The story appears on

Page B3

September 25, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » People

Remembering 'China's Schindler'

THE daughter of "China's Schindler," the diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in Austria from Nazi concentration camps - by issuing visas for Shanghai - said her father only told her that he saved one man.

Feng Shan Ho was the Republic of China's Consul General in Vienna from 1938 to 1940 and has been compared with far better better-known Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved around 1,100 Jews in Poland by employing them in his factories.

Ho's heroism was never acknowledged during his lifetime and he died with a black mark in his diplomatic file.

Manli Ho, a former journalist in the United States, said Taiwan authorities still refuse to clear her father's name in an alleged "corruption" case involving the equivalent of US$300 not accounted for in embassy expenses in Vienna. He was denied a pension and died in 1997 in San Francisco. She called the inaction is politically motivated and said the Chinese ambassador to Austria, her father's superior, opposed issuing visas and wanted to maintain good relations with Germany.

Manli Ho, who lives in San Francisco, researched her father's history for 10 years and plans to write a book. She recently gave at a speech at Concordia International School Shanghai at an event titled "Shanghai: Rescue and Salvation During the Holocaust." During World War II, Shanghai was an open city and no visas were required to enter, hence, European refugees streamed in. Around 30,000 Jews were sheltered in Shanghai in what was called "Little Vienna."

However, to emigrate from Nazi-occupied countries a visa was necessary. Most countries and diplomats refused to issue them. China opened its doors.

"From 1938 to 1940, the Chinese Consulate in Vienna, under Ho's watch, issued thousands of visas, averaging 500 visas each month and as many as 900 or more a month," said Manli Ho.

Q: Since he was not famous in his own lifetime, how do you know your father's story?

A: My father rarely talked about his experience in Vienna and only said he saved one Jewish friend during Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), a pogrom that erupted in Germany and Austria on November 9-10, 1938. He issued a Chinese visa to save him from the Gestapo.

I was a journalist in US when my father died, so I wrote his newspaper obituary and mentioned his saving one man. Later a curator of Holocaust exhibitions saw the article and asked me how may visas he issued. I had no idea. He said, "You're a journalist and he's your father. Why not use your skills to investigate the secret covered by the dust of history? It should be a big story."

Q: Please describe your research.

A: Sixty years had passed. Many survivors had died and some didn't tell their stories to their offspring. Important historical data has been lost. Fortunately, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, known for its huge collection, helped me find the Fiedler family who got 20 visas from my dad. Hand-written and tape-recorded diaries were important.

Q: What inspired him to issue visas?

A: He was a genius diplomat. He once said he would spare no effort and do everything possible to save Jews. He got the visa idea in 1937 when Japan invaded China and the Kuomintang government retreated to the capital of Chongqing, leaving Shanghai a harbor without passport control. He thought visas would give Jews a chance to escape being sent to concentration camps since a visa was needed to emigrate.

Q: What motivated him to save others and risk his own life?

A: In his tape diaries, he said, "I thought it only natural to feel compassion and to want to help. From the standpoint of humanity, that is the way it should be." He studied in religious schools and the idea "Love others as you love yourself" influenced him deeply. Further, China had been invaded by Japan and was partly controlled by Western countries. To some extent, as a Chinese, his experience was similar to that of Jews.

Q: Tell us about your father.

A: He could speak English, German, French and Spanish. He cared about his Chinese identity. Though I was not born in China, he required me to speak Chinese at home and remember that I'm Chinese. He could be very strict and get angry, but he also had a nice sense of humor and patience. He told me the "Romance of Three Kingdoms" from beginning to end.

Q: Why he didn't he tell you his story personally?

A: I think he believed that "the virtue that wants to be known by others is not true virtue; the evil that doesn't want to be known by others is deep evil."

Q: He received many honors posthumously, such as Righteous Among Nations by the State of Israel in 2001. What has been the impact of the fame?

A: After that, many scholars started utilizing his story for their own purposes. To exaggerate the media effect, his story is sometimes distorted. One man claims to have "discovered" him. That's why I am now writing a book. With my 10 years of research ... I am confident I can represent father objectively and truly in front of the public.

Q: Why he was denied a pension for his 40 years' diplomatic service?

A: They claimed he could not "properly account for" US$300 in office expenses but gave no evidence. Issuing visas was opposed by ambassador Chen Jie, his superior. I think the denial was politically motivated.

But this is about my father's reputation. Since his death in 1997, my brother and I still haven't given up asking Taiwan authorities to redress my father's "corruption" case. Two years ago my brother met current leader Ma Ying-jeou and again made a request. Ma expressed compassion but gave no response.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend