China Backers Distort Holocaust History

News Release
December 08, 2003

A web site sympathetic to China is being challenged by a Holocaust Studies institute for falsely claiming that China rescued Jews from the Holocaust.

The site,, was the focus of a major December 3 Washington Post feature story about its display of posters supporting Arab attacks on Israel. The site also includes extensive commentary asserting that the posters are not antisemitic and not necessarily even anti-Israel.

The China controversy concerns a poster on the web site, which was published by the Chinese government in 1970. According to the web site, the poster “portrays five Palestinian militants launching into an attack.” The accompanying text states: “Though allied with Palestine, China is not an enemy of Israel; the relationship is more complex. China practiced an ‘open door’ policy during World War II that provided desperately needed safe haven for many Jewish refugees from Shanghai, and elsewhere in Asia.”

Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, has sent a letter to the web site, asking that the text be corrected. Dr. Medoff wrote:

“Large areas of China were under Japanese military occupation from 1931 until 1945, and immigration to Shanghai was controlled by the Japanese government, not the Chinese. The Japanese permitted thousands of German and Austrian Jews to settle in Shanghai during the 1930s, and allowed Polish Jewish refugees to settle there in 1940-1941. Many of the latter were able to escape Hitler thanks to the courageous efforts of Japan’s acting consul-general in Lithuania, Sugihara Chiune (and his close ally, Dutch consul Jan Zwartendijk). Historians estimate that altogether, about 18,000 Jews were saved from the Holocaust because of Japan’s –not China’s– Shanghai policy.

“One Chinese government official has been honored by Yad Vashem (Israel’s central Holocaust memorial and documentation center) for assisting Jews during the Nazi era–Ho Fengshan, the Chinese consul-general in Vienna, who helped Austrian Jews emigrate during 1938-1940. But Ho Fengshan was a representative of the Nationalist Chinese (those who now rule Taiwan), not the Communist Chinese, so his efforts cannot be cited as evidence that today’s China ‘is not an enemy of Israel’.

“It is therefore incorrect for your web site to suggest that China saved Jews from the Holocaust, or to use the Shanghai episode to demonstrate that contemporary China ‘is not an enemy of Israel’ … We urge you to correct your web site’s misrepresentation of this aspect of Holocaust history.”