2015-12-23 / Voice at the Shore

Chinese documentary on Shanghai Ghetto premieres in NYC, featuring Ventnor woman

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore correspondent


Ventnor resident and survivor Betty Grebenschikoff with Mei Xing Ren, senior correspondent and operations director of Shanghai Media US News Center, at the opening of “Survival in Shanghai” at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., on November 17. Ventnor resident and survivor Betty Grebenschikoff with Mei Xing Ren, senior correspondent and operations director of Shanghai Media US News Center, at the opening of “Survival in Shanghai” at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., on November 17. Ventnor resident Betty Grebenschikoff was one of five Holocaust survivors featured in “Survival in Shanghai,” a documentary film produced by the Shanghai Media Group, which premiered before an audience of 800 people— including many Chinese and Jewish dignitaries— at the Park East Synagogue in New York City on November 16. The film was also screened at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., the following day for more than 200 representatives from Congress and other areas of government, as well as representatives from think tanks and other groups.

“It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. I was interviewed and introduced to everyone,” said Grebenschikoff, who has written and spoken extensively about her experience as a Shanghai Ghetto survivor over the past 20 years. Grebenschikoff was also the only survivor featured in the film to attend the New York City and Washington, D.C., screenings.


Ventnor resident Betty Grebenschikoff, one of five Holocaust survivors featured in “Survival in Shanghai,” signs autographs at the documentary film’s premiere in New York City on November 16. Ventnor resident Betty Grebenschikoff, one of five Holocaust survivors featured in “Survival in Shanghai,” signs autographs at the documentary film’s premiere in New York City on November 16. “It was very exciting. Security was very tight in New York. People who did not RSVP were turned away at the door. The next day the Chinese crew and myself went to Washington,

D.C. The Chinese could not have been nicer to me,” said Grebenschikoff, noting that the movie was both very well done and very well-received.

The film tells the story of more than 20,000 European Jews who took refuge in Shanghai during the Holocaust.

“It was one of the only places you could go with no papers,” said Grebenschikoff, whose family escaped to Shanghai from Berlin six months after Kristallnacht— and only 2 days before her father had been ordered to appear at Gestapo headquarters. “If we hadn’t gotten out in May 1939, two days before my father was to appear before the police, I would not be here today,” said Grebenschikoff, who lost most of her extended family to the Holocaust.

The two film screenings were hosted by the China General Chamber of Commerce (CGCC)—USA, the Shanghai Media Group, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (a group of interfaith business and religious leaders promoting peace and tolerance), and the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, according to the CGCC. The Consulate of China in New York, the Consulate of Israel in New York, and the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC also supported it.

In creating the film, the Shanghai Media Group spent eight months interviewing 30 survivors of the Shanghai Ghetto, a segregated area created after the Japanese took over Shanghai following the of Pearl Harbor.

After Pearl Harbor, said Grebenschikoff, “American, English and Dutch citizens were put into detention camps and their belongings were confiscated. And here we were, 20,000 Jewish refugees in the middle of things. They didn’t quite know what to do with us.”

The Germans told the Japanese to kill all the refugees, and even brought over samples of the deadly gas used in concentration camps, said Grebenschikoff. “The Japanese didn’t want to go that far, so they segregated us into the Shanghai Ghetto.” While their treatment of the Jewish refugees was “nasty and cruel,” their treatment of the Chinese was even worse, she noted.

In contrast, the Chinese had been very accepting of the Jewish refugees, said Grebenschikoff. “The Chinese did not know the meaning of anti-Semitism. They never thought of us as outsiders; they just accepted us.”

According to the CGCC, there are plans in the works to screen the film at 50 universities across the United States.

Grebenschikoff, who lives in Florida during the winter, also hopes to screen the film at the Jersey Shore when she returns here this summer. .

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