Ho Feng Shan: A man of compassion, courage

Updated: 2015-04-24 11:18

By May Zhou(China Daily USA)

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Ho Feng Shan: A man of compassion, courage

Ho Feng Shan and daughter Ho Manli in 1977. Provided to China Daily

Shanghai impact

Ho's impact, however, extended well beyond Austria and the recipients of his visas; his actions put Shanghai on the map and into the consciousness of Jews in other Nazi occupied territories as a refuge of last resort.

As a result, from 1938 to 1940, some 18,000 European Jewish refugees fled to Shanghai to escape certain death at the hands of the Nazis.

That's why Nancy Li, Houston, chair of the US-China Peoples Friendship Association and trustee of the HMH, became instrumental in nominating Ho as an honoree.

"When it comes to the history of WWII, very little research has been conducted about China in the West. Through events like this, I hope to raise awareness that China suffered at the hands of the Japanese just as Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Moreover, even while China suffered under Japanese occupation, Chinese like Dr Ho were willing to extend a helping hand toward the Jews in Europe," said Li.

Mark Mucasey, chair of the HMH, said the nomination of Ho stemmed from his visit to China in 2013 to attend the conference of the Association of Holocaust Organizations.

While there, Mucasey visited Unit 731 Museum. "It showed the atrocities of the Nanjing Massacre and chemical warfare and medical experiments conducted by the Japanese," he said.

"We turned a corner and there it was, an oven where the bodies were burned. It looked exactly like the oven in Auschwitz, Poland, which I had just visited. This was the same appliance and the same cruelty. This is what the Germans were doing to the Jews and what the Japanese were doing to Chinese," Mucasey added.

Mucasey and his group also visited the Shanghai Ghetto. "We saw where they (Jews) escaped the ravages of Europe," he said. "All these were new to us, and based on what we learned, we decided to honor Ho, and reach out to our Asian neighbors."

Yet while Ho Feng Shan was alive, nobody, not even his family, was aware of the scope of what he had done. After his death, his daughter, Ho Manli, a journalist by training, began an 18-year odyssey to uncover the history of her father's deeds.

"I began this search by chance, shortly after my father's death in 1997," Ho Manli said. "But, by doing so more than six decades later means that we shall never know the full extent of his humanitarian efforts."

Trying to retrace the history, she said, was "like looking for a pebble in the ocean."

"There was no 'Schindler's List' of survivors. The survivors had scattered all over the world. Most of the adults who lined up in front of the Chinese Consulate to obtain visas are no longer with us, and did not necessarily tell their children the details of how the family escaped," Ho Manli said.

After the end of the World War II, China was plunged into a civil war. There were few Chinese archival documents left to be found, she added.