Israel Honors Chiune Sempo Sugihara for Saving Jews

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Israel named one of its streets after Chiune Sempo Sugihara. Chinue was a Japanese diplomat who was very helpful in saving the lives of many Jews during World War II. (“Israel Names Street after Japanese Diplomat…”, 2016) We can learn a lot about helping others from his example.

A little before the war Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had a non-aggression pact. When Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939, the Soviet Union still occupied the eastern part of the country. With the persecution of the Jews by the Germans in Poland many Jews fled eastward and about 15,000 Jews arrived in Lithuania, which was still independent at the time, but Lithuania was surrounded by Nazis and Soviets. And when the Soviets began occupying Lithuania in 1940 the sufferings of the Jews worsened. (“Visas to Japan Chiune Sempo Sugihara”, n.d)

In November of 1939, Chiune-Sempo Sugihara was sent to the capital of Lithuania as Japan's Consul. Part of his job was to monitor the actions of the German Army so the Japanese headquarters could know of anticipated attacks on the Soviet Union in advance. When the Soviet Union took control of Lithuania in the summer of 1940, it was requested that diplomats from other countries leave by the end of August. (“Visas to Japan Chiune Sempo Sugihara”, n.d)

While packing, Sugihara was told a Jewish delegation was wanting to speak with him. They had told him it was almost impossible for Jews to acquire immigration visas to go anywhere, but there was a Dutch colony that didn’t require entry visas, but Jews needed transit visas to get there. (“Visas to Japan Chiune Sempo Sugihara”, n.d)

So Chiune asked for time to obtain authorization from those above him in authority; when he didn’t hear back from the Japanese Foreign Ministry soon enough, he took it upon himself to begin issuing visas to the Jews. And even when he heard that Tokyo rejected his request to give out visas he continued to help the Jews and it is estimated he provided between 2,100 and 3,500 visas. When the Germans invaded Lithuania they began killing Jews and prevented them from leaving. He later lost his government position for not following orders, but he found lives valuable and didn’t lose his conscience by refusing to do what was right. (“Visas to Japan Chiune Sempo Sugihara”, n.d)

If Chiune waited on the approval of others to do the right thing many more lives could have been lost. Many of the Jews Chiune saved went to Netanya, Israel so to honor him Israel named a street in Netanya after him and fifty Jews in Netanya who survived World War II thanks to Chiune’s efforts came to the ceremony to honor his righteous act. Nobuki, Chiunes’ 67-year-old fourth son, who was able to witness the event said, “’It’s such an honor.’” (JIJI, 2016)

References:
Author Unknown (2016) “Israel Names Street after Japanese Diplomat Who Saved Jews in Holocaust” United with Israel received from http://unitedwithisrael.org/israel-names-street-after-japanese-diplomat-who-saved-jews-in-holocaust/

Author Unknown n.d “Visas to Japan Chiune Sempo Sugihara” Yad Vashem received from http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/stories/sugihara.asp

JIJI (2016) “Israel names street after diplomat Sugihara, who issued ‘visas for life’ to Jews during WWII” Japan Times received from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/06/08/national/history/israel-names-street-after-diplomat-sugihara-wwii-issuer-of-visas-for-life-to-jews/#.V2xf5rgrLIV

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