Harbor From the Holocaust

The story of nearly 20,000 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, to the Chinese port city of Shanghai.

Harbor from the Holocaust explores the extraordinary relationship of these Jews and their adopted city of Shanghai, even through the bitter years of Japanese occupation 1937-1945 and the Chinese civil war that followed. It was a relationship that produced some exceptional artists, statesmen and authors, as well as ‘ordinary’ people who survived to carry on their Jewish religion and traditions that would have otherwise been consigned to oblivion.

This documentary takes a captivating look at why Shanghai was uniquely positioned, through geo-political, cultural and historical influences, to allow this remarkable influx to happen, due to those past relations with Jews predominantly from the Middle East, the Iberian Peninsula and Russia, and because of its centuries of control by and openness to foreigners as a vigorous center of trade and commerce.

This story cannot be viewed in black and white, good vs. evil, suffering vs. thriving, wealthy vs. poor. The story, much like the city itself, is nuanced and complex, incorporating many kinds of foreigners, many classes of Chinese, many kinds of Jews, and many layers. Shanghai was not a place of tolerance and openness, so much as it was a place of fractionalized, disparate forces which were sometimes competitive and sometimes complimentary, but always existed within tenuous and often difficult transactional alliances. Even the people whose stories will be shared have very different tales of how they lived in Shanghai, what their families experienced, and how they were able to function on a day-to-day basis.

Rivaling all elements and in tragic contrast to those who could not escape, this is a Holocaust story of life.

Classroom Discussion Guide

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Panel Discussion

On September 3, WQED presented a preview of Harbor From the Holocaust, followed by a panel discussion with Pittsburghers who have ties to this poignant story.

The panelists included

  • Iris Sampson, producer
  • Ilana Diamond, niece of Lucie Hartwich, whose story is included in the documentary
  • Dr. Michele Ferrier, consulting producer and advisor
  • Bettie (Ho) Carlson, the granddaughter of Dr. Feng Shan Ho, known as the Chinese Schindler

National Event

On September 3, a preview of Harbor From the Holocaust, followed by a panel discussion was presented to a national audience.

Sponsored by

University of Pittsburgh