Nazi Shanghai: Nazis and Jews Fought Bitter War of Agitprop

By Paul French, September 30, 2020

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As the winds of war gathered menacingly throughout Europe and across the Pacific, Hitler’s Third Reich extended its odious apparatus to the farthest outpost in the East… Shanghai. The Nazis were everywhere in Old Shanghai – in the clubs, in the streets and on the Bund. They were a monstrous collection of careerists and criminals, perverts and parvenus, fanatics and fakirs, gauleiters and goons. This is their story…

The official organ of the China branch of the Nazi Party was launched in Shanghai in 1933 as a monthly called the Mitteilungs-und Verordnungsblatt der Landesgruppe China der NSDAP. At its height, and renamed the Ostasiatischer Beobachter, it reached a top circulation of about 2,000 copies (or so it claimed). The Nazi’s propaganda was backed up by the Shanghai branch of the solidly pro-Mussolini Stefani Italian News Agency.

The influx of German and Central European Jewish refugees to Shanghai meant that both a press to serve this new community and a response to Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda was required. Naturally the Jews established their own flourishing press – 16 different Jewish-oriented publications were published before 1937. 

The Jewish press in China had started with the English language Israel’s Messenger in 1904 set up and edited by a Sephardi Jewish businessman Edward Ezra. It appeared fortnightly and then monthly until 1941, consistently taking a rather strident pro-Zionist stance. 



Ezra, an extremely rich British citizen, constantly dabbled in the newspaper business, including buying the China Press for a while. By 1939, there were around 12 Jewish periodicals being regularly published with a host of others that were short-lived. All could be found at Shanghai’s major Jewish run bookstores – The Lion and The Paragon.

Others interested parties engaged in the pro- and anti-Nazi debate too. The Russian Fascist Association launched Nash Put (Our Way) in Harbin, which viciously attacked all the anti-Nazi press as financed by Jews, and was eventually closed by the Japanese authorities in Manchuria – though later restarted on a smaller scale in Shanghai.

This is an extract from Paul French’s Through the Looking Glass: The Foreign Press Corps in China from the Opium Wars to the Revolution, purchase a copy here.

Click here for more in our Nazi Shanghai series

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