What do you know about Jewish perceptions of the Japanese between 1938/39 and 1943? Once they were confined to the ghetto it seems like they pretty much feared/hated the Japanese especially Ghoya. What about when they lived in the French Concession?

Before they were restricted to Hongkew, their attitude toward the Japanese was mainly based on how the Japanese treated other groups who lived in Shanghai.

After Pearl Harbor, Japan stepped out from behind its Chinese puppet government of Shanghai and declared rule over the whole city. They interned “enemy nationals,” which tended to mean the French, British, Americans, and other Europeans. This negatively impacted the Jewish refugees in two ways: those “enemy nationals” ran and taught a lot of the schools refugee children attended, and they provided jobs and a client base for many of the refugees. And of course friendships had formed over the years. So it was a bit of a personal blow as well as an economic/cultural one.

After the Japanese took control of the city, many of the refugees remarked on how horrified they were by how the Japanese treated the Chinese, many of whom had fled to Shanghai from the interior years earlier to get away from the Japanese. One person vividly remembered seeing a Japanese soldier ram a bayonet through the stomach of a pregnant Chinese woman. And having spent between 5-8 year in Hitler’s Germany before booking passage to Shanghai, I’m certain that witnessing this treatment was doubly traumatic.

As for the 1943-1945 Hongkew period, Ghoya was kind to children. And he was kinder in general than Okura, the other officer in charge of issuing passes in and out of Hongkew. However, he clearly loved his power over the refugees and loved making them wait in line for hours in the summer and lorded it over them whenever possible. I mean the guy once looked at a picture of Napoleon and said something along the lines of “That was a great man, but I greater. I am King of the Jews.” So like. Okay, Ghoya.

The big thing with him was that he was extremely violent and hostile towards refugee men who were taller than him. And many of those men had done time in Dachau before a family member sprung them, so Ghoya’s behavior was definitely, as we would say today, triggering.

While a lot of them probably would have been like “I hate Ghoya so much” between 1943-1945, they didn’t learn about the Holocaust until after the war, as they had been isolated from the rest of the world since 1941, and Hitler didn’t implement the Final Solution until that year. So, when they learned about the Holocaust, their first general response (I mean after the shock, grief, and disbelief) was “well the Japanese could have killed us but they didn’t we died of infectious diseases and parasites and suicide and starvation and temperature related stuff but no one tried to kill us, so SHANGHAI SAVED US.” That’s why you see so many memoirs with titles like “Shanghai Haven/Refuge” etc.

I don’t believe that life in the French Concession had any particular effect on Jewish attitudes towards the Japanese. Though they did develop some antipathy towards red centipedes.

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