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The journey of salvation of Viennese Jews through Italy

The Italian Embassy in Vienna and the Italian Cultural Institute have collaborated with the Jewish Community of Trieste and the Jewish Museum Vienna to organise the conference “Vienna-Trieste-Shanghai. Un viaggio della Memoria” (Vienna-Trieste-Shanghai. A Journey of Memory”). The initiative, which is accompanied by a photo exhibition, aims at commemorating the story of the approximately 15,000 Jews, mostly from Vienna, who escaped from the Nazis by seeking refuge in China via Italy. The Jews first managed to leave Austria and arrive in Trieste, where they boarded Lloyd Triestino ships for Shanghai. The Shanghai International Settlement was the only port in the world that allowed visa-free access. In those days, Lloyd Triestino provided the scheduled connection to the East with famous ocean liners, which in the case of the Viennese Jews literally became ships of salvation.

The ship that made the Orient route famous was the motorship Victoria, a Maharajah ship built in Trieste in 1931 – the first with air conditioning. A key role in the whole story, which the conference wanted to highlight, was played by the Chinese consul in Vienna, Ho Feng Shan, a bona fide Schindler who risked his life and career to help fleeing Jews leave Austria. The conference was devised by the Italian Ambassador, Stefano Beltrame, who was Consul General in Shanghai between 2014 and 2018 (before his posting in Austria), where he became aware of this extraordinary story. Hence the desire to make it known to the public on Remembrance Day.

In addition to Ambassador Beltrame, the conference was attended by the Director of the Cultural Institute, Nicola Locatelli, the President of the Austrian Parliament, Wolfgang Sobotka, the coordinator of the Carlo and Vera Wagner Museum in Trieste, Rav Ariel Haddad, the Director of the Jewish Museum Vienna, Barbara Staudinger and Maurizio Eliseo, scientific curator of the Italian Liners Cultural Association.