Holocaust Hero Chiune Sugihara

Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara was stationed in Lithuania when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Thousands of Jewish refugees came to the consulate seeking travel documents in order to escape the Nazis. Sugihara's superiors in Tokyo ordered him not to issue any travel visas.

Sugihara discussed the plan with his wife Yukiko and decided to risk his career and his entire future by defying his superiors. The couple then spent 29 days issuing travel visas, up to 300 a day, as thousands of refugees stood in line at his office. Yukiko would prepare and register the visas while Chiune Sugihara would sign and stamp them, hour after hour, without breaking for meals. They would work late into the night until Yukiko would massage her husband’s weary hands in preparation for the next day. Sugihara was under orders to leave, which he could no longer delay. The family departed on September 1st, but he kept signing visas even as he boarded the train. Sugihara then tossed his official stamp out to the crowd, as he hadn’t time to stamp them all.

Sugihara's actions enabled around 6,000 Jewish refugees to escape the Holocaust. For his efforts, Sugihara was imprisoned by the Soviets and fired from his job by the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Read the entire story at mental_floss. Link

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Two years ago my husband and I took three trains and two buses from Nagoya Japan to the heart of the country to visit the Chiune Sugihara Museum. IT took all day to get there and back using only public transportation. It was a great visit and very much worth the effort. If you ever want to do something out of the way and educational in central Japan, honoring this man's memory is a great way to spend a day.
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Chiune was indeed a very special person. His first wife was actually caucasian (before Yukiko).

How he ended up in Lithuania was in itself an interesting story. He resigned his post in Manchuria as a protest over the cruel treatment of Chinese civilians. He repeatedly asked the Japanese government permission to issue the visas, and was turned down each time. That someone in his position would disobey an order like that was extraordinary for that time period.

There is also Lieutenant General Kiichiro Higuchi, who allowed 20,000 Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany cross the border from the Soviet Union to Manchuko:

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People of this integrity should have been recognized a long time ago. I personally beleive most Japanese were forced into WW2 because of conscription and propaganda. It is always sad that a few people can ruin a whole world.
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There's a very oddly parallel story about a Nazi party member Siemens businessman named John Rabe who was stationed in Nanking, China when the Japanese invaded and committed thousands of atrocities against Chinese civilians. The Japanese massacred hundreds of thousands in the Nanking area, but Rabe's efforts in establishing a safety zone (as well as personally keeping hundreds of civilians on his own property) is estimated to have saved >200,000 lives.

When he left China, he went back to Germany and lectured on the Japanese atrocities, something that did not endear him to the Gestapo. Nonetheless, he survived the war and is remembered as a hero in China today. There's a few films on him and he's also covered in Iris Chang's best-selling "The Rape of Nanking"
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