A global survey found that almost half of adults had never heard of the Holocaust. In Asia that number exceeds 75 percent, with the vast majority questioning the accuracy of historical accounts.

Today, few in the East or West remember that the strategic port city of Shanghai, China, was actually the site of an important piece of Holocaust history: a ghetto of 23,000 Jewish refugees. While other countries closed their borders, it was the one place in the entire world where anyone could enter without passports, visas, or fees.

Among the many World War II events being commemorated this year is the liberalization of the Shanghai Ghetto on September 3, 1945. This improbable cross-cultural intersection of world events reveals some profound truths about the arc of God’s redemption throughout human history.

About 10,000 kilometers from Germany by land, or a three-week journey by sea, Shanghai would seem an unlikely place for Jewish refugees to flee. But as the Nazi regime stepped up its anti-Semitic persecution in the mid-1930s, German Jews were running out of options. Biochemist Chaim Weizmann, who later became the first president of Israel, wrote, “The world seemed to be divided into two parts—those places where the Jews could not live and those where they could not enter.” When the United States and Great Britain refused to accept significantly more refugees, dozens of other countries were more than happy to follow suit.

News of the opportunity to escape to Shanghai through a free port of entry “spread [among the Jews] like fire and whoever could, went for it,” according to Dana Janklowicz-Mann, who directed the documentary Shanghai Ghetto. Nearly 30,000 Jewish refugees entered Shanghai ...

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