That area in Shanghai became a temporary home for an estimated 20,000 Jewish refugees who safely escaped from the Nazi onslaught during the World War II Holocaust.
"This is the first time any China mint has ever produced numismatic items with a theme related to Jewish history," said Danny Spungen, president of Why Not Collectibles of Lincolnshire, Illinois.
"The design of the medals is filled with symbolism related to the humanitarian efforts by China to offer safe refuge for those who fled Europe starting in the 1930s," explained Spungen. He has been involved with the planning of the project for the past three years after an initial meeting with Shanghai Mint officials in December 2010.
The medals are composed of 99.9% pure gold or silver and have been struck in sizes of one-ounce silver, one-ounce gold and five-ounces gold.
Front of medal symbolically depict Chinese woman holding umbrella over young Jewish girl (Photo: Donn Pearlman)
Each medal is individually etched with its limited edition number. The mintages are only 36 for the five-ounces gold, 570 for the one-ounce gold and 5,773 for the one-ounce silver. In the Jewish calendar, 5773 is the current year.
Each medal also is accompanied by a Shanghai Mint certificate of authenticity written in both Chinese and English.
The medals were designed by engraver "Rocky" Zhao who has created designs for over 40 Chinese commemorative coins and medals including the 2008 Beijing Olympics commemorative 10 Yuan, 2011 gold Panda and next year's 2014 gold Panda.
Back side of medal depicts harbor scene with one of ships that carried Jewish refugees to Shanghai with Seagulls flying overhead in formation resembling number 70 (Photo: Donn Pearlman)
One side of the new Shanghai medal depicts a street scene with a Chinese lady holding an umbrella over a young girl who is holding a toy panda. The other side has a harbor scene with the SS Conte Biancamano (one the steamer ships that carried refugees from Europe), the Bund business district and the words, Shanghai Memory.
Birds in the sky over the harbor fly in a formation that resembles the number, 70, to represent the 70th anniversary of the Shanghai Ghetto.
The little girl, "Sara," represents a young Jewish refugee, the panda she holds is a symbol of China and the woman with the umbrella is symbolic of China offering kindness in sheltering the refugees.
A mezuzah, a small parchment with a Biblical passage housed in a small case and traditionally placed by Jews on doorposts of their homes, can been seen on a doorway to the left of the child. The address on a door to the left of the Chinese lady is 1943, symbolic of the year the District opened to the refugees.
A small scroll in English and Chinese that accompanies each medal has an explanation of some of the symbolism written by Xu Xin, a Nanjing University Professor of Jewish Studies.
The medals and scroll are housed in a wood box with a glass top representing the story of Kristallnacht, "The Night of Broken Glass," in 1938, that escalated the flight of Jewish refugees out of Nazi Germany and Austria as described on an accompanying certificate written by the Center of Jewish Studies Shanghai.
The US release of the medals will be in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of MoneySM in Rosemont, Illinois, August 13-17, 2013. A special dinner event that will honor former Shanghai Ghetto residents will be held on August 15 during the convention.