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Experts urge preservation of city's Jewish history

LOCAL experts are calling on the city government to prevent historic buildings in Hongkou District's Jewish conservation zone from being demolished.

Several old buildings were discovered to be part of Shanghai's Jewish history during a road expansion project.

A cafe sign in German was discovered on a building near the intersection of Changyang Road and Zhoushan Road when planks were removed.

Another German-style building at 180 Changyang Road was found to have been a nightclub, the White Horse Inn, which was run by a Jewish couple for five years from 1939 before becoming a clinic for Jewish people.

The history was unveiled by a journalist who showed old pictures to Ruan Yisan, a conservationist and a professor at Shanghai's Tongji University. Interviews with Jewish people who grew up there and local residents in the area confirmed the details.

"These buildings have fallen into decay," said Zhang Yanhua, research director of Asian Pacific Regions World Heritage Training and Research Center under the United Nations. "But they are of high historical value and they should be properly restored and preserved."

In the 1930s, Shanghai became a safe haven for about 20,000 Jewish people. In 1943 during the wartime, they were restricted to a square-mile area in Hongkou District which became known as Little Vienna.

Hongkou District government officials said they were trying to strike a balance between modernization and preservation.

In 2005, the Chinese government declared 70 acres of the Jewish ghetto a conservation zone.

The former White Horse Inn and other buildings slated for demolition are inside that zone, but aren't designated protected buildings.

"We will endeavor to remove and save valuable artifacts such as the signs," said government official Shen Yanshu.

Hongkou District urban planning and management bureau says the demolitions are necessary to create a larger road network.

Conservation experts say the road beside the buildings should be narrowed or the buildings moved.


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