Shalom Life | March 27, 2015

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.

Chicago Tribune Cartoon Paints Bibi As Murderous Warmonger Chicago Tribune Cartoon Paints Bibi As Murderous Warmonger TrendingNew Orleans Student Group Launches Petition to Divest from Palestinian Authority New Orleans Student Group Launches Petition to Divest from Palestinian Authority TrendingKanye West & Kim Kardashian Are Coming to Israel Kanye West & Kim Kardashian Are Coming to Israel Trending
 

Shortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO]

March 27, 2015 | By Tali Farkash & Liron Nagler-Cohen
Shortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO]

Song is their own version of Hasidic singer Yaakov Shwekey's hit "Cry No More"

Read More

Facebook Integrates Israeli App into Messenger

March 26, 2015 | By NoCamels Team
Facebook Integrates Israeli App into Messenger

Social media giant incorporates Magisto, an app that turns photos and videos into a short animated film

Read More

Toronto's Iconic Pancer’s Deli To Reopen

March 26, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Toronto's Iconic Pancer’s Deli To Reopen

The deli, which was sold five years ago and closed earlier this year, is back in Pancer's hands and won't be leaving them any time soon

Read More

Israeli Scientists Accurately Determine The Length Of A Day On Saturn

March 26, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Israeli Scientists Accurately Determine The Length Of A Day On Saturn

Using a new technique, a team of scientists from the Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute have found a way to study the passing of time in other planets of the solar system

Read More

Harvey Weinstein Takes Home Humanitarian Award, Urges Jews To Kick anti-Semites "in the Ass”

March 26, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Harvey Weinstein Takes Home Humanitarian Award, Urges Jews To Kick anti-Semites "in the Ass”

During his acceptance speech during the Simon Wiesenthal Center's National Tribute Dinner, Weinstein asked people to stand up against violence and oppression

Read More

Meet Shalom Life's Top 20 Under 40, Class of 2015

March 26, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
Meet Shalom Life's Top 20 Under 40, Class of 2015

Profiling the best and the brightest of Jewish Toronto

Read More

Jason Segel Tapped to Write/Direct New 'Lego' Movie

March 26, 2015 | By Sy Berg
Jason Segel Tapped to Write/Direct New 'Lego' Movie

Segel, who helped Disney revive 'The Muppets', will work alongside 'Iron Man 3' writer Drew Pearce

Read More

Parents, Widow of Fallen IDF Soldier Battle Over Custody of His Sperm

March 26, 2015 | By Yoram Yarkoni
Parents, Widow of Fallen IDF Soldier Battle Over Custody of His Sperm

Groundbreaking ruling awards parents of Israeli soldier right to use his sperm to father a child, despite his widow's objections

Read More

More Headlines