Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/5/2012 (2970 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The daughter of a man who saved thousands of lives will be sharing his story with Winnipeg school students today -- letting them know one person can make a profound difference.
Manli Ho's late father, Dr. Fengshan Ho, was Chinese consul to Austria from 1938 to 1940. He issued visas to Jews trying to get out of Austria and into Shanghai. He did it without the permission of the Chinese government and at great risk to himself, said Ho.
She is being honoured today by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, B'nai Brith Canada and the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre at a "One-Person Profound Difference" lunch downtown.
"We live in a world where persecution and bullying do occur," Ho, a writer who lives in the United States, said Thursday. "It's up to each individual to stand up and be counted and not be a bystander."
She's meeting with Winnipeg middle school students from H.S. Paul School and H.C. Avery School today. They'll be asked to fill out "take action" cards describing how they plan to make a difference.
"It is possible to do something to fight racism and genocide," Ho said. "One person can do something on his or her own."
She didn't learn about how big a difference her dad made until after he died.
The visas he issued between 1938 and 1940 were Jewish people's tickets out of Austria at the time, she said. And people didn't need a visa then to enter Shanghai, which was under Japanese occupation.
"Anybody could arrive without a passport," she said.
Her dad, the Chinese diplomat who issued a few thousand visas to Shanghai, got the word out and the ball rolling.
Eventually, 18,000 European Jews ended up in Shanghai and not in Nazi concentration camps, she said.
When Ho was a child, her dad didn't talk much about being posted to Austria during those dark years.
"The only thing my father told me was that he saw Hitler come into Vienna in triumph after the merging of Austria and Germany in March, 1938. The Jews were immediately persecuted," said.
"The second thing he told me was a personal story -- that he rescued a Jewish friend on Kristallnacht and faced down the Gestapo at gunpoint to do that."
She included the story in his obituary when he died in San Francisco in 1997. She said a Jewish man read it and contacted her wanting to know more, asking Ho, "Don't you want to know?"
Ever since then, Ho has been discovering more and more about her father. Records and Jewish communities have helped her make some connections.
She found a survivor -- Eric Goldstaub of Toronto who died Monday at age 90. And she located a visa her dad issued with a serial number in the thousands. "Then I realized this was a lot bigger than his only saving one friend."
Two Winnipeg women whose families escaped to Shanghai were at a Millennium Library exhibit opening earlier this month about the refugees, Winnipeg Shanghai Connection II.
"People like my father not only provide a moral example, they provide hope to people," said Ho. Her dad posthumously received Israel's highest honour, Righteous Among the Nations.
"It's important for us to talk about the righteous people who extended a hand, who took risks," she was told in Israel.
"They are little points of light in that darkness and hope for human kind. There is some redemption."
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
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