September 10, 1901 – Birth of Feng Shan Ho, Savior of Thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Austria

After Austria’s annexation to Nazi Germany in March 1938, the 185,000 Jews who lived there were subjected to a reign of terror, and Jews were desperate to emigrate. Most countries closed their borders to them, but Shanghai opened their doors to these desperate people without requiring a visa. The Nazis did require a visa to grant Jews permission to leave, however, so Feng Shan Ho, the Chinese Consul-General in Vienna, issued visas to Shanghai to all requesting them, even to those wishing to travel elsewhere but needing a visa to leave Nazi Germany.

Ho Feng Shan

Some 20,000 European Jews flooded into Shanghai in the late 1930s, may of them helped by Ho.

Feng-Shan Ho was given the title of Righteous Among the Nations posthumously in 2000 for his humanitarian courage in issuing Chinese visas to Jews in Vienna in spite of orders from his superior to the contrary.

Yad Vashem has posted many touching testimonials to Ho from those he helped, such as by Eric Goldstaub. He related how, in July 1938, he received Chinese visas for his entire family after spending “days, weeks, and months visiting one foreign consulate or embassy after the other trying to obtain visas for [himself, his] parents and [their] near relatives, numbering some 20 people.”

Similarly, Lilith-Sylvia Doron, who had immigrated to Israel, met Ho accidentally as both watched Hitler entering Vienna, on 11 March 1938. Ho accompanied Doron home to protect her, and later managed to get her brother released from the Dachau Concentration Camp, where many Jews were sent after Kristallnacht in October, 1938.

A Shanghai visa signed by Dr. Ho Feng Shan with a serial number of 3639.

Yad Vashem explains that Ho refused to abide by the instructions of his superior, the Chinese ambassador in Berlin, Chen Jie. Chen Jie, hoping to cement closer ties between China and Germany, had forbidden Ho to issue visas on such a large scale, estimated to run into the hundreds, perhaps even thousands. It is believed that the “demerit” which was entered in Ho’s personal file in 1939 was linked to his insubordinate behavior towards his immediate superior, the ambassador in Berlin, regarding the issue of the visas.

In May 1940, Consul General Feng Shan Ho left Vienna. After the war, Ho chose to remain loyal to the Chinese Nationalists, who had fled to Taiwan. He served as ambassador in Egypt, in Middle Eastern countries, Mexico, Bolivia and then Colombia.

In 1973, after four decades in the diplomatic service, Feng Shan Ho retired to San Francisco, where he was a founding member of the Chinese Lutheran Church.

Throughout his long life, Ho never mentioned his heroic deeds during World War II — not to his wife, his children or friends.

Ho retired in 1973, and died in 1997, at the age of 96. Literally thousands lived because of his courage.

Yad Vashem ceremony in honor of Ho Feng Shan on January 23, 2001 showing his children in front of the wall of honor.

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