Shalom Life | October 25, 2014

The Chinese Diplomat Who Saved Thousands of Jews

The story of Dr. Feng-Shan Ho, the Chinese consul general in Vienna who saved thousands of Jews during Nazi occupation

By: Torstar News Service

Published: April 28th, 2012 in News » World

The Chinese Diplomat Who Saved Thousands of Jews

Eric Goldstaub was 17 years old in Nazi-occupied Austria and it was up to him to get his family out.

The year was 1938. When Hitler’s men rolled in, the Jews of Vienna were beaten and humiliated, forced to scrub the streets.

With Jewish children barred from schools and the situation looking dire, young Goldstaub spent his days trekking from one foreign consulate office to the next, trying to secure visas for his family.

He didn’t care where they went, but he knew they had to get out of Europe — fast.

Door after door, country after country, the answer was no.

Until he tried China.

The response from that country’s consul general was unhesitant: Yes. Come back tomorrow. Bring as many passports as you want. I’ll stamp them all.

“I couldn’t believe my ears,” says Goldstaub, now 90, a lifetime and two countries later. “I didn’t even know where China was, to tell you the truth.”

Goldstaub tells the story in his North York condo, surrounded by trinkets and remnants from his young life in Vienna and Shanghai, and dozens of clocks collected since the 1950s, when he immigrated to Toronto and started a clock-importing business.

“I went to every God damn consulate there was in Austria,” Goldstaub remembers, shaking his head. “I must have been to 15 before I found him. And it’s a good thing I did. He saved our lives.”

The man was Dr. Feng-Shan Ho, the Chinese consul general in Vienna at the time. Goldstaub took 18 passports to him the next day — papers for his parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Ho stamped them all.

Ho was one of a handful of foreign diplomats who collectively helped save tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust, issuing visas in direct defiance of their superiors. At the time, Jews did not need a visa to get into Shanghai, but they needed one to get out of Austria. Hailed as an unsung hero of the time, Ho’s story was told in Toronto this week at lecture to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day — April 18.

Bernie Farber, a human-rights activist and former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress,learned about Ho on a trip to China a few years ago and has since become obsessed with finding others like him. Farber’s lecture tells stories of wily courage — Mexican, Iranian and American consuls who concealed, smuggled and handed out life-saving visas to Jews during the Holocaust, at risk to their own lives.

“To find diplomats who boldly and with moxie chose to reject their governments’ orders to stop trying to save Jews, that to me was astounding because I’d never heard these stories before,” says Farber, the son of a Holocaust survivor.

Ho died in 1997 without ever having met again with the people whose lives he saved.

After escaping Europe, Goldstaub and his family settled in Shanghai. They left their country with next to nothing. “But we were happy,” he says, “we took our lives with us.”

They lived in China for more than a decade before immigrating to Canada. Looking back on his life in Toronto — a happy marriage, three children, two grandchildren and a successful family business — Goldstaub thanks Ho for it. And so do other members of his family.

Harry Fiedler, 71, is Goldstaub’s cousin, the son of his mother’s brother. Fiedler was born in Shanghai two years after the family escaped Austria. He has grown up hearing the tale of Dr. Feng-Shan Ho and the life-saving visas.

Fiedler thinks often of the impact Ho has had on his family and the impact he will continue to have for generations to come.

“My parents had me, I have two children and now I have four grandchildren. And those four grandchildren are eventually going to have kids — all as a result of Dr. Ho signing those documents,” he says. “It just carries on.”

This story first appeared on Metro.

Jews Around the World to Take Part in the Shabbat Project Jews Around the World to Take Part in the Shabbat Project Trending‘Fury’ A Blistering Account of World War II—Sans the Holocaust ‘Fury’ A Blistering Account of World War II—Sans the Holocaust TrendingFor the First Time Ever, Women of the Wall Hold Torah Reading at the Kotel For the First Time Ever, Women of the Wall Hold Torah Reading at the Kotel Trending
 

The Ten Best Bagels in Canada

October 25, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau
The Ten Best Bagels in Canada

Our guide to the best bagels across Canada, from Montreal to Toronto

Read More

Seinfeld Finally Joins Facebook and Instagram [VIDEO]

October 24, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Seinfeld Finally Joins Facebook and Instagram [VIDEO]

A hilarious video shows Michael Richards asking Seinfeld to take out Netflix and Hulu.

Read More

Seth Rogen and Megan Fox Join James Franco’s ‘Zeroville’

October 24, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Seth Rogen and Megan Fox Join James Franco’s ‘Zeroville’

Rogen and Fox will be co-starring alongside Will Ferrell, Danny McBride and Dave Franco

Read More

Mila Kunis Dolls Are Coming To a Store Near You

October 24, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
Mila Kunis Dolls Are Coming To a Store Near You

Adorable dolls featuring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum in 'Jupiter Ascending' are coming out in January

Read More

Jews Around the World to Take Part in the Shabbat Project

October 24, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Jews Around the World to Take Part in the Shabbat Project

Jews in 460 cities across the world to take part in the inspirational Jewish initiative, including Paula Abdul and Mayim Bialik

Read More

Wix Named 'Hottest Middle Eastern Startup'

October 24, 2014 | By Viva Sarah Press
Wix Named 'Hottest Middle Eastern Startup'

Inc. magazine credits Israeli DIY website creation platform with taking a complicated task and making it enjoyable

Read More

‘Fury’ A Blistering Account of World War II—Sans the Holocaust

October 24, 2014 | By Jason Stack, JNS.org
‘Fury’ A Blistering Account of World War II—Sans the Holocaust

The Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf-starring film essentially omits the brunt of the Holocaust from World War II

Read More

Israeli Company Shows that Energy Does in Fact Grow on Trees

October 24, 2014 | By NoCamels Team
Israeli Company Shows that Energy Does in Fact Grow on Trees

The eTree is a solar-powered urban habitat that is constructed from metal pipes and topped with solar panels

Read More

More Headlines