By AL YEE
Reprinted with permission.
On or about March 26th, the Associated Press issued an article, titled, “Shanghai’s Jewish History” that received wide circulation. Having published about the long history of the Jews in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore and Chinese/Jewish psychological similarities and differences, I was appointed to the Sino-Judaic Board of Directors in 2000, then the only non-Jew. Thus, I have more on the two Asians, both Christians, who saved thousands from the Holocaust.
Feng Shan Ho, China’s Vienna consul, and Chiune Sugihara, Japan’s Lithuania vice-consul, ignored orders against issuing Jews visas.
Dr. Ho saved many of the 128,246 Jews who emigrated from Austria to safety, chiefly Shanghai. Out of Vienna’s 100 consulates, his was the only one that issued visas to Jews that allowed them to exit Germany, which honored the visas because of its diplomatic relations with China.
When Jews sought visas, Ho gave as many as requested – some taking dozens. Violating orders, he eventually lost his pension and lived with his daughter until he died at the age of 96. His San Francisco 1997 obituary briefly mentioning his humanitarianism alerted Israeli authorities.
Ho had explained: “I thought it only natural to feel compassion and to want to help. From the standpoint of humanity, that is the way it should be.”
Sugihara’s visas permitted 6,000 Polish and Lithuanian refugees to train to Japan through Russia, which charged five times the normal rail rate. Most moved to Shanghai. Transferred elsewhere in Europe, Sugihara frantically continued to write and toss visas from his train window.
Losing his diplomat’s job in postwar Japan, he eked out a hard life in Russia to provide for his family before dying at 86 in 1986. His explanation for aiding the Jews: “I do it just because I have pity on the people. They want to get out so I let them have the visas.”
Israel honored Sugihara in 1985, Ho in 2000.
Al Yee was raised and educated in the San Francisco Bay Area earning degrees from UC, Berkeley, San Francisco State, and his doctoral degree at Stanford University. He taught advanced research methods at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he became a full professor in 1970.
Dr. Yee assisted White House planning for President Nixon’s 1972 visit to China and originated provisions of the ensuing Shanghai Communiqué for educational, scientific, and cultural exchanges between America and the People’s Republic of China.
While serving as a Senior Fulbright Lectureship at Tokyo University and Tamagawa University, Yee received an “impossible-to-get” visa to visit China. He would become instrumental following the Cultural Revolution as a bridge for psychologists representing the American Psychological Association and the Chinese Psychological Society and Institute of Psychology.
Yes was also instrumentals in leading the movement to promote the normalization of U.S. and PRC relations in 1978. He recognized institutional racism in the attempts to block Southeast Asian refugees into California in the mid-1970s and worked to upgrade federal and state refugee policies and procedures.
Yee’s comparative study of Chinese and Jewish characteristics in 2001 led to his appointment to the Sino-Judaic Institute board of directors, then the only non-Jew. His work led to a reputation as a specialist on cross-cultural and social-psychological studies. He is also the author of several journal articles and books.
Albert Yee, Missoula, MT