On September 3,China attracted worldwide attention when it staged a grand military parade in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression and the world anti-fascist war. Almost at the same time, Israel launched a short film named Thank you, Shanghai to express sincere gratitude to the Chinese people who sheltered thousands of Jewish refugees during the years of World War II.
Although our two peoples are separated by vast continents and oceans, when recalling our intersecting fates of the past, both of us feel more intimate in the heart, more common in the mind, and more convinced and persevering in pursuing future dreams.
As an old Chinese saying goes, “To know the truth, first read history.” On momentous occasions, Chinese people look back on history and let its light illuminate the road ahead.
Seventy years ago, the Chinese people, having fought tenaciously for 14 years, won the great victory of their war of resistance. To mark this accomplishment, which was soaked with blood and lives, we have reason to celebrate, because victory is arduous and bitter.
We have reason to remember, because sacrifice is solemn and stirring. And we have reason to be proud, because justice is so indestructible.
LOOKING BACK at this history, the Chinese war of resistance against Japan was an incredible contribution to the victory in the overall war. On one of the main battlefields in the East, China’s resistance pinned down the main force of the Japanese militarist aggressors, strategically supported the Allies’ operations in Europe and the Asia-Pacific Theater, and constrained coordination between the fascist forces of Japan, Germany and Italy.
The Chinese army and people made enormous sacrifices, with 35 million casualties. It suffices to say that the Chinese people arose in resistance not only for the dignity and survival of the nation, but also for the just cause of the anti-fascist endeavors of the entire world. It was in that war that peoples of the world fought arm-in-arm against the darkest forces of evil in human history.
Although the fascists cast a deep gloom over the destiny of mankind, a lot of fascinating stories sprang up, striking the match for the brilliance of humanity and giving people warmth and strength.
In the late 1930s, when Nazi persecution got into high gear in Europe, many countries closed their doors to Jewish people fleeing genocide. However, Chinese people extended a helping hand and received thousands of Jewish refugees with an open gate. In Shanghai, at least 25,000 Jews found home and shelter, exceeding the total sum of Jewish refugees in Canada, Australia, India, South Africa and New Zealand together.
No matter how hard life was during that time, Chinese and Jewish people lived harmoniously and established profound friendship. A Jewish refugee recalled: “If we were thirsty, the Chinese gave us water. If we were hungry, they gave us rice cakes. As bad as we had it, they had it worse. And they felt bad for us.”
That phase of history later came to be known as the “Oriental Noah’s Ark,” a story that spread throughout the world in the post-war footsteps of the Shanghai Jewish refugees.
There are many moving individual stories of cooperation between our two people from the period of the anti-fascist war that deserve a big thumbsup.
Dr. Ho Feng-Shan, the Chinese consul general in Vienna during the early years of war, bravely issued over 3,000 “life visas” to Austrian Jews to allow them to travel to China. Jacob Rosenfeld, the Austrian Jewish doctor nicknamed “Buddha Savior,” directly participated in the Chinese people’s resistance against Japan; with superb medical skill and professionalism, he saved thousands of lives and made an immortal contribution to the liberation of the Chinese people.
Incredibly, it was Dr. Ho who issued the “life visa” to Dr.
Rosenfeld. It is exactly as the Jewish saying goes: “Whoever saves one life, saves the entire world.”
HISTORY IS the best teacher.
It not only maintains a fair record of the paths we have traveled, it provides enlightenment for our future development.
The author Ernest Hemingway wrote: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
War is simple violence.
Peace requires complex efforts.
Chinese people always say: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” We believe that countries or regions with different cultures, history and social systems can perfectly join hands to safeguard peace. The great victory seven decades ago is proof.
Humans have only one earth. In order for it to remain bathed by the sunshine of peace, the idea of a zero-sum game should be rejected. The mentality of profiting at the expense of others should be discarded. But the spirit of equality, mutual reference and win-win cooperation must be borne in mind. Only in that way, the key to a better future will be held in our hands, and the tragedy of yesterday will never repeat itself.
One of the teachings in the Talmud is: “There is light in the darkness.”
The deeper the darkness was, the brighter the light will be.
Looking back over the past and looking forward to the future, I pray that the darkness of 70 years ago is gone forever, and brightness will always shine down upon our road to the future.The writer is the ambassador of China to Israel.