In Shanghai, a refuge for Jews fleeing Nazi Europe

75 years ago, American troops entered Shanghai to help liberate the city from the Japanese. Surprised upon being told there was a Jewish ghetto in the city, they prepared for the worst. Like the rest of the world, they had watched the ghastly scenes of allied liberators stumbling upon concentration camps and ghettos in Europe a few months earlier.

What the soldiers discovered in Shanghai indeed shocked them: 18,000 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and Poland bedraggled, crammed into small apartments, defiant — and alive.

At a time when the world is rushing to put up barriers to keep refugees out, the story of how Shanghai became the savior of so many Jews is all the more remarkable: How a Jewish billionaire playboy — the richest businessman in Shanghai — his fortune built on opium — wooed the virulently anti-Semitic Japanese navy captain put in charge of Shanghai’s Jews and helped convince him that the refugees could be used as a bargaining chip to keep the United States out of the war.

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