- Chinese Righteous Among the Nations
Feng-Shan Ho (simplified Chinese: 何凤山; traditional Chinese: 何鳳山; pinyin: Hé Fèngshān, sometimes translated as He Fengshan), born in Yiyang, Hunan September 10, 1901 (some sources give 1904) – died in San Francisco, September 28, 1995, was a Chinese diplomat who saved hundreds, probably thousands of Jews during the early years of World War II. He is known as “China’s Schindler”.
Ho Feng Shan came from a poor family, and his father died when Ho was 7 years old. A diligent and hard-working student, he managed to enter the Yiyang middle school in the provincial capital of Changsha, and later Yale-in-China University. In 1926 he entered Munich University, where he in 1932 earned a Ph.D. in political economics and graduated Magna cum laude.
In 1935, Ho Feng Shan started his diplomatic career within the Foreign Ministry of the Republic of China. His first posting was in Turkey. He was appointed First Secretary at the Chinese legation in Vienna in 1937, and when Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938 and the legation was turned into a consulate, Ho was assigned the post as Consul-General.
After the "Kristallnacht" in 1938, the situation for the almost 200,000 Austrian Jews got rapidly more difficult, but in order to leave the country they had to provide proof of emigration, usually a visa from a foreign nation or a valid boat ticket. This, however, was difficult and the Evian Conference, in 1938, where 32 countries had failed to take a stand against Nazi Germany, made this even more complicated. Acting against orders of his superior Chen Jie(陳介), the Chinese ambassador to Berlin, Ho, for humanitarian reasons, started to issue visas to Shanghai. At the time it was not necessary to have a visa to enter Shanghai, but it allowed the Jews to leave Austria. Indeed many Jewish families left for Shanghai, whence most of them would later leave for Hong Kong and Australia. He continued to issue these visas until he was ordered to return to China in May 1940.
How many Jews were saved is unknown, but given that Ho issued close to 2,000 visas only during his first half year at his post, claims in the thousands could well be correct.
Later, Ho Feng Shan served as the Republic of China's ambassador to other countries, including Egypt, Mexico, Bolivia, and Colombia. After retirement in 1973, Ho settled in San Francisco in the United States, where he wrote his memoirs, 40 Years of my Diplomatic Life (外交生涯四十年) published in 1990.
After his retirement in 1973, Taiwan denied Ho his pension on the grounds that he had "not properly accounted for" the equivalent of $US300 in embassy expenses. These charges are widely believed to have been politically motivated. Despite repeated appeals, the Taiwanese government has not exonerated him.
In the 1980s, he returned several times to Mainland China and also visited his alma mater in Changsha during its 80th anniversary in 1986. He was, perhaps wrongly, impeached for embezzlement (said to have taken place in 1970) in 1985 by the Taiwanese government.
Ho Feng Shan died in San Francisco at the age of 96.
Ho's actions in Vienna went unnoticed during his life (save for a black mark in his act for disobeying orders), but were recognized posthumously when he was awarded the title Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli organization Yad Vashem in 2001. He is the second of only two Chinese to be given this honor; the first was Pan Jun Shun.
Pan Jun-Shun (1889 – 1974), was the first Chinese national to be awarded the title Righteous Among the Nations for hiding and sheltering a Ukrainian Jewish girl during the occupation of part of the Soviet Union during World War II.
Pan Jun Shun moved to Russia in 1916 looking for work. He settled in Moscow where he found work as a laborer. He was unable to return to China due to events surrounding the Russian Revolution of 1917 and subsequent civil war. He married and had two sons while living in Moscow, after which he moved to Kharkov, Ukraine in 1936. His wife died before the outbreak of World War II. This loss was further compounded when his two sons were drafted into the Soviet Army at the beginning of the war, they never returned home and were presumed to have been killed during the war.
He survived the war and continued to live there until his death in 1974.
Reason for Righteous award
Pan Jun Shun provided shelter and hiding for a Ukrainian Jewish girl who had escaped from a detention area set up by the occupying German Army. She escaped through the efforts of her father who realized that his children were likely to be killed as they were being transferred to another town.
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