|Ho Manli, daughter of Ho Fengshan tells the story of the “life visa” at the symposium held in San Francisco on March 30, 2014. (People’s Daily Online/Han Shasha)|
San Francisco, March 31, (People’s Daily Online)----A symposium was held Sunday in San Francisco to commemorate Ho Fengshan who risked his career during World War II to save the lives of thousands of Jewish people by issuing them visas to Shanghai.
Ho Fengshan, known as "China's Schindler," served as the Chinese Consul-General in Vienna during between 1938 and 1940, when Nazi Germany took over Austria and started to persecute Jewish people.
“With a policy of coerced expulsion, Nazi authorities told Jews that if they showed proof of emigration, they would be allowed to leave, otherwise, they will be deported to Nazi concentration camps,” said Ho Manli, daughter of Ho Fengshan. “Many Austrian Jews tried to escape at that time. However, almost no country showed them sympathy by offering them the ‘life visa’,” added Ho.
And Jewish people’s plight was further exacerbated by the July 13, 1938 resolution of the Evian Conference, which made it evident that nearly none of the 32 participating nations was willing to accept Jewish refugees.
Ho Fengshan issued visas to thousands of Jews, which enabled them to go to Shanghai, and subsequently escaped from Nazi persecution and slaughter. But the exact number cannot be tracked because there is no “Schindler’s list”.
“It’s hard to know how many visas were issued and how many lives have been saved,” said Ho Manli. “Based on the series numbers of some existing visas, the Chinese consulate general in Vienna issued an average of 400 to 500 visas a month to Jewish refugees in two years.”
Hyde Durlester, 79, is one of the visa recipients. Durlester got her visa when she was three years old. She and her parents fled to the Philippines after they received the visas from Ho and lived there for 12 years and then traveled to and lived in San Francisco. “Although I have never been to Shanghai, China, I have some special feelings to Ho and China,” Durlester told People’s Daily Online.
Sidney Rittenberg, Sr., an American journalist, scholar, and Chinese linguist who lived in China from 1944 to 1979, said at the symposium that “When I first went to Shanghai in 1945, there was a complete Jewish city within the city of China. Who saved and sheltered these people and got them necessary passport to the village? Only Chinese!”
Another visa recipient, Eric Goldstaud, visited 50 foreign consulates in Vienna before obtaining 20 visas at the Chinese consulate. On “Kristallnacht”, both Goldstaub and his father were arrested and imprisoned, but with the Chinese visa as proof of emigration, they were released within days and embarked on their journey to Shanghai.
When asked why Ho Fengshan was willing to help the Jews of Austria when others would not, Ho Manli said that his reason was simple: “I thought it’s only natural to feel compassion and to want to help. Driven by humanitarian concerns, that is the way it should be.”
Yuan Nansheng, Chinese consul general in San Francisco said at the symposium “The spirit of doctor Ho is the spirit of fidelity to both his country and human conscience, as well as the spirit of reaching out to those in need. By studying his spirit, we can learn a lot and better carry out our duties both as diplomat and as a man.”
The symposium was co-hosted by Consulate General of People’s Republic of China in San Francisco, Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest and other organizations to commemorate Ho and learn his spirit.