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September 20, 2019

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Refugee’s story on show at Jewish museum

An exhibition “The Last Refuge: Shanghai” is underway at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum through November 5.

Centered on the personal story of John Hans Less and his family, the exhibition aims to give a voice to the forgotten Jewish refugees who lived in Shanghai after escaping persecution from Nazi Germany.

On September 5, 1940, Less, who was then 16, and his family arrived in Shanghai and settled down in the Japanese-occupied Hongkew (today’s Hongkou) where the Ghetto was located.

“They were overwhelmed by the sheer mass of people on the streets, they were also confused by the street signs, sounds they heard and indecipherable language,” said Steven Less, son of John Less, at the opening ceremony.

“At the same time, they were unbelievably relieved that they had escaped persecution from Nazi Germany.”

According to Steven, more than 20,000 refugees found their way to the city in the late 1930s and survived the war. As a result many descendants are able to tell stories of their parents’ or grandparents’ experiences of grit and resilience during tough times.

Sourced from the Heidelberg Municipal Archives, the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and the Confucius Institute at Heidelberg University, the exhibition features sketches, watercolor illustrations and paintings.

Despite the struggles and feelings of displacement, many Jewish refugees built strong friendships with local Chinese. It was the spirit of empathy and kindness that was a ray of hope for many.

Date: Through November 5, 9am-5pm

Venue: 2/F, Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum
Address: 62 Changyang Rd




 

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