“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Old Shanghai’s Argentina Club…

Posted: July 25th, 2020 | No Comments »

My thanks to Katya Knyazeva for finding a photograph of the entrance to the Argentina Club, one of 1940s Shanghai’s most notorious joints on the Avenue Haig (Jiangsu Lu).

The Argentina was the biggest of several openly fascist sympathetic nightclubs in Shanghai. The place was managed by Leo Fleischer, a White Russian who believed the Nazis would smash Stalin and return the country to the Tsar. With strong Japanese contacts, Fleischer came to Shanghai via Harbin in 1940 to open the Argentina Nightclub in the Badlands (which you can take a tour of here), where Gestapo officers from the German Consulate wore their uniforms openly.

The joint was staffed by Fleischer’s White Russian cronies from Harbin and Dalian, and attracted a mixed crowd of Japanese, Italians and Germans, along with their sympathizers. The club had a large-scale Spanish-themed illegal roulette operation, in keeping with the clientele’s passion for Generalissimo Franco in Madrid. The roulette wheels were rigged, and the Argentina also had a floor of Macanese-imported slot machines (courtesy of Jose Bothelo). 

They paid huge bribes to the Japanese, and when the Japanese cracked down on the Badlands casinos, the Argentina never closed its doors, while Fleischer secured a neutral Portuguese passport to prevent himself from being busted.

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