The Return of Jerry Moses and the Jewish Migration to Shanghai
January 19, 2006 12:59 PM   Subscribe

"Ala ZongGoNin! Ala YouTaNin!". Jerry Moses last walked on Gaoyang Road in 1947. It was called Chaoufoong Road then, and it was home to many of the 18,000 European Jewish refugees who had sought refuge from Nazi Germany in Shanghai's Hongkew District (today known as Hongkou) during the run-up to World War II. He casts his gaze at the lane, his brow loosens and he begins to nod. "This is it, this is it," he says softly. "I know this is it." One week into his first visit to Shanghai in almost 60 years, Moses has found his third home in an exile that lasted from 1941 to 1947. He strides into the space, his manner now much closer to that of the 12-year-old boy who had left than the 70-year-old man who has returned. More inside.
posted by matteo (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From the main link:
Like most of the Jews who fled to eastern China in the 1930s and early 1940s, the Moses family was German Jewish, with the German half as important as the Jewish. Originally from Breslau, they belonged to a 20,000-member Jewish community that strongly influenced the city's cultural life. Jerry's father, Max Moses, was a fabric buyer for a Jewish-owned department store chain. At an employee holiday party, he met Frida Koritofsky. They were married in 1932. Jerry, born in 1934, was the second of three children.

His childhood memories are vague and impressionistic until the infamous Kristallnacht in November 1938. Two days of Nazi-organized riots destroyed hundreds of Jewish businesses, homes and synagogues. Max was among the more than 25,000 Jewish men imprisoned. According to Moses, his father would have died in a concentration camp if not for Frida's determination to free him, and Nazi Germany's determination to expel its Jews. "Like a lot of wives, she wanted to get her husband out of jail. And she was told that if my father left Germany in, like, 48 hours, they would let him go." But few countries would accept fleeing European Jews. "Somehow, my mother found out that the only place he could go without a permit was Shanghai."

Photograph of costumed children celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim, Shanghai, 1929.


The Jewish Company of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps Compared With Other Jewish Diaspora Fighting Units

by Benis M. Frank
Chief Historian of the U.S. Marine Corps
posted by matteo at 1:07 PM on January 19, 2006

Wow. Awesome post. Thanks matteo.
posted by ttrendel at 1:30 PM on January 19, 2006

There is an exhibit related to this, that is currently running in Rockland County, NY.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:48 PM on January 19, 2006

Excellent post matteo.

There's a pretty decent documentary on this subject out on video.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 1:56 PM on January 19, 2006

Incredible. Another excerpt from the main link:
In early 1941, Frida Moses and her children still were in Germany, waiting to join Max in Shanghai. The Nazis were about to make extermination—and not emigration—the solution to their so-called Jewish problem. Exit permits were almost impossible to obtain, and the widening war had closed the sea routes to Shanghai used by most European refugees. "My mother is the hero," says Moses. "Without her, we'd all be dead." Frida took the direct approach: She went to Breslau's Gestapo headquarters and demanded an exit stamp or death. According to her son, who often heard the story recounted, the commanding officer replied: "You're brave for a Jew."
I'm a sucker for anything about Shanghai before the Communist takeover (I've been reading White Russian memoirs lately), and this is a superb collection of links and stories. Thanks.

(The Wikipedia page on Shanghai has a 1933 map, but it's unreadable; does anybody have a better link to a pre-WWII map?)
posted by languagehat at 2:40 PM on January 19, 2006

You can also check out the Shanghai Jewish Center, with a nice website about Shanghai's Jewish history (including pre-WWII Jewish imigration from Iraq, India, and Russia).
posted by Adamchik at 3:44 PM on January 19, 2006

matteo, I truly had no idea about any of this, and I've read a great deal of historical material and literature of the Holocaust. Thank you so much -- I am grateful.
posted by melissa may at 3:54 PM on January 19, 2006

Ignorant of this as well - amazing stuff....
posted by jalexei at 4:40 PM on January 19, 2006

I read somewhere that a lot of Jews from the Russian Empire fled to Harbin, Manchuria, only to run up against the Russian emigre fascists in the Pu Yi days. Didn't a lot of these Jews re-emigrate to Shanghai too?
posted by davy at 6:10 PM on January 19, 2006

languagehat: 1904, 1918, 1919, and 1928 maps of Shanghai on this page. Each link gives you the option of downloading a hi-res pdf detail or overview.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:15 PM on January 19, 2006

Awesome, awesome post.
posted by feathermeat at 8:38 PM on January 19, 2006

Thanks, oneirodynia! Now I know where Chaoufoong Rd is.
posted by languagehat at 5:17 AM on January 20, 2006

According to my mom, the richest man in Shanghai 'back then', Hardoon paid for the paving of the five main roads in the city.

Thank you for leading me to this wonderful site.
posted by of strange foe at 9:01 AM on January 20, 2006

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