Ho Feng-Shan (traditional Chinese: 何鳳山; simplified Chinese: 何凤山; pinyin: Hé Fèngshān, also spelled "He Fengshan"; born September 10, 1901 in Yiyang, Hunan; died September 28, 1997 in San Francisco) was a Chinese diplomat in Vienna who risked his own life and career during World War II to save more than 3,000 Jews. Ho's actions were recognized posthumously when the Israeli organization Yad Vashem in 2000 decided to award him the title "Righteous among the Nations".
Ho Feng-Shan's father died when Ho was 7 years old. A diligent and hard-working student, he managed to enter the Yali School in the provincial capital of Changsha and later Yale-in-China University. He went to the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in 1926 and received his doctorate in political economics in 1932.
Activities during World War II
In 1935, Ho 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. When Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938, and the legation was turned into a consulate, Ho was assigned the post of Consul-General.
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 Évian Conference 31 countries (out of a total of 32, which included 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 Chinese ambassador to Berlin, Ho started to issue visas to Shanghai, part of which during this time was still under the control of the Republic of China, 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 China 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.
After the war
After the Communist victory in 1949, Ho followed the Nationalist government to Taiwan. He later served as the Republic of China ambassador to other countries, including Egypt, Mexico, Bolivia, and Colombia. After his retirement in 1973, Ho settled in San Francisco, California, where he wrote his memoirs, My Forty Years as a Diplomat (外交生涯四十年) published in 1990 (English translation 2010).
After his retirement in 1973, the ROC government on Taiwan denied Ho a pension on the grounds, common then, subpoenaed and refused to cooperate with Diplomatic Services not properly accounted for a small sum in embassy expense account. These charges are now widely believed to have been politically motivated. The ROC government has never exonerated him as there were many diplomats leaving their posts without authorization. He did not report to work and he was terminated without a pension. This was the policy when tens of embassies were closed. He returned to his native China and visited his alma mater in Changsha for school's 80th anniversary in 1986. A shadow was cast over his later years by impeachment by Taipei's Committee on the Discipline of Public Functionaries for having allegedly misappropriated funds when ambassador to Colombia in 1970, charges which he claimed were concocted by a subordinate he had refused to recommend for promotion. However, on September 10, 2015 President Ma in Taipei commended Dr Ho for his service and presented his daughter a certificate of appreciation with Israeli government representatives.
Ho Feng-Shan died in San Francisco, California at the age of 96. He was survived by his son, Monto Ho (何曼德), a Chinese-American professional in microbiology, virology, and infectious diseases; and by his daughter, Manli Ho (何曼禮).
Ho's actions in Vienna went unnoticed during his lifetime, save for a black mark in his personnel file for disobeying orders. They were finally recognized, posthumously, when he was awarded the title Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli organization Yad Vashem at a ceremony in 2001 and honored by Boys Town Jerusalem in 2004. As recently as 2015 in Taipei his daughter represented her father to receive a meritorious certificate for his diplomatic services presented by ROC Government with participation of Israel representatives.
- Jan Zwartendijk
- Chiune Sugihara
- Tadeusz Romer
- Fugu Plan
- History of the Jews in China
- List of individuals and groups assisting Jews during the Holocaust
- Shanghai ghetto
- Oskar Schindler
- People's Daily Online, "Former Jewish refugees revisit Shanghai Ark"
- Dempsey, Amy (April 18, 2012). "Unsung hero gave Toronto family ticket out of Nazi-occupied Austria". The Toronto Star. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
- "Chinese Visas in Vienna: Feng-Shan Ho". Yad Vashem. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
- "Daughter of late ROC Ambassador Ho Feng-shan to receive posthumous tribute for her father". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan). Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- Crassweller RD. Trujillo. The Life and Times of a Caribbean Dictator. The MacMillan Co., New York (1966). pp. 199–200.
- Baruch Tenembaum "Feng-Shan Ho, Chinese Savior", International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.
- Brief profile of Ho Feng-shan during World War II
- Damien McElroy, "Family fights to clear stigma that haunted China's 'Schindler'", The Sunday Telegraph, 4 June 2000.