Jewish Refugees in Shanghai Exhibit


Historical Background 

In the 1930s, as Jewish refugees attempted to escape persecution and war in Europe, they had few options, due in part to immigration restrictions imposed by many countries. The city of Shanghai was one of the few exceptions. Although there had been a small Jewish presence in Shanghai for decades, from 1933 to 1941 Shanghai accepted significant numbers of Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust. Over 18,000 of them came to reside in the “Restricted Area for Stateless Refugees” of the Tilanqiao district in Shanghai. At the conclusion of the Second World War in 1945, most of these refugees had survived. David Kranzler, a Holocaust historian, described it as the “Miracle of Shanghai.”

Even though Shanghai was an open city with no visa requirement, some form of documentation was required to exit Europe. Jewish refugees obtained documentation in various ways, including through relief organization. But a significant number received the necessary documents through the heroic efforts of He Fengshan (1901–1997), the Chinese consul in Vienna, and Sugihara Chiune (1900–1986), the Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Today, in the Tilanqiao Historic Area, the original features of the Jewish settlement continue to be well preserved, sustaining this legacy of Shanghai’s Jewish past.


The Exhibit

Jewish Refugees in Shanghai, 1933–1941, brings together photos, personal stories, and artifacts from Shanghai’s Jewish Refugee Museum. Located in the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue in the Tilanqiao Historical Area, the museum has played an important role in educating local and international visitors about the unique story of Jewish refugees in Shanghai.

The exhibit has given people from around the world an opportunity to learn about the story of Jewish refugees in China. Jewish Refugees in Shanghai, 1933-1941 was first developed by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for Jewish Studies, the UCLA Confucius Institute, Hillel at UCLA, and the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. Here in metropolitan Phoenix, the exhibit is made possible by the Arizona State University Confucius Institute, ASU’s Center for Jewish Studies, and the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center.

ASU Video: Jewish Refugees in Shanghai 1933-1941











Main Exhibit
October 18 – Dec. 15, 2015
12:00 – 3:00 pm on Tues, Thurs and Sundays. Closed on November 22.

Culter-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center
122 E. Culver StreetPhoenix, AZ 85004

Exhibit admission: $5 per person 
Arizona Jewish Historical Society Members, students and active duty military: Free 

ASU Exhibit: Additional Materials 

ASU Hayden Library
ASU Tempe Campus

Download Visitor Guide


October 18 at  5 pm
Opening Lecture and Reception
1 2 

Oct. 19 to Dec. 1
Lecture Series: Shanghai in 1930s and 1940s

Weijia Li

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Angie Chau

Arizona State University

Yomi Braester

University of Washington


Related Events

ASU Library Guide
This guide serves as an online expansion of this exhibit at Hayden Library

Local Stories of AZ Shanghailanders
Of the approximately twenty thousand Jewish people who took refuge in Shanghai, several, and their descendants, have called phoenix home.

Nov. 3 at 7:00 pm 

Film Screening “Shanghai Ghetto”

Nov. 19 at 7:00 pm
Book Discussion: Peony: A Novel of China