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Far East Jewish Conference (China)

Last modified: 2014-03-28 by zoltán horváth
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[Far Eastern Jewish Conference flag, circa 1937]
by António Martins

Green-white printed image

[Far Eastern Jewish Conference flag as printed]
by António Martins

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The first of three conferences of the Jewish communities in the Far East was held in Harbin in December 1937. The decor of these conferences is seen in photographs in the January 1940 issue of Ha Dagel (The Banner) which, in spite of its Hebrew title, was the Russian-language magazine of Manchukuo Revisionism. The platforms were always festooned with Japanese, Manchukuo and Zionist flags. Betarim acted as guards of honour. The meetings were addressed by such people as General Higuchi of the Japanese Military Intelligence, General Vrashevsky for the White Guards, and Manchukuo puppet officials.

I have been able to obtain a copy of "The Fugu Plan: The Untold Story of the Japanese and the Jews During World War II", by Marvin Tokayer and Mary Schwartz, Paddington Press, 1979. That confirms that the motives of the Japanese were to try to use the Harbin and Shanghai Jewish communities to entice western investment into their "Co-Prosperity Sphere" . The book mentions Birobidzhan only as a way station for some refugees allowed transit from Europe to the Far East, and that the Japanese military regarded the building of roads in the Autonomous Region as a threat to their control of Manchuria.

There was a black and white photo in the book which confirms that the 1939 Conference (it uses that term instead of Congress) displayed three flags, hung horizontally on the wall behind the speaker's table-- in order, from the viewers' left:

  1. Japanese;
  2. a bicolor (light over medium shade, no Star of David visible but the photo quality was not very good), with either fringe or a narrow border;
  3. Manchukuoan. As noted elsewhere there was an honor guard. It stood in front of the three flags and held two other flags on staffs. Those were furled around the staffs, so not much can be seen. They both appear to have white fields; the one on the viewer's left has an MD, the version with the two overlapping triangle outlines as in the Israeli flag.

The Japanese were dealing mainly with the Jewish communities of Shanghai and Harbin, and hoping through them to win investment and favorable influence from western Jews. The Jewish community of Harbin, Manchuria was of Russian origin but the website does not mention any attempts to use them to influence Soviet Jews. I am trying to get a copy of "The Fugu Plan" from a local library. That book was cited as a source on the website, and several other websites I checked which dealt with Japanese-Jewish relations. I did not read the book when it first came out but I do remember reading reviews and articles about it and it seemed well received by historians. I will see if it has additional information on the Congresses and on any Japanese efforts at influencing Birobidjan -and of course if it has any illustrations of flags
Edward Smith, 15 June 1999, 25 June 1999

Well, W/B flag is possible. In June 1935 , the Zionist Revisionist Party, decided to leave the Zionist Movement and to establish its own Zionist organization. Since the Zionist flag could be regarded as the other organization, a variation of this flag is possible.
Dov Gutterman, 25 June 1999

According to Destruction of the European Jews by Raul Hilberg, Colophon Books, 1961, the 1933 definition of the Rassengesetze (known as Arierparagraph) created a major concern with Japan on the interpretation that Germany had in regards to the superiority of the Aryan race. Even though the foreign office attempted to distinguish between types of races v. qualities of races, this redefinition did not satisfy the Japanese who felt that the non-Ayran term placed them in the same classification as the Jews of Europe.

Now given this, in 1939 it is quite likely that such a Far East Jewish Conference would be held by or in conjunction with Japan in China.
Phil Nelson, 24 June 1999

It must be noted that the Japanese, unlike other nations, was only mutual-interests allay and didn't share the Nazi's ideas. They didn't do anything to help Jews, but really didn't mind them and let many of them to enter to China. The Germans didn't even thought about suggesting the Japanese to make any anti-Jews rules.

The Congress was of the "The New Zionist Union" which was established in 1935 by a faction that decided to separate from the main stream of the Zionist Organization (the faction's official name was "The Revisionist Zionism") and therefore there is a possibility that the Zionist flag (today Israel flag) wasn't used by them since it symbolized the organization that they separated from.
Dov Gutterman, June 1999