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A JAPANESE HOLOCAUST RESCUER
August 23, 2008
"Do you remember this?" One day in August 1,968, the event happened unexpectedly. A gentleman came over to Sugihara 'Sempo' Chiune suddenly. Showing Sugihara one tattered piece of paper, this gentleman asked him, "Do you remember this, Mr. Sugihara?" The piece of paper was the transit visa that Sugihara issued in Kaunas, Lithuania 28 years ago.
28 years ago, in the summer of 1,940, Sugihara Chiune was serving as the Japanese consul in Lithuania. At that time, many Jewish people fled from Poland where had been occupied by Nazi Germany were crowding into Lithuania. Jewish refugees were trying desperately to get visa at foreign embassies or consulates in Lithuania. However, the Soviet Union, which adopted anti-Semitic policy (anti-Semitic=anti-Jewish) annexed Lithuania as a part of the Soviet Union, requested countries to close foreign embassies or consulates in Lithuania. The last foreign consulate left in Lithuania was Japanese consulate. So, many Jewish people who sought visa for the purpose of escaping to another country crowded into the Japanese consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania. At first, although Japanese government was repeatedly requested to cooperate in anti-Semitic policy by Nazi Germany, Japanese government took a neutral position in an official manner. However, Japanese Foreign Ministry kept tough visa requirements.
On July 18th in 1,940, Sugihara Chiune cabled Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo as to the approval of emergency visa. However, Tokyo replied the next day and told Sugihara to keep visa requirements. Sugihara cabled Tokyo several times. But Tokyo repeated the same response. A week later, on July 25th, Sugihara decided on his own accord and started giving Jewish refugees transit visa for humanitarian reasons. Sugihara Chiune kept writing transit visa in a little more than a month between July 25th and September 5th, though Sugihara received the expulsion order from the Soviet Union epeatedly. The number of transit visa that Sugihara gave Jewish refugees was 2,139. But this number 2,139 is just the number of visa that Sugihara numbered and recorded. Sugihara stopped numbering visa for laborsaving as the Japanese consulate closing day neared. Sugihara kept writing visa in the station until immediately before the train departure. So, the total number of visa that Sugihara gave Jewish refugees in a little more than a month is supposed to have reached more than twice the number 2,139.
On September 5th in 1,940, Sugihara Chiune and his family was in the station to board a train for Berlin. Jewish refugees who had known that Sugihara would go on board a train on the day gathered at the station. Sugihara wrote visa on the platform. After he and his family went on board, Jewish refugees hanged on the windows of the train. Sugihara wrote visa from the window of the train. When the train started moving, he couldn't write visa any more. Everybody was waving their hands. One of them called out, "Thank you, Mr.Sugihara. We will come to see you again." And he came running after the train.
After that, Sugihara and his family lived several cities (Prague, Kaliningrad and etc.) and they lived in Bucharest, Romania when World War II ended in 1,945. Sugihara and his family were detained by the Soviet military that invaded Bucharest then and they were sent to prison camp (Ghencea, Romania). It was April in 1,947 that Sugihara and his family returned to Japan. But Japanese Foreign Ministry didn't welcome Sugihara and persuaded him into his resignation because of Ministry's downsizing. Sugihara changed jobs frequently after resigning from Japanese Foreign Ministry.
"Do you remember this?" One day in August 1,968, the event happened unexpectedly. A gentleman came over to Sugihara Chiune suddenly. Showing Sugihara one tattered piece of paper, this gentleman asked him, "Do you remember this, Mr. Sugihara?" The piece of paper was the transit visa that Sugihara issued in Kaunas, Lithuania 28 years ago. "At last, I found you, Mr. Sugihara. We still can't forget you." This gentleman's name is B.Gehashra Nishri. B.Gehashra Nishri was the counsellor for Israeli embassy in Japan. B.Gehashra Nishri had been looking for Sugihara Chiune since that station. That station was Kaunas' rail station in Lithuania.
In 1,985, Sugihara 'Senpo' Chiune was given the title of "the Righteous Among the Nations"for his contribution to rescue more than 6,000 Jewish from Holocaust by the government of Israel.