"During the Second World War, the Chinese people were wonderful to us, I will never forget them! Never!" said Ruth Zimmermann, a Jewish refugee during the WWII, in a shaking voice.
Zimmerman, 85, was visiting a painting exhibition, which opened Sunday in the International Convention Center in Jerusalem marking the history of Jews seeking shelter in Shanghai, east China, during the WWII.
In 1938 when she was eight years old, Zimmermann and her family fled Germany to Shanghai. They stayed in Hongkou, part of Shanghai, for more than eight years before leaving for the United States in 1947 with the help of relatives.
Zimmermann recalled that although Hongkou was then a poor section of the city, Chinese people, poor or rich, were all very nice to Jewish refugees, and that a Chinese gentleman whose surname was Wu assisted her family and her father a lot.
"Mr. Wu helped us unbelievable! He (my father) got himself on feet because of Mr. Wu," she said.
Zimmermann, who now lives in the northern Israeli city of Ramat Hasharon, wrote a book on Jewish refugees in Shanghai five years ago when she was 80 years old.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said that he was deeply honored that the exhibition was being held in the heart of Jerusalem.
When Nazi Germany and its allies decided to wipe out the Jewish people from this world, only a few places in the world helped Jews survive the terrible holocaust and the cruelty of Nazi Germany, he said.
"We remember very very well that the Chinese government and Shanghai effectively saved 20,000 Jews from the hands of Nazi Germany. Shanghai was a safe haven for Jews through what were the toughest, worst, evil times," he said.
Barkat hoped that the rest of the world can learn from the Chinese people, help people in their toughest times and together build a safer and better world.
In his speech, Minister Councilor of the Chinese Embassy in Israel Lu Kun said both the Chinese people and Jewish people had experienced great suffering during the WWII and commemorating what happened 70 years ago reflected the common aspiration of the two peoples to seek a lasting peace.
"By holding this grand painting exhibition represents that piece of truthful history and helps remember the shared memories of friendship, solidarity and mutual support between our two peoples in those past days," he said.
The 16-day painting exhibition, titled "Love Without Boundaries," is sponsored by the Shanghai Chinese-Jewish Cultural Foundation, Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and the Jerusalem International Convention Center.
On display are 40 pieces of oil paintings, 20 pieces of traditional Chinese paintings and 10 photos, which illustrated how Jews fled to Shanghai during the Second World War as well as different scenes of their life in Shanghai.
Many of the paintings are created on the basis of true stories, with one dedicated on Dr. He Feng Shan, Chinese consul general in Vienna from 1938 to 1940, who risked his life to issue thousands of visas to Jewish refugees.
Another painting, titled "Learning Painting in the Alley," is based on the story of Peter Max, a U.S. artist, who learned drawing from a Chinese girl in a small alley of Shanghai during his childhood. Max returned to Shanghai looking for the girl a few years ago, but she was no longer around.