University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
chgs@umn.edu
612-624-0256


CHGS

A 'Liberal' Visa Policy

Description
Chinese ambassador Feng Shan Ho with King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Chinese ambassador Feng Shan Ho with Jawaharlal Nehru of India.

Throughout this period, the Nationalist Chinese government continued diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany. Chiang Kaishek, China's ruler, was an admirer of the Nazis and used German military advisers and weapons. He also sent his younger son to be schooled by the Nazis. This son became a second lieutenant in the German 9 98th Jaeger Regiment and took part in the invasion of Austria in 1938.

China was not consistent in its position on the issuing of visas to Jews. Chen Jie, the Chinese ambassador in Berlin, who was Consul General Ho's direct superior, was adamantly opposed to giving Jews visas. He wanted to maintain good diplomatic relations with Germany and did not want to oppose Hitler's antiSemitic policy.

Having learned that the Chinese Consulate in Vienna was issuing large numbers of visas to Jews, the ambassador called Ho by telephone and ordered him to desist. But Ho countered by saying that "the Foreign Ministry's orders" were to maintain a "liberal" policy in this regard. On hearing this, Chen snapped: "If that is so I I will take care of the Foreign Ministry end, you just follow my orders!"

Consul General Ho continued to maintain a "liberal" policy. This so angered the ambassador that he sent a subordinate to Vienna on the pretext of investigating rumors that the Consulate was "selling" visas.

The investigator arrived unannounced from Berlin. After thoroughly examining all records and finding no evidence of wrongdoing, he asked Ho why there were rumors about the "selling" of visas. Ho replied that the rumors were baseless. Under a "liberal" policy, he said, 11 any person who wants a visa can get one, so why would anyone want to pay a high price to buy one?"

The investigator returned to Berlin and was not heard from again. Ho never learned what was reported back to the ambassador, but surmised that a report would be sent to the Foreign Ministry in China.

Consul General Ho continued to maintain an active diplomatic life in Vienna, but he had to be very careful. He knew that he may have jeopardized his career by his "liberal" visa policy. He had his wife and 11yearold son with him, and despite diplomatic immunity, the risks under the Nazi regime could not be discounted.

Less than a year after the Chinese Consulate was established, the Nazis confiscated the Jewish owned Consulate building. Consul General Ho asked the Chinese government for funds to relocate the consulate. The government refused, saying that China was at war with Japan and no funds were available. Ho found smaller facilities for the consulate at 22 Johannes Gasse. He moved there and paid all the expenses out of his own pocket.

By July 1939, the Soviet Union curtailed transit to Shanghai via Poland and Russia. In August, the Japanese military authorities of Shanghai had begun to close the doors to further Jewish emigration.

Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels wrote that the outbreak of war in September 1939, "made possible the solution of a whole series of problems that could never have been solved in peacetime." The Viennese Jewish community was officially dissolved in November 1942. By the end of the War, more than 65, 000 Austrian Jews died in Nazi concentration camps and ghettos.

In May 1940, Consul General Feng Shan Ho left Vienna. There was little more that he could do. Germany continued to overrun and conquer much of Europe. After the invasion and occupation of Poland in the fall of 1939, Nazi policy had switched from coerced emigration to murder.

In December 1941, after the US entered the war, China broke relations with Germany and the Chinese Consulate in Vienna was closed.

In all, 128,500 nearly 70 percent of Austria's 185,246 Jews, had emigrated. Thousands escaped using Consul General Ho's lifesaving visa.