Stopped in flight: Shanghai and the Polish Jewish refugees of 1941

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Holocaust Studies, 2018, 24 (3), pp. 287 - 304
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© 2017, © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. The arrival of about 1000 Polish Jews in Shanghai in 1941 has remained one of the footnotes of the Holocaust, even though most survived the War, unexpectedly trapped in the city. This article argues that, expecting to transit Shanghai, unlike the German and Austrian Jewish refugees from 1938 and 1939 who had settled as ‘stateless’ under Japanese authority, they formed a community defined by both their religion and nationality. The article examines the key elements of the community, their religious cultures, their class backgrounds, and their politics. These factors contributed to their contentious relations with the Shanghai Municipal Council, the Japanese military and civil authorities both before and after Pearl Harbor, the international Jewish community, and the other much larger refugee groups from Germany and Austria. Their Polish nationality remained in tension with their Jewish identities, though institutional support for both these dimensions were crucial in facilitating their survival. Drawing on archival material not previously available to the scholars of the late twentieth century, the article challenges contentions that the community was not helped by Polish authorities.
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