“Only in Shanghai” is what Shanghaiist has been muttering ever since happening upon this article in the Shanghai Daily — an area of Hongkou district which housed tens of thousands of Jews that fled Nazi Germany and WWII Europe is going to be turned into “the city’s second Xintiandi with Jewish culture and characteristics”. There will be kosher restaurants, museums, but we don’t know yet if there will be a kosher McDonald’s cafe or kosher Starbucks, or if the movie theater will serve as a venue for cutting edge films from great Israeli directors like Amos Gitai or Joseph Cedar.
By the way, 6,000 of the 15,000 people currently living there will have to be moved away, and for those of you who have ever wandered beyond Xintiandi into the surrounding neighborhoods, you know that this process is itself one of the displacement and effacement of history. This article (in Chinese) is aptly titled 拆迁之痛 (chai qian zhi tong), or “the pain of relocation”. You can also read Chen Weihua’s opinion piece (in English) to get a sense of how the Shanghainese might feel about relocations.
It just that certain kinds of history don’t lend themselves to gentrification. One wonders how far we are from considering the theme park or the shopping complex as a bona fide testament to a dark period of recent human history.
Sorry about the rant. So, you want to learn more about this fascinating period of history? The films Shanghai Ghetto, The Last Refuge, and Escape to the Rising Sun are all documentaries about Shanghai as haven for Jews during WWII. There are loads of books as well, including Shanghai Diary: A Young Girl’s Journey from Hitler’s Hate to War-torn China and Strange Haven: A Jewish Childhood in Wartime Shanghai. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg — besides memoirs there are also a couple of straight-on history books on this subject as well. As for the planned site in Shanghai, it is still in the very beginning stages, so it’s still too early to say how it will actually play out.
Image from www.alpha-canada.org.