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Safe Harbor: Shanghai
— Surprising Stories of Jewish Refugees in World War II

Exhibition - Monday, October 28, 2019 – Friday, May 1, 2020
- Chinese American Museum DC - 1218 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036, Free

Documentary screening, “Above the Drowning Sea” – Monday, October 28, 2019, 6:30pm
- University of California Washington Center - 1608 Rhode Island Ave. NW, 20036, $10

1-Day Conference and Lunch – Thursday, October 31, 2019, 9:30am-3:30pm
- Capital Hilton, 1001 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036, $25. Includes Lunch.
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. REGISTRATION REQUIRED.

Through an exhibition, film screening and event, come and experience extraordinary stories of cultural adaptation, hope, and survival.

For Jewish people escaping Nazi Europe in the 1930s, few countries were willing to take them in. During World War II, Shanghai, China offered a rare, safe harbor, sheltering almost 20,000 Jewish refugees.

Life for these “stateless” in Shanghai would prove harsh and challenging, particularly under increasingly restrictive Japanese occupation. Confined to a “ghetto” by Japanese authorities, Jewish refugees found themselves caught between both theaters of the war.

On Thursday, October 31, 2019, a one-day conference will feature brief lectures and presentations from historical and cultural experts and personal accounts of Jewish refugees and Shanghai-landers. The event is open to the public. Lunch is included. Registration is required. $25 per registrant.


Confirmed Speakers:

Liliane Willens – Author, Stateless in Shanghai, Liliane Willens was born of Russian parentage in the former extraterritorial French Concession of Shanghai, China, where she attended a French lycée.  Her parents, she and her siblings – all stateless – experienced World War II under the Japanese military occupation, the bombing by American planes and the return of the Chinese government. Because of difficulties to obtain an immigration visa to the United States, Liliane lived two years under the newly established People’s Republic of China. When Liliane immigrated to the United States, she studied at Boston University where she received her undergraduate degree, an M.A. and Ph.D. in French Language and Literature.  She taught these subjects at Boston College and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.   Later moving to Washington, DC, she worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Peace Corps. 

Betty Grebenschikoff - When Betty’s peaceful childhood in Berlin, Germany, was shattered by Nazi violence against Jews, the family was forced to flee to Shanghai in 1939. They were just one step ahead of the Gestapo. Shanghai was the only open port at that time that admitted European Jews without visas or passports. It became a place of refuge for about 20,000 refugees. Grebenschikoff grew up in Shanghai where the family tried to make a living under difficult circumstances. She lectures extensively to museums, organizations, schools and colleges. Her memoir “ONCE MY NAME WAS SARA” has been translated into Chinese and that edition is also for sale at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.

Kimberly Cheng – is a PhD candidate in the Joint PhD Program in Hebrew and Judaic Studies and History at New York University. From 2018-2019, Cheng was the Breslauer, Rutman, and Anderson Research Fellow at the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research and a member of the 2018­-2019 Leo Baeck Fellowship Programme. Starting in January 2020, she will hold the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Fellowship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. She is also a research volunteer for the Chinese American Museum, DC.

Gary P. Zola - Gary Zola is the Executive Director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives and the Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience & Reform Jewish History at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.

George Tompkin – Born in Harbin and eventually migrated to Shanghai, George Tompkin is a former European Shanghailander now living in New Jersey. He grew up in the French Concession where he lived there until the age of 13. He attended the Shanghai Jewish School until his family left in 1947 for San Francisco.

Bettie Peiwen (Ho) Carlson – The granddaughter of Dr. Ho Feng-Shan, considered by some to be the “Chinese Schindler,” speaks of her grandfather’s legacy. As the Chinese Consul General in Vienna, he saved more than 3,000 Jews by issuing them exit visas. While his actions went mostly unnoticed and unrecognized during his lifetime, he has been recognized posthumously by many groups including Yad Vashem, Israel, and the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad.