The Event Recognizing Japanese Diplomat
For His Contributions to Mankind
A HISTORY OF EMPATHY
Chiune Sugihara (1900-1986) was the Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, who saved over 2,000 Polish Jewish refugees during World War II by issuing Japanese transit visas that allowed them to escape to the Far East.
Sugihara served with the Japanese military government in Manchuria, where he was promoted to vice minister of foreign affairs. Troubled by Japanese treatment of the Chinese, he resigned his post in 1934 and returned to Japan, where he met and married Yukiko Kikuchi. The following year he was reassigned to the European section of the foreign ministry, and in 1937 was posted to the Japanese embassy in Helsinki, Finland. In October 1939 Sugihara was instructed to open a consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania for the purpose of gathering information on German and Soviet troop movements along the border. Shortly after his arrival, a wave of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi invasion of Poland, flooded into Lithuania seeking a means of escape from Europe.
Towards the end of July 1940, Sugihara was approached by Dr. Zorah Warhaftig of the Jewish Agency Palestine Office, who requested that he provide Japanese transit visas to Polish Jewish refugees in Lithuania.
Realizing the danger facing the Jewish refugees in Lithuania, Sugihara appealed to his superiors for permission to issue the transit visas, noting in his cables that hundreds of refugees lined up outside the consulate each day hoping to receive them. When that permission was denied, he decided to issue them on his own authority, disregarding the possible consequences for his career.
For several weeks in late July and early August 1940, Sugihara issued visas at a furious pace, eventually stamping more than 2,000 passports before his consulate was closed down by the Soviet authorities. When he left Kaunas, Sugihara went briefly to Berlin before assuming a series of new postings to Prague (September 1940-February 1941), Koenigsberg (March-October 1941) and finally Bucharest (fall 1941-summer 1944). At the end of the war he and his family were arrested by the Soviet military. They were held under benign conditions until their repatriation in 1947. When he returned to Japan, Sugihara was dismissed from the foreign service with a small pension. In the years after the war Sugihara never spoke of his actions in Kaunas, and it was not until 1968 that he was honored by those whom he rescued. In 1985, a year before his death, he was recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
AN EVENT TO BUILD BRIDGES
Chiune Sugihara is an inspiration to all of us who reach beyond our own culture by building bridges to other cultures. His efforts to save those who faced oppression, imprisonment and certain death were accomplished at a huge cost to him and to his family. Facing his own incarceration, Sugihara saved countless lives if you factor in the children that came from the souls that he saved.
The Man/Kind Project will create an event that brings together the Japanese and Jewish communities, as well as all people to recognize Sugihara's bravery, and to serve as an inspiration to young people.
Please join us in making this event a reality.