HONG KONG (CNN) — When Ho Feng Shan died at the age of 96, he took a secret to his grave. The only clue was a single sentence in his obituary in 1997.
Throughout his long life, Ho never mentioned his heroic deeds during World War II — not to his wife, his children or friends.
During 1938 to 1940, Ho, the consul general of the then Nationalist Chinese government’s embassy in Vienna, saved perhaps tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust with just a stroke of his pen.
When Jews desperately sought visas to escape from Nazi-occupied Austria, he issued thousands — in defiance of his superior’s orders.
The exact number of entry papers Ho issued — and the number of lives saved — may never be known, as too many have already been lost to time.
But based on the serial number of one visa nearing 4, 000, the best estimate is that thousands of visas were issued.
China’s Schindler?… Continue reading
By Wayne Chang for CNN
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Born September 10, 1901 in Yiyang, Hunan; died September 28, 1997 in San Francisco, Dr. Ho Feng-shan was a Chinese diplomat in Vienna who risked his own life and career during World War II to save more than one thousand Jews.
Ho’s actions were recognized posthumously when he was awarded the title “Righteous among the Nations” by the Israeli organization Yad Vashem in 2000. He is known as “China’s Schindler.” Dr. Ho never mentioned a word about it until his daughter Ms. Manli Ho discovered her father’s heroic action.
After the Kristallnacht in 1938, the situation became rapidly more difficult for the almost 200, 000 Austrian Jews. The only way for Jews to escape from Nazism was to leave Europe. In order to leave, they had to provide proof of emigration, usually a visa from a foreign nation, or a valid boat ticket.
This was difficult, however, because at the 1938 Evian Conference 31 countries (out of a total of 32, which included the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) refused to accept Jewish immigrants. The only country willing to accept Jews was the Dominican Republic, which offered to accept up to 100, 000 refugees. Acting against the orders of his superior Chen Jie (陳介), the ROC ambassador to Berlin, Ho started to issue visas to Shanghai for humanitarian reasons. 1, 200 visas were issued by Ho in the first three months of holding office as Consul-General.
At the time it was not necessary to have a visa to enter Shanghai, but the visas allowed the Jews to leave Austria. Many Jewish families left for Shanghai, whence most of them would later leave for Hong Kong and Australia.
Ho continued to issue these visas until he was ordered to return to the ROC in May 1940. The exact number of visas given by Ho to Jewish refugees is unknown.
It is known that Ho issued the 200th visa in June 1938, and signed 1906th on October 27, 1938. How many Jews were saved through his actions is unknown, but given that Ho issued nearly 2, 000 visas only during his first half year at his post, the number may be in the thousands.
Chiune Sugihara 杉原 千畝
Despite the appalling atrocities that Japanese militarists inflicted upon many nations in Asia, in particular, China during WWII, there were some righteous Japanese with a heart of gold. Mr. Chiune Sugihara, born January 1900 , died 31 July 1986, was a Japanese diplomat who served as Vice-Consul for the Empire of Japan in Lithuania.
During World War II, he helped several thousand Jews leave the country by issuing transit visas to Jewish refugees so that they could travel to Japan.
Most of the Jews who escaped were refugees from German-occupied Poland and residents of Lithuania. Sugihara wrote travel visas that facilitated the escape of more than 6, 000 Jewish refugees to Japanese territory, risking his career and his family’s lives. Sugihara had told the refugees to call him “Sempo”, the Sino-Japanese reading of the characters in his first name, discovering it was much easier for Western people to pronounce.
In 1985, Israel honored him as Righteous Among the Nations for his actions.