Bar-Ilan president: China saved uncle from Nazis

Old journal, letters written to friends in Israel were all that remained when Moshe Kaveh arrived in Shanghai 14 years ago.

May 21, 2012 03:24
2 minute read.
Psychology building in Bar-Ilan University

Psychology building in Bar-Ilan University 390. (photo credit: Avishai Teicher via the PikiWiki - Israel free ima)


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A old journal and letters written to friends in Israel were all that remained when Moshe Kaveh arrived in Shanghai 14 years ago and searched for traces of his family, one member of which was among the 22,000 Jews saved by China during the Holocaust.

Today the president of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Kaveh grew up the son of a Polish Holocaust survivor who fled for Russia during World War II, and met his wife in a Siberian labor camp.

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For decades, Moshe’s father was certain that all 11 brothers and sisters were killed in the Holocaust.

It was only a generation later, when Moshe Kaveh was part of a Bar-Ilan delegation to China, that he found that his father was not the only sibling to survive the Nazis.

Searching the database of a museum of the Shanghai Jewish community, Kaveh found his Uncle Menashe registered as part of the community, where he lived around 15 years before passing away.

“My father cried so much when he heard that we found Menashe. He was certain he was the only one who survived,” Kaveh said on Sunday, adding that in his opinion the people of China are “among the righteous gentiles of the world for what they did during the war.”

Each year his family would read the journal on the anniversary of Menashe’s death, and would marvel at the advanced level of Hebrew shown in his letters to his old yeshiva friends in Israel, and his yearning to reach the Land of Israel. Though Menashe did not manage to have a family or to make his way to Israel, he is one of the thousands who were put beyond the Nazis’s grasp by China.


Kaveh spoke ahead of an event at Bar-Ilan titled “Celebration of Sino-Judaic Friendship,” held to mark 20 years of official ties between China and Israel. The event included the unveiling of a modest plaque that commemorates “the selfless acts of friendship; and solidarity which the people of Shanghai bestowed upon 22,000 Jews during the Holocaust.”

During the unveiling of the plaque at Bar-Ilan on Sunday, Gao Yanping, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China, spoke of China’s rescue of European Jews, saying “If the tragic Nazi massacre of Jews exposed the most ugly and dark side of humanity, then the Jewish experience in Shanghai showed that even in the endless darkness, there are still sparkling flashes of the bright side of humanity.”

Though residents of the “Shanghai Ghetto” left for the State of Israel after WWII, China’s sheltering of European Jews remains etched in Jewish history as one of the greatest examples of gentiles saving European Jews facing annihilation.

Beijing did not open diplomatic ties with Israel until 1992, following the Sino- Soviet split and China’s forging of diplomatic relations with the US in 1979.

While in 1992 trade between the countries amounted to only some $30 million, today mutual trade totals more than $9 billion per year, making China Israel’s biggest trade partner in Asia.

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