Book Review: Night Angels


From the author of The Last Rose of Shanghai comes a profoundly moving novel about a diplomatic couple who risked their lives to help Viennese Jews escape the Nazis, based on the true story of Dr. Ho Fengshan, Righteous Among the Nations.

1938. Dr. Ho Fengshan, consul general of China, is posted in Vienna with his American wife, Grace. Shy and ill at ease with the societal obligations of diplomats’ wives, Grace is an outsider in a city beginning to feel the sweep of the Nazi dragnet. When Grace forms a friendship with her Jewish tutor, Lola Schnitzler, Dr. Ho requests that Grace keep her distance. His instructions are to maintain amicable relations with the Third Reich, and he and Grace are already under their vigilant eye.

But when Lola’s family is subjugated to a brutal pogrom, Dr. Ho decides to issue them visas to Shanghai. As violence against the Jews escalates after Kristallnacht and threats mount, Dr. Ho must issue thousands more to help Jews escape Vienna before World War II explodes.

Based on a remarkable true story, Night Angels explores the risks brave souls took and the love and friendship they built and lost while fighting against incalculable evil.

My Review

The story begins in 1938 at the Chinese Embassy in Vienna. Vienna is a lovely, cultured city that offers much to both visitors and residents. It’s nicely described. The author didn’t go overboard with too many details, but the ones she used painted a very nice picture.

Unfortunately, the Nazis are in Vienna in 1938.Their persecution of the Jews is well documented, but each and every time I read something about it I’m freshly appalled at the cruelty and depravity that characterized the Third Reich.

Slowly, event by event, the tension increased. Each and every time Dr. Ho helped another Jew, the Nazis took note. I expected at any moment for Dr. Ho to be sent to a concentration camp. If he hadn’t been a diplomat I’m sure he would have been. However, the Chinese government recalled him to China because he continued to disregard their orders to stop giving visas to Jews.

Dr. Ho’s wife, who is mainly fictitious, also suffers in Vienna. She has a traumatic experience that changes her profoundly.

Dr. Ho briefly mentions his time in Vienna in his memoir which was the first time most people knew about it. He always avoided speaking of his experiences in Vienna while he was alive, but after his death his notes and book were translated and shared with the world. He was posthumously recognized with the title Righteous Among the Nations.

It’s a good book, and I think he was a true hero. It’s well worth a read.


About Elaine Cantrell

Elaine Cantrell was born and raised in South Carolina. She has a Master’s Degree in Personnel Services from Clemson University and is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary sorority for women educators. She is also a member of Romance Writers of America. Her first novel A New Leaf was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love Contest and was published in 2004 by Oak Tree Press. When she isn't writing you can find Elaine playing with her dog or maybe collecting more vintage Christmas ornaments
This entry was posted in Miscellaneous. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Book Review: Night Angels

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    Being an amateur military historian with special emphasis on the WW2 era, I can well imagine the mounting pressures and fears of anyone in occupied territories. During the period of Nazi build-up (but prior to the invasion of Poland in 1939) the Third Reich’ network was already well established and quite ready to launch its total military phase. Terrifying time!


  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    What an amazing story! Thanks so much for sharing it. I see that there’s a documentary about him called China’s Schindlers that’s available on Amazon Prime, and I’ll have to make time to watch it.


  3. Yes, it is amazing how many went to Shanghai. Do you remember my interview with Alexa Kang? Her series is fascinating.


  4. Thank you for the recomendation. I am going to have to look this book up and add it to my list.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s