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Israeli orchestra pays tribute to late ROC diplomat

Israeli orchestra pays tribute to late ROC diplomat

Taipei, Oct. 29 (CNA) A leading Israeli symphony orchestra in the city of Raanana on Wednesday night dedicated a special piece of music to alate diplomat of the Republic of China (ROC) in recognition of his courage in helping many Jews to escape the Nazis in Austria during World War II.
Raphael Gamzou, the head of the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei (ISECO) , told the Central News Agency that Raanana Symphonette Orchestra on Wednesday night premiered six special compositions, including one dedicated to late ROC diplomat Ho Feng-shan. The event was held to pay tribute to several awardees of the Righteous Among the Nations -- a title bestowed on non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
"This is an important act that will also remain for generations to come because it will become part of the cultural treasures of Israel," said Gamzou.
"Silent Skies: a tribute to Feng-shan Ho" was written by leading Israeli composer Michael Wolpe to express his gratitude to the people who saved his family and by whose efforts he could live peacefully in a free land, according to Gamzou.
It was part of a special project between the orchestra and Yad Vashem -- the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority -- in which six leading Israeli composers were commissioned to write original pieces of music for the Righteous Among the Nations, he added.
The six compositions will performed at the Raanana orchestra's 2009-2010 season concerts and after which the music and the presentations will be available on the Web sites of Yad VaShem and the orchestra at http: //www.yadvashem.org and http://www.symphonette.co.il.
Representative Gamzou told CNA that he would be pleased if the orchestra was invited to Taiwan to perform the new piece of music because it carries a message.
"Indeed I believe that this hero (Ho Feng-shan) should be put on a pedestal and should be a role model for young Taiwanese and for generations to come, as this is more than a chapter of the Israel's history but a great lesson for humanity," Gamzou said.
Ho Feng-shan was posted to the Austrian capital of Vienna in 1937 and was promoted to the post of consul-general there the following year, when Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany.
The Jews in Austria were desperate to flee the country, but had difficulty getting visas, as 32 countries refused to accept Jewish immigrants because they feared Germany.
Out of sympathy for the plight of the Jews, Ho issued visas to many of them in defiance of a ban from the ROC Ambassador to Berlin Chen Jie, providing them with opportunities to escape to other countries via China.
It is unclear how many visas he issued to the Jewish refugees at the time, but the number is believed to be around 2,000.
Ho retired from the diplomatic service in 1973 and died in San Francisco in 1997.
His actions in Vienna went unnoticed until his bereaved children revealed them in his obituary, which was published in the Boston Globe, prompting the Israeli group Yad VaShem -- Israel's national Authority for the Remembrance of the Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust -- to bestow upon him in 2001 the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
(By Rachel Chan)