2013 Student-Faculty Fellows Program: Valparaiso University
The Shanghai Jewish Refugees:
History and Commemoration
Mentors: Kevin Ostoyich & Yun Xia, History
Students: Kaley Buck ’14, Angela Elliott ’13, Aura Harper-Smith ’15, Peter Keim ’13, Jonathan Mack ’14, Trace Ostergren ‘15
Historical research is usually a solitary endeavor and academic instruction is often focused on content to the exclusion of process. The ASIANetwork Freeman Student-Faculty Fellows Program grants faculty mentors the opportunity to share with students both the toil and bliss of research and to develop the vocabulary by which to convey the often unspoken tools and methods by which academic research is conducted. Student researchers in our group worked on individual research projects in Shanghai focused upon the history of Shanghai Jewish refugees. They conducted research at the Shanghai Municipal Archives, the Shanghai Library, the Library of the Academy of Social Sciences, the Center of Jewish Studies Shanghai, and the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. Students also conducted a wide range of interviews pertaining to a group project centered upon preserving and commemorating the history of the Shanghai Jews. Besides producing six solid individual research papers, the group plans the following activities for this academic year: 1) Dr. Xia is applying to host a panel discussion on the Shanghai Jews for the upcoming Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference; 2) the group is organizing a major colloquium on the Shanghai Jews sponsored by the Chinese and Japanese Studies Program at Valparaiso; 3) the group plans to produce an edited volume that includes interviews with former refugees and Chinese survivors of WWII, each prefaced by a member of the research group, for publication; 4) we will present our research findings as part of an exhibit being given at Thompson Hall, in Chicago, by the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, during the week of October 22-28, 2013, and are hopeful that Valparaiso will be able to host this same exhibit on our campus; 5) students will present their research findings at the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research help in April 2014 on the Valparaiso campus.
I spent the free time while I was in Shanghai at the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum studying the origins of the museum, its association with the Shanghai Jewish Center, and actually providing tours of the museum to visitors. My individual research is now focused upon an analysis of the origins of the museum, how it has collected and preserved historical documents and materials related to the Jewish experience in Shanghai, and how the museum is configured to accomplish its goal of presenting the history of Shanghai Jews to visitors.
My research is focused upon Japanese behavior toward the Jews in Shanghai to determine whether or not an active Japanese anti-Semitism developed. My research draws primarily upon personal accounts of former residents in Shanghai as well as Japanese propaganda literature. I have discovered that anti-Semitism is not reflected in the treatment of the Jews by the Japanese, and the important role played by Jewish sympathizers within the Japanese ranks, such as Chiune Sugihara and Mitsugi Shibata, are often underrepresented. In addition, while the primary objective of the Nazis was extermination of the Jews, the Japanese viewed Jews within the context of creating a “Greater East-Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere”. I am currently translating portions of Hideki Tojo’s biography to gain a better understanding of what his view was of the role the Jews might play in contributing to his vision of a unified East Asia.
Aura Lee Harper Smith
My research is broadly focused upon the compatibility of Chinese and Jewish cultures and more narrowly focused upon the life of Mrs. Liza Hardoon, a Chinese widow of the wealthy Jewish banker, Silas Hardoon. Much is written about Mrs. Hardoon in Chinese newspapers such as The Shanghai Times, The China Press, The North-China Daily, and Shenbao, which have become my key historical sources. The articles provide a great deal of information about her life and also include information about her family and her wills. Through the study of this Chinese woman who married a wealthy Shanghai Jew, one gains a window through which to view the compatibility of two diverse cultures.
My research centers primarily upon the business interactions of Jews from Germany who fled to Shanghai to avoid the Nazis and the business interactions of the contemporary Shanghai Jewish community. The sources for my research are varied. Most of my information has been derived from old newspaper articles and interviews, but I have also located an important unpublished personal account written by William Schurtman, and garnered background information from secondary sources. My research reveals that once Jews arrived in Shanghai from Europe, for a number of reasons, a robust trade did not develop between European Jews and the Chinese. Communication problems existed because few Jews spoke Chinese; China was in the middle of a war, and much of it overrun by the Japanese, and many Jews viewed living in China as a temporary expedient and were not invested in building up a network of trade in China. Thus, Jews continued to focus their business interactions with other Europeans even though in Shanghai. Today, the Jewish community in Shanghai remains small and temporary. Most Jews are sent to China for short periods of time by international companies, and they are preoccupied with meeting the needs of their employers and not developing independent business ties with the Chinese. China remains concerned about foreign religions in China, and this also impedes the opportunities for Jews to develop business ties in China.
My research in China focuses upon an organization called the “Foreign Pao Chia.” The term pao chia refers to a long established system utilized in China to organize families, and thus communities, into units of ten and then units of one hundred to monitor activities within these units in support of the law. The “Foreign Pao Chia” were designed by the Japanese to orchestrate the Jewish community’s policing itself. However, because almost all young Jewish men were required to serve, the organization generally had the best interests of the community and sought to cushion the community from Japanese heavy handedness. My research in period newspapers and refugee memoirs indicates that Shanghai Jews viewed the organization as one protecting it rather than as a tool being successfully used by the Japanese against them.
Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, three families became largely responsible for the commercial development of Shanghai: the Sassoon, Kadoorie, and Hardoon families. They are largely revered as the city’s and region’s most influential stake holders. My research is focused upon these three wealthy Sephardic Jewish families and their contributions to the commercial development of Shanghai, and also, in the mid-twentieth century, on their willingness to help provide for the needs of destitute Jewish refugees as they flooded into Shanghai in the mid-twentieth century.