Simon Kaspé

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Simon Kaspé (died 1933) was a Jewish resident of Harbin, Manchuria, who was kidnapped, ransomed, tortured and murdered by a gang of fascist [1] Russian criminals under the influence of Konstantin Rodzaevsky.[2] The half-hearted investigation into his death by the Japanese authorities, who were attempting to court the White Russian community as local enforcers and for their Anti-Communist sentiments,[3] sparked anti-Japanese sentiment among the Jewish community of Manchukuo, and the flight of nearly 70% of the Jews of Harbin.[4]

Simon Kaspé was the son of Joseph Kaspé, owner of Harbin's Hôtel Moderne along with most of the city's cinemas and theaters. Joseph Kaspé fled persecution in Russia, moving to Harbin in 1907. Originally stateless, he obtained French citizenship both for himself and his family. Simon grew up in Harbin, but studied for a time at the Paris Conservatory and was an accomplished pianist.[4]

Kidnapping and murder[edit]

Simon was home in Harbin for summer vacation from the Conservatory in August 1933 when, returning from an outing with his girlfriend, he was kidnapped. His attackers came up behind him, and took him to a site some 36 miles (58 km) west of the city. The following day, his father received a ransom note demanding $100,000.[4]

Joseph Kaspé contacted the French consul in Harbin, who delayed the paying of the ransom, promising to cooperate with the Japanese authorities in finding Simon. A month later, half a bloody ear was sent to Kaspé. Again he was advised to not pay the ransom.[4] However, the body of his son was found by the police on December 3, 1933. Simon Kaspé had been starved and beaten by his kidnappers, who cut off his ears, ripped off his fingernails, and forced him to keep his head in a dark, cold hole in the ground as temperatures dropped to 20 and 30 degrees below zero. His captors had killed him with a gunshot to the head.[4]

Thousands of individuals from many communities attended the funeral protesting. While it has been said that Harbin was a "paradise in the twenties,[4]" the Japanese occupation, and the presence of between 100,000 and 200,000 Russian White émigrés fleeing from Russia involved in the White movement brought civilian crime lords, some of whom practised kidnapping for ransoms. Protests by the Jewish communities of Harbin and Shanghai to Japanese vice-foreign minister Shigemitsu Mamoru had no effect.

The kidnappers were arrested and released the following day, but after their conviction in court, the Chinese judge was brought up on charges of treason. The kidnappers were retried, and sentenced to 15–20 years in prison, then released several weeks later on amnesty,[4] due to Rodzaevsky's pleas that a "patriotic" anti-Communist agenda had been the only premise for the plot, which was thought up by of one of his top lieutenants, named Martinoff, who along with his gang was responsible for kidnappings, targeted Jews and terrorized the city of Harbin.[2]


By the mid-1930s, the Jewish population halved in response to economic depression and events relating to the murder of Simon Kaspé [1] going to Shanghai, Chinese cities not under Japanese control, or even back to the Soviet Union,[4] despite the fact that many had come to China originally fleeing persecution there.


  1. ^ a b Strangers always: a Jewish family in wartime Shanghai' by Rena Krasno. Published by Pacific View Press, 1992. ISBN 1-881896-02-1,
  2. ^ a b MY CHINA: Jewish Life in the Orient 1900-1950 by Yaacov Liberman. Gefen Publishing House, Ltd.
  3. ^ Dubois, Thomas David, Rule of Law in a Brave New Empire: Legal Rhetoric and Practice in Manchukuo. Law and History Review 26.2 (2008): 48 pars. 1 May 2009
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Tokayer, Marvin and Mary Schwartz. The Fugu Plan. New York: Weatherhill Inc., 1979. pp53-55.