The Great Shanghai Escape Part I



In this new series launched by Jewish History Soundbites, we’ll explore the story of the escape to Shanghai from war torn Europe during the early stages of World War II. Among the thousands of Jewish refugees who obtained visas was the Mir Yeshiva. This enabled them to traverse the Soviet Union, transit through Japan and ultimately spend the war years in Shanghai. Though this story is well known, it is often misunderstood, and this ongoing series will attempt to both clarify and organize the narrative, while dispelling some of the myths which have crept into the story over the decades. 
Part one of the series will open with the operational situation of Polish Jewry and specifically Mir Yeshiva on the eve of the war. The crucial geopolitical event from this time period is the signing of the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop Non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, including a secret clause regarding the division of Poland. Following the invasion and occupation of eastern Poland, the Soviets returned the Vilna region to independent Lithuania, which appeared to many Polish refugees to be a temporary safe haven. Among the throngs of refugees headed to Vilna were many yeshivos, including the Mir.
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