When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, small numbers of Jews started to escape Germany for Shanghai. In 1938, the year of the Anschluss and Kristallnacht, this exodus rapidly escalated. That year, Hong Kong became a major port of transit for hundreds of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism for the sanctuary of Shanghai – where visa restrictions were more lax than other places around the world.
A common route to Shanghai was by train to the Italian ports of either Genoa or Trieste, from where refugees would board luxury tourist cruise ships – usually the Italian Lloyd Triestino liners as well as Japanese, French, and German steam ships – on whatever tickets were available. Once a ship left Italy, it would typically travel through the Suez Canal, making scheduled stops at Alexandria or Port Said, then on to Aden, Bombay, Colombo, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Stop-overs in Hong Kong could last from a few hours up to two days.