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JEWS IN SHANGHAI | My Father Married a Jewish Couple


25 September 2016 | By Li Li / trans. Huang Xie'an | Copyedited by Gu Yiqing

Editor's Note: During the World War II, more than 30,000 Jews, under attack by the Nazis in Europe, fled to Shanghai, China and 16,000 of them took refugee in this city. Meanwhile, the local Shanghai people were also in an abyss of pain inflicted by the Japanese invasion.  Though the time was difficult, gratitude and mutual friendship lived on in the heart of the Jewish and Chinese people. The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) launched a initiative early this year to present those touching stories in Chinese, English, German and Hebrew. This is one of the selected stories in the project to commemorate the history of Jews in Shanghai.

 

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ang Jiming was surprised to find his father’s name when he visited Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. His father’s name, Wang Zhenfu, appeared on a marriage certificate of a Jewish man and a Chinese woman as the officiator. This reminded Wang Jiming of the days when his obliging father got on very well with and helped their Jewish neighbors, and the heartwarming occasions when his father took him to visit his Jewish friends.

On a usual day in 2013, Wang Jiming was walking along a street in Hongkou. Everything was so familiar to him, although the old neighborhood of Tilanqiao has been transformed into the North Bund. A number of historical legacies still dotted the modernizing landscape, including the Ohel Moishe Synagogue which is now Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.

Entering Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, Mr. Wang seemed to have travelled through a time tunnel. There were old yellowish photos and narrations telling the moving stories happening 7 decades ago. He was especially taken aback by a name on a marriage certificate: Wang Zhenfu. Wasn’t it his father? Why did his father have to do with the Jewish couple? He couldn’t believe his eyes at first, and then he was convinced by the signature: it was his father!

Mr. Wang Zhenfu was born in 1914, and had lived near the Ghetto in Hongkou. He could speak English rather well as he had attended a western church middle school and worked for Mobile Oil after graduation from college. The date of the marriage certificate is July 6, 1940. At that time, Mr. Wang Zhenfu was active in socializing with young friends. It is quite logical that he had befriended the Jewish refugees living in the Ghetto and the surrounding areas and therefore volunteered to be the officiator for the marriage of a Jew. It is not definitely known how the Austrian Jew Hencuph Welarly, 41 when he got married, had managed to flee to Shanghai from the Holocaust in Europe, but his marriage with Ms. Wang Lanying, a local Chinese lady of 35, was absolutely a sensation. As a friend and neighbor, Mr. Wang Zhenfu would be more than happy to stand by and witness their marriage, which is also a good evidence of the harmony between the Jewish refugees and the local Chinese residents in that special history.

Mr. Wang Zhenfu passed away in the 1960s, together with his friendship with the Jewish refugees. The marriage certificate bearing his name is a great reminder of the past for Mr. Wang Jiming. The marriage certificate says the venue of ceremony was 26 Wufuli on Tongshan Road, and Wufuli (or Wufu Lane) is exactly the place where Mr. Wang Jiming was born. Back at that time, Wufuli was a mixed residential area for Chinese and foreign people. In the lane, in addition to Chinese residents, there were Jewish, Japanese, Indian and Korean residents. Mr. Wang Jiming could remember that on the first floor of the same house lived a Jewish family who left Shanghai in around 1947. Mr. Wang Jiming also remembered that one day when he was about five or six, his father took him to a Jewish family on Changzhi Road (then called Seward Road). Mr. Wang Jiming said he came to know about Afternoon Tea that day, and drank red tea with milk and sugar for the first time in his life. He also had an unforgettable taste of fresh Russian bread. It was so delicious that he didn’t want to finish it at once; instead, he had wanted to put part of it into his pocket and take it home. The Jewish host took note of that, of course. He then told him to eat to his heart’s content and they had enough for him to take back home. The host did give him a full bag in the end.

The afternoon tea a Chinese kid enjoyed at a Jewish refugee’s home may be special, but similar stories are now widespread, and the friendship between the Jewish refugees and their local Chinese neighbors in Shanghai is permanent.

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Press Contact

SISU News Center, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Tel : +86 (21) 3537 2378

Email : news@shisu.edu.cn

Address :550 Dalian Road (W), Shanghai 200083, China

Further Reading