Jun 12 2009
45 years after signing the visas, Sugihara was asked why he did it. He replied: “They were human beings and they needed help. I’m glad I found the strength to make the decision to give it to them.”
Chiune SUGIHARA was one of the most important rescuers of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust. An estimated 40,000 descendants of the Jewish refugees he saved are alive today because of his courageous actions. The story of Chiune Sugihara is among the most remarkable of the second world war.
“Do you remember this?” It was an event in August, 1968. A gentle man visited SUGIHARA. This gentleman showed SUGIHARA one sheet of paper that had become tattered. It was the visa that SUGIHARA issued in Kaunas of Lithuania 28 years ago. “I found you finally, Mr. Sugihara. We have never forgotten you.” This gentleman’s name was B.Gehashra Nishri.
SUGIHARA was the Japanese Consul General in Lithuania in 1939 and 1940. When World War II broke out, Consul Sugihara’s office was flooded with visa requests from thousands of Jews fleeing German-occupied Poland. With the encouragement of his wife Yukiko, Sugihara issued Japanese transit visas to as many as 6,000 Polish Jews.
SUGIHARA acted on his own without the official permission of his government. In issuing the visas, SUGIHARA was risking his career, his future and even his safety. After the war, he was let go from the diplomatic service, and rather than being honored for his humanitarian initiative, he spent his life in disgrace, never recognized by Japan during his lifetime.
I never heard this story even though I spent 2 years living in Japan. I don’t think many people know about this very courageous man. This is his story.
Thanks so much to JANE in Canada for the following re: Mr. Sugihara
Thank you very much for posting the story about Mr. Sugihara and his wife.
It is an amazing story regarding Sugihara. Consul General Sugihara and his family are heroes in every sense of the word. My Father-in-law and his brother would never have survived the Holocaust, had it not been for him. Nor would my family exist, if it hadn’t been for these truly remarkable people who risked their own lives, and the lives of their children, to save Jewish lives.
Once they arrived in Japan, Dad and his brother stayed in a ghetto that had been set up for Jewish refugees. Eventually, they were moved over to Japanese occupied Shanghai. Dad said that the conditions were difficult, but that they were treated fairly by the Japanese authorities. They were allowed to have representatives who would meet with the authorities, and get requests fulfilled to improve the living conditions. Dad had a number of booklets that were in Japanese for various Jewish Holidays. The Japanese versions of the various festivals were provided by the Japanese Government, so that the Jewish community could learn to read and speak the language.
The Jews who remained in Japan, were always conscious of the relationship between Japan and Germany, so there was fear that at some point they would be transferred over to the Germans. They did realize that to a large extent they were being used as pawns, by the Japanese Government in its dealings with Germany. However, despite being used as pawns, they were always deeply grateful that Japan accepted Mr. Sugihara’s visas, allowed them to enter, and provided food, and sanctuary.
Without Sugihara, it is likely that the majority, if not all of these Jews, would have perished at the hands of the Germans. My Father-in-law’s entire family – parents, grandparents, sisters, uncles, cousins – barring 1 cousin – were all annihilated by the Germans in their town in Poland.
It is not a well known story. I suspect that in post-War America, nice stories about Germans, and the Japanese would not have been well received. That is probably why a movie has never been made about the Sugihara family. Despite the lack of publicity, Mr. Sugihara and his family have never been forgotten by the Jews that they saved. The family is revered, and as shown in your post – monuments and parks have been created to honor this man.
Mr. Sugihara and his wife were remarkable human beings – in every sense – during extremely dangerous times. Sugihara’s family could have easily suffered at the hands of the Nazis or the Japanese authorities. Their courage was phenomenal. During such dangerous times, it is no small thing to hold onto one’s values, and risk everything for the life of a stranger.
I remember Dad talking about the Trans-Siberian train that he took from Lithuania. He said that throughout the entire trip, they were terrified of the Russians, and not sure that they would survive the train trip. While on the train from Lithuania, to the point where they could get a boat to Japan, they were continually harassed and mocked by the Russians on board. What little belongings Dad, and his brother had on them, were absconded by the Russians, before they reached their destination. I just read, a little while ago, that Sugihara was the one who convinced the Russians to allow the Jews on the train. According to the report, the Russians would only permit the Jews to travel on the train, if they paid 5 times the normal ticket price. Despite what happened to Dad’s family at the hands of the Germans, he always considered the Russians to be worse. This always surprised me in light of what occurred in the Holocaust. I think his feelings must be connected to years of Russian abuses that may have occurred in Poland prior to the war.
Mr. Sugihara and his wife are an important part of our family history. We are a family that would not have existed, had it not been for the courage of the Sugihara Family.
In an odd quirk of fate – destiny – our son married a lovely Japanese girl, and resides in Japan. It’s interesting that our son has chosen to make his home in Mr. Sugihara’s country – the very place that provided his Grandfather sanctuary, and saved his life. Despite how much we miss our son and daughter-in-law, during these troubling times with the rise of anti-Semitism, it gives us a sense of peace to know that our loved ones are safe in Japan. Without the courageous Mr. Sugihara, his wife, and Japan, our family would not exist and there would be no story to tell.