The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to the Rescue in Shanghai: From 1941 to 1951

Facing an escalating demand for entry into the United States by German-speaking Jews in Shanghai in early 1941, the United States Consulate called the JDC for help. No one forewarned Laura Margolis, a translator for immigration interviews, about the living conditions of 16,000 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, all desperate for food and housing. She set up a new JDC Shanghai office, which stood as a rock for Jewish refugees under four directorships, four different regimes, and two wars. Drawing from the JDC Archives, testimonies, and memoirs, this lecture by Sara Halpern, PhD candidate at Ohio State University, offers a tale of how the JDC Shanghai office — both a transnational American and an international Jewish relief organization — and its ingenious directors navigated the regimes of the treaty port controlled by multiple powers, the Japanese puppet government, Chiang Kai-Shek, and Mao Zedong. In contrast to Europe during the same period, the small, isolated JDC office in Shanghai had to rely on the goodwill of the various consulates and local authorities to assist with the Jewish refugees' survival and emigration to other destinations. Hailed by the senior administration in New York, the "Shanghai job" was one of the most difficult in the world.

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