January 2016

Hong Kong Refuge Research Project

Religious services at The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong, 1946

In the 1930s and 1940s, an estimated 18,000 central European Jewish refugees escaped Nazi terror in the new Greater Germany to the ‘safe haven’ of Shanghai, then one of the only open doors available to persecuted Jews. They spent the war years in the Chinese metropolis until their further migration to Israel, the United States, Australia and South America. ‘Hong Kong Refuge’ examines the role of Hong Kong in the migration and survival of German and Austrian refugees before and after the Second World War. The project will be the first to document refugee lives in the former British colony.

In the 1930s, amidst a wider Chinese refugee crisis, a small group of Jewish refugees came to Hong Kong to work as musicians, engineers and dress makers. They were able to find jobs thanks to the existing Jewish community, British intellectual progressives and through their family connections. In September 1939 Austrian and German Jews were interned as ‘enemy aliens’ and in 1940 they were ordered to leave the colony by the Hong Kong Government. At the end of the Second World War, as Jewish refugees sought to leave Shanghai, Hong Kong was again used as a transit port and for consular services for thousands hoping to start new lives across the world.  

To get in touch or find out more about the project, please follow our dedicated blog.