 1940. After this closure, Jewish refugees fled to Shanghai via the trans-Siberian Railroad. This route took them across Russia through to Manchuria, at which point the majority boarded a ship for Shanghai. This route was open until December 7, 1941. After that date, all escape routes to Shanghai were closed to Jews.
And now we can celebrate the return of my mildly inaccurate MS Paint maps (both courtesy of Google Maps)! The first map shows the Italy-Shanghai route in use from 1938-1940, and the second shows the overland train route in use from 1940-1941. Obviously the ships did not sail over India or Japan; that is just me being incapable of drawing accurate lines on MS Paint.
-Also in Shanghai were Sephardic and Russian communities. The Sephardic Jewish community was generally Baghdadi in origin, and traveled to Shanghai as businessmen under the auspices of the British Empire. Members of this community—specifically the Kadoorie and Sassoon families—gave great sums of money to the Jewish refugee community. The Russian Jewish community had fled to Shanghai from Russia in the midst of the Russian Civil War; they were fleeing from the violently anti-Semitic White Russian forces.
When the refugees—many newly destitute as Nazi policy forbade them from taking many valuables or more than about fifteen American dollars out of the country—arrived in Shanghai, their impoverished status embarrassed the pre-existing Jewish communities who feared that the presence of these impoverished (white) Jews would take away from their own status within Shanghai.
-The “Shanghai Ghetto” moniker is a misleading one. The Hongkew District of Shanghai was home to the city’s poorest Chinese inhabitants. It was partially destroyed in 1937 by hostilities in the Sino-Japanese War, and had not been rebuilt when the refugees began to arrive in 1938. Jewish relief organizations in Allied and neutral countries along with the Sephardic and Russian communities in Shanghai set up refugee homes based in Hongkew for the newly arrived refugees, as structures were inexpensive in that location. These homes (Heime), though obviously better than nothing, were crowded, unsanitary, and the time spent there was extremely distressing for the formerly upper middle class refugees*.
Though some refugees received money from relations in Allied or neutral countries, had smuggled money and/or valuables out of Germany, or had been able to quickly find gainful employment and relocate to the French or International Concessions, many were never able to secure enough money to get out of Hongkew. Some, so traumatized by Kristallnacht, leaving Germany, and arriving with nothing to the Heime—so traumatized by their loss of identity—became depressed and never left their Heim.
In February 1943, the Japanese rulers of Shanghai announced that all “Stateless Persons” who had arrived in Shanghai after 1937 had to relocate to Hongkew by May 1943. Though it was not specified in the language of the proclamation, it was taken to be directed at the Jewish refugees, and was directed at them as an attempt on the part of the Japanese to appease their German allies. Thus, it was only a “Ghetto” for the Jews in the last two years of the war.
-Many dates are attributed to the time at which this refugee community was in Shanghai, a popular one being 1938-1945, but I prefer 1938-1949 because it was in 1949 that Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China, and it was by 1949 that most of the refugee community had fled to the United States, Australia, or Israel. By 1957, only 100 Jews were left in Shanghai.
I want to my MA thesis to be a social history of the 1938-1949 refugee community, and I hope to go on to do doctoral work at XYZ University and write my dissertation about the Jews of Shanghai from 1800-1949. This is a relatively recent decision, and quite a few people have asked me why I’m so fascinated by this particular community. After all, far bigger things were happening to world Jewry in this period.
My answer is: because of the transnational nature of it all. There was just so much stuff going on. You have Russian, British, Japanese, French, American, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Italian imperialism, the nature of their interference in Chinese development (I’m talking along the lines of the Opium Wars and the Boxer Rebellion); you have the Jews who arrived in Shanghai from Baghdad against the backdrop British imperialism; you have the Russian Jews in Shanghai, fleeing from the post-Revolution Civil War between the anti-Communist monarchists (the White Army) and the Bolsheviks (the Red Army); you have Japanese imperial aggression, their treatment of the Chinese in the Sino-Japanese War, and their continuing brutal treatment of the Chinese during the Japanese occupation; you have the class issues within the Chinese community of Shanghai; you have multiple forms of racial constructs going between these communities; you have the thriving organized crime community of Shanghai which existed as a result of the impact of imperialism on law in Shanghai.
And into all of that you add World War II and about 17,000 Ashkenazic Jews running from Hitler. It’s like a hot mess of transnational stuff ramming into each other, and I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of it.
Anyway, I just wanted to share that with you (because let’s be real, this is sooo not the last you’ll be hearing of it). This post doesn’t contain any arguments about the community or expand on any of my possible arguments from the last post because, unfortunately, I don’t think it would be wise to put those arguments online. And now I’ll get back to researching the next Fierce Historical Ladies post.
*I could tell you more about the conditions within the Heime and Hongkew as a whole which caused these refugees such existential distress, but I am not sure if you want a post about toilets, sewage, sanitation, etc. I personally find history relating to sewage and sanitation to be really interesting (if not gross) but I don’t know if you want to read about such things. Let me know if you do.
Welcome to one of those posts that is secretly derived from my thesis research. Contains mention of the Holocaust.
My research is still in its early stages, so this breakdown of its background may contain some vaguaries, and some theories which have not yet been thoroughly researched. These will be clearly marked.
My inquiry starts in the early years of the Third Reich. It’s easy to look at these years and wonder why German Jews didn’t start to get their emigration papers in order when Hitler implemented the 1933 boycott of Jewish businesses, but in asking this, we are ignoring the fact that these German Jews saw themselves as 100% German. They fought for Germany in WWI, read and valued and prized German art and literature and philosophy; the idea that their country would turn against them was inconceivable.
Because Hitler introduced his anti-Jewish legislation slowly over the course of the 1930’s, he gave German Jewry time to rationalize and get used to each new piece; with every new law they would think to themselves “Well this must be it; it can’t get any worse than this; what more can they do to us?”
German Jews did emigrate out of Germany over the course of the 1930’s (often,as previously discussed, at the urging of women) as they lost the ability to rationalize the legislation to themselves, but some were not able to see that it was going to keep getting worse until after Kristallnacht. By then, it was too late for many of them to secure the documentation and funds they would need to emigrate (in addition to the sheer amount of time it took to get emigration papers, and the fact that prospective countries had strict emigration quotas, the Nazis charged emigrating Jews a massive exit tax).
There was, however, one place that would accept these Jews without any papers or visa requirements: Shanghai. A sizable number of German and Austrian Jews fled to Shanghai in the late 1930’s and stayed there through the course of the war as Stateless Persons. While most of the Jews who had fled to Shanghai were German or Austrian, there was also the entire student population of the famed Mirrer Yeshiva in Poland whom had been rescued by a Dutch official in Lithuania*. Also present in Shanghai, specifically in the International Concession, was a community of very wealthy Sephardic Jews, many of Iraqi descent.
When the Japanese occupied Shanghai after declaring war on the United States (and thus the Allied Powers) in 1941, they forced the Stateless Persons to move into a very small area of crowded, low standard housing in the Hongkew district of Shanghai—this area became known as the Shanghai Ghetto. Though it was officially only the Stateless Persons who were forced to move into this area, the relocation was aimed at the Jewish refugees (as they made up the majority of the Stateless Persons). This was an attempt of the Japanese to appease their German allies.
While the living conditions within Hongkew were terrible, the Japanese took no further steps against the Jews, focusing more of their direct aggression and violence towards the Chinese population of Shanghai. There are two possible reasons for this. One is that in the Japanese government was given financial assistance against the Russian tsarist government in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) by American Jewish financier Jacob Schiff. This gave the Japanese—who hadn’t had much interaction with Jews—a positive view of the Jewish people, and may have influenced their decision not to persecute the Jews in their territory.
The second possible reason is that the Japanese—in their non-experience with Jews—had been exposed to anti-Jewish propaganda of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion variety by the White Russian troops they fought alongside against the Communists in 1919 and took it seriously. They feared that if they treated the Jews poorly, the powerful Jewish financiers behind Western governments would exact revenge on Japan. It also may have been a combination of the two.
Though General Ghoya—the often violent and unpredictable Japanese officer and self-styled “King of the Jews” who had been put in charge of issuing papers allowing people in and out of the Hongkew District—made no attempt to murder these Jews, poverty, malnutrition, lack of access to health care, unclean drinking water, disease carrying insects, Allied bombing raids, and exposure to unfamiliar climates were all effective killers.
After Japan surrendered in 1945, Shanghai was occupied by American troops. Some Jews stayed around for a few years, working for the American military and saving money for an eventual emigration to New York—most of the Jews who had fled to Shanghai did aspire to live out the remainder of their lives in the United States. Some returned to Germany to register with the new government and attempt to get government restitution for their property which had been seized by the Nazi government; this was often a traumatic and unsuccessful venture. Fewer still made their way to Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Palestine/Israel (depending on what part of the 1940’s we’re talking about). The few Jews who had remained in Shanghai through the 1940’s left as the Communist regime made its way to Shanghai, and by the Cultural Revolution, none were left.
And just a note about German Jewish émigrés, not all went to Shanghai or Palestine or New York or Australia or Argentina or England. Many traveled and settled in other Eastern and Western European nations, believing that Hitler would not invade those countries, and/or underestimating Hitler’s devotion to lebensraum. Many were trapped and murdered in these countries as they were overtaken by the Third Reich. Ultimately, of the Jews who escaped from Germany, only half of them survived the Holocaust. That figure of 50% does not take into account those who died or committed suicide after arriving in their émigré countries.
*After the invasion of Poland, the student population of the Mirrer Yeshiva fled to Lithuania. Knowing that Lithuania would probably be the next to fall to Germany, one student visited the Dutch consul in Kovno, and got the official to write in his passport that no visa was needed to travel to the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao. The Japanese official in Kovno—Chiune Sugihara—gave the student a transit visa to cross Japan on his way to Curacao. This student’s Yeshiva colleagues were all given this allowance. Both officials knew that there was no way for these Jews to reach the Caribbean, meaning that they were implicitly and illegally smuggling these people out of soon to be conquered Lithuania into Shanghai through misuse of consular power. These students would later say that they had been saved by an angel. Both officials were later penalized by their respective governments for their actions.
Oh hey my dad used to always tell me about Jews coming to Shanghai to WWII. I guess this falls under the “things my dad told me that wasn’t bullshit.”
Google: “Zyklon B” and “Mexican farm workers” and you will see that the United States Department of Immigration was using Zyklon B to fumigate and delouse immigrant farm laborers back in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Produced by the German company pest control DEGESCH, the infamous “Zyklon” (hydrocyanic acid) was sold in four versions with different power. Zyklon E was recommended to clear environments weeds die hard, like cockroaches. Zyklon D was prepared most widely used free environments (the holds of ships, concrete buildings with furniture in the rooms) with lice, mice and rats.
Apparently, it was enough for humans the less powerful version, the Zyklon B. But on humans was not used for the first time in Germany.
Zyklon B was used since 1929 in the United States by the health (U.S. Public Healt Service) on the border with Mexico, to comb and trim Mexican migrants transiting from Juarez to El Paso.
Before Zyklon B was even introduced the US government was stripping Mexicans alongside the border and drenching them in various insecticides such as DDT but also “bathed” them in sulfuric acid, kerosene and gasoline. All for a supposed typhus epidemic that never existed/was exaggerated.
Check this book out: Ringside Seat to a Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez, 1893-1923. It touches on the “baths” and physical “screenings” that immigrants had to painfully undergo through during that time.
This has gotta be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen on the internet
Black Panther Party and the Asian American Political Alliance
The very birth of the term Asian American came from a rejection of white supremacy, institutional racism and in full support of Black Power [via the Asian American Political Alliance, particularly in regards to the work being done by the Black Panthers]. We stood together. Some of us still stand together. We must stand together again.
I fucking love this gif.
Did you know that the idea of birthright citizenship in the U.S. was solidified by United States v. Wong Kim Ark?
I’m always stunned by what fails to make the history books as important information that everyone should know (usually because it’s about people who are not rich white men). Props to Wikipedia for making it today’s featured article.
I wonder where the futures of the Latino and Asian/Asian-American communities lie. Asian/Asian-Americans are still treated as perpetual foreigners despite our long history in America, and the U.S. has tried many times to boot us out…much as they are trying with the Latino community now. (United States v. Wong Kim Ark is under fresh scrutiny due to current politics.) I read somewhere that prior to the 1960s, Latinos were stereotyped as the model minority while Asian/Asian-Americans were stereotyped as the poor, grubby laundryworkers and manual laborers. It’s funny how these threads intertwine…
Have you seen this photo?
This photo of an assault on a black man by a racist mob was taken in Boston in 1976 and won a Pulitzer prize for the Boston Herald, but is rarely seen today.
White Bostonians, enraged over efforts to desegregate Boston schools using a system of busing, were staging a protest in Government Center.
Some 200 white students from South Boston and Charlestown assembled for the march to City Hall Plaza. “We all wanted to belong to something big,” recalls one teenage protester, “and the feeling of being part of the anti-busing movement along with the rest of Southie had been the best feeling in the world.” Southie meant more than just the geographic place South Boston. It meant neighborhood and community and ethnic pride. Thinking of the long day ahead, some packed a snack. Some made signs that said “RESIST.” One student, before leaving his third-floor South Boston apartment, grabbed the family’s American flag.
From the start, the anti-busing movement identified itself with patriotism. The activists saw themselves as defending their liberty against the tyranny of a judge run amok. Boston’s celebration of Bicentennial events in 1975 and 1976 only reinforced the idea that they were carrying on in a tradition of American resistance: one anti-busing group had as its motto “Don’t tread on me.” At rallies and boycotts, protesters carried American flags and frequently sang “God Bless America.”
Ted Landsmark happened to be passing by that day. A lawyer for the Contractor’s Association, he was heading to City Hall for a meeting. The crowd, students and adults from Southie and Charlestown, spotted a black man in a three-piece suit and attacked him.
A scuffle began. The protesters spotted Landsmark and turned on him. One went to trip him up. Landsmark recalls a couple of them yelling, “Get the nigger.” A few of the anti-busing protesters at the front jumped him. He was being kicked and punched. “As an American flag carried by one of the students swirled above the fracas, a black man was set upon by several white youths,”The Boston Globereported.
The flag bearer circled around and began to swing the flag at Landsmark. Some officers of the police mobile operations patrol and some adults intervened, but too late. The incident lasted maybe 15 or 20 seconds. Landsmark’s glasses were shattered and his nose broken from the punches that he had received. He was left drifting, bloodied and dazed.
You might think of Boston as a liberal, progressive city. You might think of school desegregation violence as something that happened in the South, not in New England. But talk to Black Bostonians, and they’ll tell you about people throwing rocks at them on their way to school, and having to duck their heads away from the school bus windows as they entered white neighborhoods.
Today Boston is debating a revamp of the busing system that attempted to desegregate Boston public schools. Thanks to White Flight, Boston schools are still as segregated as ever.
Nobody talks about the busing crisis much anymore - not publicly, anyway.
But take a good look at that photo. This is Boston. This is America.
“The Greeks thought that homosexuality was more pure than heterosexuality, because one of the main purposes of heterosexuality is the option of reproduction. The Greeks considered heterosexuals desire for only this to be greedy, where as homosexual love is more about true love for the other person, not just the desire to reproduce. Also, because homosexual love isn’t the dominant culture. It’s different.”
I remember discussing this in history and Latin classes in school. Always thought it was kind of interesting.
Haha fuck you society.
Some Buddhists, like the Triratna Order of Buddhists, also consider homosexuality more spiritually pure than heterosexuality.
My knowledge of Greek philosophy is pretty hazy, granted, but wasn’t this mainly a strong theme in, uh, Plato?
Also, there was no coherent pan-Hellenic view on pretty much anything, but if there was, they had a pretty strong view on ~masc~ness.
I’m really tired of people holding up ancient cultures as paragons of LGBT acceptance when those places rarely even had the same names (if they had names at all) for the concepts we’re describing. Ancient Greek attitudes towards homosexuality were fundamentally built on misogyny - where homosexuality is celebrated, it’s usually because it’s (to paraphrase heavily) bros broing, not having their happy dick time interrupted by women - who I would reiterate quite strongly were literally considered a curse on man from the Gods.
If you want to celebrate that, quite frankly fuck you.
I’m going to completely skip over that whole issue of who exactly invented the advanced mathematics necessary to develop contemporary science and engineering (hint: al-jabr) for someone more middle eastern history fluent, and talk about this guy.
As a child, Mark Dean excelled in math. In elementary school, he took advanced level math courses and, in high school, Dean even built his own computer, radio, and amplifier. Dean continued his interests and went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, a masters degree in electrical engineering from Florida Atlantic University and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford. He is one of the most prominent black inventors in the field of computers.
Dr. Mark Dean started working at IBM in 1980 and was instrumental in the invention of the Personal Computer (PC). He holds three of IBM’s original nine PC patents and currently holds more than 20 total patents. The famous African-American inventor never thought the work he was doing would end up being so useful to the world, but he has helped IBM make instrumental changes in areas ranging from the research and application of systems technology circuits to operating environments. One of his most recent computer inventions occurred while leading the team that produced the 1-Gigahertz chip, which contains one million transistors and has nearly limitless potential.
So the next time someone feels like braying like a mule about how “angry” poc are “using the white man’s computer”?
Not so much.