Shalom Life | August 23, 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.

7,000-Year-Old Metal Object Discovered in Israel 7,000-Year-Old Metal Object Discovered in Israel TrendingOntario Students Pass BDS Resolultion Ontario Students Pass BDS Resolultion TrendingOp-Ed: Losing Patience with Students for Justice in Palestine’s anti-Semitism Op-Ed: Losing Patience with Students for Justice in Palestine’s anti-Semitism Trending
 

The Ten Best Jewish Ice Bucket Challenges

August 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
The Ten Best Jewish Ice Bucket Challenges

From Drake to Adam Sandler, here are some of the best challenges we've seen that benefit the ALS Foundation

Read More

REVIEW: The LOT’s ‘Little Mermaid Jr’ Is Colourful, Catchy and Captivating

August 22, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
REVIEW: The LOT’s ‘Little Mermaid Jr’ Is Colourful, Catchy and Captivating

The Lower Ossington Theatre's adaptation of Disney's popular 1989 film is a must-see family adventure.

Read More

7,000-Year-Old Metal Object Discovered in Israel

August 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
7,000-Year-Old Metal Object Discovered in Israel

The copper owl buried with a woman is the oldest piece of copper ever discovered in the Middle East

Read More

Ontario Students Pass BDS Resolultion

August 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Ontario Students Pass BDS Resolultion

The Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students unanimously voted to boycott Israel

Read More

Israelis Turn Bomb Shelter Into Underground Casino

August 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Israelis Turn Bomb Shelter Into Underground Casino

Police find casino intact with cannabis plantation and tons of alcohol in Kiryat Gat bomb shelter

Read More

4-Year-Old Israeli Boy Dies in Mortar Attack from Gaza

August 22, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
4-Year-Old Israeli Boy Dies in Mortar Attack from Gaza

First Israeli child fatality brings death toll to 68, the first since Hamas violated ceasefire on Tuesday

Read More

Op-Ed: Losing Patience with Students for Justice in Palestine’s anti-Semitism

August 22, 2014 | By Elliot Hamilton
Op-Ed: Losing Patience with Students for Justice in Palestine’s anti-Semitism

SJP is far from the "social justice" movement it claims to be, as it partakes in some of the worst instances of anti-Semitism on college campuses

Read More

Ashdod Synagogue Hit By Rocket Fire

August 22, 2014 | By Ilanan Curiel
Ashdod Synagogue Hit By Rocket Fire

At least 50 rockets, mortars fired on southern Israel, with one landing near preschool and another striking an Ashdod synagogue, following violent day which saw over 100 rockets launched; IDF hit over 30 Gaza targets in response, two killed

Read More

More Headlines