Brooklyn Public Library is presenting a new exhibition, film and panels series about the forced migration of EuropeanJews to China and, eventually, the United States during World War II, from Thursday, March 14 through, Friday, May 10.

When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, he issued a series of anti-Semitic decrees, stripping Jews of their civil rights. With the outbreak of WWII, many Jews chose to flee their hometowns. A considerable number of them took refuge in Shanghai, China, a city they could travel to without a visa. Around that same time, students from the Mir Yeshiva in Vilna, Lithuania, also made their way to the far east to escape the Nazi regime, setting up yeshivas in their new home. Many of these students and their families eventually emigrated to Brooklyn, following Japan’s surrender in 1945.

Photo courtesy Brooklyn Public Library

The exhibition, which features images, memorabilia and artifacts, is opening Thursday at the central branch with a screening of Above The Drowning Sea, a documentary that narrates the journey and lives of these Jewish refugees to Shanghai, followed by a discussion with director René Balcer about their ensuing emigration to the United States.

“The Library is thrilled to present Jewish Refugees in Shanghai to explore the dramatic journey of the over 20,000 European Jews who escaped to Shanghai in 1939,” a BPL spokesperson said. “Arriving with no knowledge of the language, few contacts and even fewer possessions, their remarkable story is important to preserve for generations to come.”

The series will take place at various locations including BPL’s central branch, as well as Borough Park, Mapleton and Kensington Libraries, until May 10. The exhibit is made possible in collaboration with the Amud Aish Memorial Museum and the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.

For a complete listing of events, go here. 

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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