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14 February 2011

The Lost Shanghai Jewish Graves

One of the readers of the Knowles Collection blog has brought my attention to a wonderful project underway in Shanghai, China. It is the attempt by the Jewish community there to restore and document the history of the Jewish people by finding and restoring the headstones from the old Jewish cemeteries.
As has been written about here before, before World War II the Jewish community of Shanghai was a strong thriving community, with many refuges from Eastern Europe, including a large Polish group. According to their own website, http://www.shanghaijewishmemorial.com/,
the Jewish population of Shanghai reached as many as 20,000 people, with 4 Jewish Cemeteries which held up to 3700 graves.
In 1951, the four cemeteries were moved to an international cemetery located in the western part of the city. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) the cemeteries were demolished and the graves and headstones were smashed and thrown away.

The graves and headstones were lost, until in 2001, when 2 headstones turned up in an antique shop. This find began what has now turned into a wonderful project to restore some of the Jewish history of Shanghai.

Included on the website is a list of those headstones found so far, including members of the Sassoon family, which was one of the most influential families of the area. Another section also has pictures of those headstones, and is a wonderful place for anyone with family who journyed to or through Shanghai to visit. A big thanks to this group for a wonderful project and a great opportuity for everyone to support them.

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