The history of the Jewish people in modern China:
By Lovis Jacob Zahn and Tieyi Zhang
The historical connection between the Jewish and the Chinese people, which do not share religious similarities, stem not only from the silk road, Harbin or the Shanghai Ghetto, instead, during modern Chinese history, there were thousands of stories Jews that had crucially and positively influenced the later People’s Republic of China. Many of the senior members of the early Chinese Communist Party were Jewish, and their contribution was well recognized and respected by modern China. However, even in Israel, those great Jewish people and their life has not yet been honored by the larger international community. In my blog, I am going to write a series of articles based on their personal stories. The first one that I am going to write about is Doctor Jakob Rosenfeld.
Jakob Rosenfeld, also called General Luo, was born in Lemberg, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which is today’s Lviv, Ukraine from a wealthy middle class Jewish family. He earned his degree of doctor of medicine at the University of Vienna with a specialization in urology. After the “Anschluss,” when German and Austria combined, because of his Jewish background, he was designated as “untrusted personnel” and thrown into the Dachau concentration camp. After a year of torture and interrogation, he was released with two broken chest ribs and beaten up inside the camp. However, upon his release in 1939, he was immediately expelled from the country with an exit visa issued by Consul-General Ho Fengshan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ho_Feng-Shan) so he could move to Shanghai to gain asylum there.
Jakob Rosenfeld and his younger brother in Shanghai.
After he fled to the Shanghai ghetto, he opened up his own clinic. When his career started to flourish because of his excellent medical practice, he became soon in contact with the high level official of the Chinese Communist Party Chen Yi, who later would become the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China. Chen and Rosenfeld soon developed a deep personal friendship with each other that would last for the rest of his life. Inspired by his belief in Communism, in 1941 he joined the New Fourth Army, the guerilla force of the CPC that was fighting against the Japanese invader in southern China. He first served as a field doctor, after many fights, Jakob, an Austrian Jew ends up being promoted to the rank of general, the foreigner that reached the highest rank within the medical corp of the new Fourth Army, with his adopted chinese name General Luo. An accomplishment only amplified by the the numerous casualties the Fourth Army had to endure by the hand of the nationalists.
Field Doctor Jakob Rosenfeld during his Service in Communist Partisans in Southern China.
During his life in wartime China, he made great contributions to those troops that he served. Those field hospital and medical school that he had established later on became one of the greatest medical school and hospital in the region. After the fall of the Nazi regime, he chose to remain in China and fight alongside with his beloved Chinese comrades. Yet, after he marched into Beijing with the Communist army in 1949, Jakob returned to Europe looking for his relatives. upon his leaving, his old friend Chen Yi, who later became the foreign minister of PRC found the best tailor he could to custom-made him a suit as a gift of returning home and start a new life in Europe. However, most of his families had perished in the Nazi’s concentration camps, including his mother. During his time in Europe, Dr. Rosenfeld wrote his journey of his military service, his deeply felt connection and comeraderies with the Chinese people. However, due to the hostility against the newly established Chinese government in Western Europe, he was even banned from either to publish his writing or return to China.
Doctor Rosenfeld with Liu Shaoqi (left) and Chen Yi)
Liu ended up became the President of China in the 70s, and Chen later served as the foreign minister.
Later on, he was lucky enough to reunite with his sister in Austria and emigrated to the newly established country of the Jewish people, Israel. He lived with his brother in Tel Aviv in 1950. Two years later, with the prolonged nostalgic felt towards the country that fully accepted him when no one wanted him and towards the army that he proudly and wholeheartedly served for nearly a decade until the final victory, Jakob Rosenfeld, an Austrian Jewish doctor passed away from heart failure in Tel Aviv, too late to return to his beloved China, and to reunite with his comrades.
Memorized by his Chinese name General Luo Sheng Te, he was one of the most respected foreign members of the early Communist Party by the Chinese until now. His body was buried in a cemetery in Ramat Gan.