As the stories of the Holocaust have unveiled themselves, unusual ‘bed-fellows’ have been discovered. Many unlikely people risked their lives to save those destined for death by the Nazi. Nothing stranger could be imagined in that the salvation of many Jews would come through a German-speaking Chinese man named Feng-Shan Ho. This one man would be the escape hatch for thousands of Jews seeking safety.
In 1937, Feng-Shan Ho was assigned as the Chinese consul-general in Vienna. He had graduated with a PhD from the University of Munich and developed an “excellent command of German” which made him an excellent choice for the Vienna posting. (1) His education and language ability were the keys to place him in the perfect place at the perfect time. He was unaware of what was to happen that would bring him to the edge of horror’s abyss.
The very next year in March 1938, Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany. There was an “intense pressure to leave the country” placed on all Jews. (2) The Nazis wanted to rid themselves of all that belonged to the Jewish race. The first step was to have all Jews leave Nazi occupied territory. The problem was actually acquiring visas to leave the country.
Nazi requirements to leave the country were that “Jews [had to]have entry visas or boat tickets to another country” before they would be allowed to leave. (3) Typically, countries had limitations on the number of immigrants they would allow in based on country of origin. Most refused to increase their limits for the mass number of Jews who were seeking a place to escape to despite pleas for entrance and even world meetings on the issue. China was one of those countries that refused.
Many of Feng-Shan Ho’s “friends among the intelligentsia were Jewish” which was the basis for his sympathies for those being persecuted. (4) China refused to give visas to Jews in an attempt to create good relations with the Nazi run Germany. This stance was unacceptable to Ho despite being ordered to not give out visas. This was an order that Ho refused to follow. He “issued visas to Shanghai to all those who approached trying to escape the new terrorist regime” despite what his bosses ordered. Visas were issued to anyone who asked for them even if their destination was not for Shanghai. (5)
Thousands of Jews escaped death due to the disobedient Chinese representative. Ho managed to stay in Germany despite his free handing of visas. His reputation in China suffered severely to the point of losing his pension and honor in China. Keeping his head up high, Ho retired in San Francisco where he remained till his death. (6)
(1) Baruch Tenembaum, “Feng-Shan Ho, Chinese savior,” The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/saviors/others/feng-shan-ho-chinese-savior/ (accessed 2/4/2011).
(2) Yad Vashem, “Feng-Shan Ho,” Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/ho.html (accessed 2/4/2011).
(3) Yad Vashem, “Feng-Shan Ho –China,” The Righteous Among the Nations, http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/stories/ho.asp (accessed 2/4/2011).
(4) James Wong, “Dr. Feng Shan Ho: Diplomat and Rescuer of Jews,”The Raoul Wallenberg International Movement for Humanity, http://www.rwallenberg-int.org/Bulletin/Bul-2000/dr_Ho.htm (accessed 2/4/2011).
(5) Tenembaum (accessed 2/4/2011).
(6) Wong (accessed 2/4/2011).