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Dissent by Joan Deman

The Question of Visas to Shanghai Given by Dr. Feng Shan Ho: Another View by Joan Deman

Note: CHGS at the University of Minnesota believes that the issues raised here are interesting and deserve more research. Hopefully, the questions raised on this page will inspire students and researchers to look into the question of Dr. Feng Shan Ho in greater detail.

The following information has been compiled by Joan R. Deman of Oak Lawn, IL, born in Vienna, Austria. She and her family fled to Shanghai where she spent her childhood. She has a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago. Ms. Deman's parents Wilhelm and Grete Deman owned a well known translation bureau in Vienna, and were known for their aid in emigration efforts of many Austrian Jews.

Ms. Deman has studied the case of Dr. Feng Shan Ho, Chinese Consul General in Vienna from 1938-1940, and disagrees with some of the facts concerning the issuance of visas to Shanghai from his office in Vienna.

Ms. Deman writes -  I have twice responded to Eric Saul's assertions that Dr. Ho saved thousands of Austrian Jews. His claims and my rebuttals can be found on www.Rickshaw.org , the web site of the former Shanghailanders.

Approximately 18,000 European Jews fled to Shanghai prior to World War II, and around 4,000 of these refugees were from Austria. They were the people whose lives Dr. Ho supposedly saved by issuing visas to "Shanghai," a city not under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China. Mr. Saul appealed in many Jewish newspapers, and was able to locate a handful of people who did indeed receive Dr. Ho's phony visas.

On August 16, 1998,1 wrote to Dr. Mordechai Paldiel of Yad Vashem informing him that we did not need a visa to flee to Shanghai, and protesting Mr. Saul's assertion that Dr. Ho had saved our lives. Mr. Ernest Heppner, a native of Germany and author of SHANGHAI REFUGE, also wrote to Dr. Paldiel saying that Mr. Saul's assertion was incorrect, and that no visa was necessary.

On September 24, 1998, Mr. Heppner received a reply from Dr. Paldiel with a copy to me, saying that Dr. Ho had also issued visas to parts of China under Chinese jurisdiction.

On August 11, 2000, 1 received a phone call from Dr. Paldiel regarding Dr. Ho. I explained to him that we had fled to Shanghai precisely because Shanghai was the only place that did not require either a visa or a landing permit, and that a steamship ticket to Shanghai had secured my father's release from Dachau Concentration Camp. To prove my point, I sent Dr. Paldiel documents from my father's archive, but received no response to my letter.

A few days later, I received a phone call from Dr. David Kranzler author of JAPANESE, NAZIS AND JEWS, who apparently was in contact with Dr. Paldiel, and he informed me that Dr. Ho had indeed issued 400 Chinese visas. He referred me to his book HEROINE OF RESCUE, the story of Recha Sternbuch, whose organization had received these visas from Dr. Ho. I located a copy of the book, and discovered that Mrs. Recha Sternbuch was of Rumanian origin, lived in Switzerland, and had rescued. Rumanian Orthodox Jews, not Austrian Jews. I wrote Dr. Kranzler about my finding and wondered how she came to have Chinese visas issued by Dr. Ho in Vienna. I did not receive a reply.

Mr. Saul had also referred to Mrs. Sternbuch, but claimed that she had rescued German and Austrian Jews with Dr. Ho's visas, and that Dr. Ho had in fact, issued thousands of visas, most of them to organizations ....

Mr. Saul admitted that while a visa for entry to Shanghai was not necessarily required, he insisted that Dr. Ho's visa was necessary as proof of final destination, in order to leave Austria. The way he put it, Dr. Ho's visa served as an "exit" visa. When I countered that the German Jews who fled to Shanghai did not have access to Dr. Ho's visa, yet had managed to escape to Shanghai, he said he supposed that a sympathetic American or British consul would have issued such a visa.

This is not true. All of us had fled to Shanghai precisely because a ship ticket to Shanghai was all that was necessary in order to leave Germany or Austria. Our problem was locating a place of refuge, and Shanghai was our only hope. Why else would we have fled to an uncertain future in Shanghai? Ship tickets to Shanghai were hard to get, and that limited emigration. In 1938-39 the Nazis did not care where we fled to. They were only interested in forcing us out of the country destitute,with 10 RM in our pockets.

Mr. Saul points to the case of Eric Goldstaub who obtained 20 of Dr. Ho's visas in Vienna in July of 1938, and claimed that on the strength of these visas Goldstaub was able to obtain ship tickets. No so. No visa was necessary in order to obtain ship tickets to Shanghai. Furthermore, Goldstaub was still in Vienna on November 10. 1938, the infamous KRISTALLNACHT. If he was so desperate to leave Vienna, why didn't he and his family leave upon receipt of the "lifesaving" visas? By November 10, 1038, 100,000 Austrian Jews had already left the country. Did they all have Dr. Ho's visas? Not even Mr. Saul makes that claim.

Dr. Ho was a good and decent man, at a time when few cared about our fate. However, he did not save thousands of Austrian Jews, and consuls of other countries did, if grudgingly, issue visas.

Mr. Saul also says that Dr. Ho's visa won releases from Dachau. I wouldn't doubt that, except for the fact that parole from a concentration camp was based on proof of leaving the country within a month. He also admits that Mr. Goldstaub had ship tickets to Shanghai when he did leave Vienna.

Mr. Saul also claimed that the Ho visas were essential in order to go to Shanghai via the transSiberian route. What he does not say, is that this route was only used after boat traffic to Shanghai had been halted because of the war, and anyone foolish enough to try to transit with such a phony visa would have been arrested by the Soviets and deported to Siberia or returned to Germany.

Actually, transit through Soviet Russia required a Japanese visa, a Russian transit visa, and a Manchquo transit visa. Manchuria, then called Manchuquo, was a Japanese puppet state. Mr. Horst Abraham made passports issued to his parents in Germany in 1940 available to me. He was fortunate enough to secure permission for his parents from the Japanese at that late date. This same process was also described in James Ross' book ESCAPE TO SHANGHAI.

I had now reached an impasse in my research, and wrote to Dr. Feinstein that I had been unable to locate a copy of Dr. Ho's book. All available information had come from Mr. Saul. Dr. Feinstein e-mailed Dr. Paldiel, and received the following answer:

"In response to the charges of Mrs. Deman, allow me to point out the following:

  1. Mr. Ho did write his memoirs, which was published in Chinese, and appeared in Taiwan. At Yad Vashem we had received relevant pages from this Chinese written book.
  2. We readily concede that many Jews reached Shanghai and other destinations in China, without necessarily being armed with a proper visa. To go to China, one did not need a visa, but to get out of Germany (including annexed Austria), and to be released from a concentration camp (after Kristallnacht) one needed a visa. This is where Ho's action proved helpful. He issued visas to people so that they could with this document leave Nazi Germany, including being released from Dachau and other concentration camps. To repeat - to enter China one did not necessarily need a visa, but to leave the Nazi World in 193839, one needed such a document. Many of the Jews who received visas from Ho, did not travel to China. Once out of Germany, they headed to Cuba, Sweden, Israel (then Palestine) and other destinations.
  3. Ho acted in contravention of instructions from his superior, the Chinese ambassador in Berlin - who told him not to issue visas. Ho disregarded this command  quite an unusual step for a diplomat in 1939, a reprimand was entered in his personnel file, which some believe has to do with his act of disobedience toward a superior officer in the Foreign service. His issuance of visas to allow Jews to exit Nazi Germany in time, plus the risks to his career following this disobedience - these two major factors prompted Yad Vashem to declare him a righteous Among the Nations."

I am afraid that Dr. Paldiel was misinformed when he says that to get out of Germany and/or Austria, and to be released from concentration camp a Ho visa was necessary.

This was not true in the case of Jews fleeing to Shanghai. A ship ticket to Shanghai sufficed. I sent him the proof, and Astrid Freieisen's book SHANGHAI UND DIE POLITIK DES DRITTEN REICHES mentions this same point. She writes: The relatives of many Jews bought their freedom from Buchenwald and Dachau by the purchase of tickets to Shanghai.(page 397)

Furthermore, what Dr. Paldiel doesn't seem to realize that release from a concentration camp was made contingent upon leaving the country within a given number of weeks, on pain of re-arrest. This policy was enforced by forcing the parolee to report to the Gestapo until his departure. I have the letters that my father wrote to the Gestapo and local police the day he left Vienna, and I sent Dr. Paldiel copies.

Dr. Paldiel states that many Jews who received visas from Ho did not travel to China. Once outside Germany (?) they headed for Cuba, Sweden, Palestine, etc. Please note. He writes CHINA not SHANGHAI.

It thus appears that Dr. Ho issued two type of visas: The invalid "Shanghai" visas issued to Austrian Jews, and the valid "China" visas which were issued through organizations for use by persons who were NOT residing in Austria, and received the passports and visas elsewhere.

I believe the recipients of these passports and visas were Rumanian and Polish Jews who fled their countries and were not recognized as bona fide refugees because their countries had not yet been taken over by the Nazis.

A. J. Sherman in ISLAND REFUGE quotes a report by the CID Jerusalem on page 236, wherein the British authorities noted that large scale illegal immigration to Palestine was organized .... "Refugees who had literally nothing to lose ...put their entire resources at the disposal of persons in a position to assist them to get to Palestine..." Transit visas were obtained from the consuls in VIENNA, (my caps and underline), Berlin or elsewhere of such countries as Liberia and the Dominican Republic ...

He added that "France, Italy and Switzerland and to a lesser degree Belgium, actively connnived at the illegal traffic by issuing seuf-conduit to groups of refugees whose stated destination  - CHINA, (my caps and underline) Haiti or other - were patently bogus.

Switzerland in fact went further and openly encouraged organizers of illegal transports to Palestine to enter Switzerland (I assume Mrs. Recha Sternbuch was one of these organizers) to organize transport."

On page 238 of the book there is specific mention "...the Colonial Office pointed out that most of the illegal immigrants were Jews from Poland and Rumania..." furthermore, On page 239, "... The Foreign Office embarked on a strenuous political campaign to put maximum pressure on governments involved in all places of the traffic: Brazil. CHINA (my caps and underline), Liberia, Panama. and others which granted visas or flags of convenience ..."

I submit that these valid Chinese visas and not the phony "Shanghai" visas (Eric Saul states that Dr. Ho issued thousands to organizations) were the reason why the Chinese Ambassador in Berlin put pressure on Dr. Ho. Dr. Ho had broken no Chinese laws by issuing the "Shanghai" visas, since Shanghai was not under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China, and I assume he showed samples of these phony visas to his visitor.

Why was Dr. Ho not recalled from Vienna when the Chinese Consul came from Germany to reprimand him? Actually, Dr. Ho remained as consul in Vienna, and according to Eric Saul, after his posting in Vienna ended, he became Chinese Ambassador to Egypt and seven other Middle Eastern countries, and was subsequently Ambassador to Mexico, Bolivia and Colombia.

Visa Visa

Russian transit visaShanghai visa

Bottom left: Russian Transit Visa from Sept. 1940; Bottom right: Manchurian transit visa, which suggests that Dr. Ho's "Shanghai" visa would not have been of any "life saving" assistance.

OBVIOUSLY, THE TESTIMONY ABOVE SUGGESTS PROBLEMS IN INTERPRETATION WHILE THERE ARE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF FACTS THAT CAN BE VERIFIED, SUCH AS THE ISSUANCE OF VISAS, BUT NOT THE ABSOLUTE REASON. WE HOPE, THEREFORE, THAT THIS ISSUE CAN BE ULTIMATELY RESOLVED THROUGH RESEARCH AND A SCHOLARLY DEBATE. EVERY YEAR, MORE INFORMATION IS DISCOVERED THROUGH NEW DOCUMENTATION OF THE WORKINGS OF THE GERMAN NSDAP BUREAUCRACY.