Life: September 10, 1901 – September 28, 1997
Why you should know him: Feng-Shan Ho was a Chinese diplomat who, in Vienna during World War II, risked his life and career to save more than 1,000 Jews from the Nazis.
A hard-working student who studied in his native China, Feng-Shan Ho received his Ph.D. in political economics in 1932 from Munich University in Germany. Starting his career with China's Foreign Ministry in 1935, he was first posted to Turkey. But two years later, he was sent to Vienna, Austria. When Nazi Germany took over Austria in 1938, Ho was assigned Consul-General.
It is in this post that Ho was able to save so many from the Holocaust. WhenKristallnacht occurred in 1938, the only way for Austria's 200,000 Jews to escape the Nazis was to leave Europe. But in order to emigrate, one needed to have a visa. The problem was, 31 of 32 nations refused to give Europe's Jews the visas they needed in order to escape certain death.
Such bureaucratic orders did not keep Feng-Shan Ho from doing what was needed to save lives. Acting against the orders of his Chinese superiors, he began to issue visas to Shanghai. During his first three months as Consul-General, Ho issued 1,200 visas. These visas allowed Austria's Jews to leave, many of them fleeing to Hong Kong and Australia.
Continuing to defy orders, Feng-Shan Ho kept issuing these visas until he was recalled to China in May of 1940. While official records were not kept of how many visas he ultimately issued, 2,000 were given in only his first six months of work. So the lives he saved in two years may be in the thousands.
When Ho retired in 1973, he was refused a pension on what is believed to have been political grounds. His acts of bravery and kindness were not acknowledged in his lifetime (save for a black mark for disobeying orders). However in 2001, four years after his death, Yad Vashem honored Feng-Shan Ho as Righteous Among the Nations, for the many, many lives that his "disobedience" saved.