A Berg Above The Rest

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Gentiles in Jewish History: Chiune Sempo Sugihara

So I know that "Remember the Holocaust" day was the day before yesterday, but I'm a bit behind in my posting. So I thought I'd do a tribute to a lesser known, but very important figure in Jewish Holocaust history.

Chiune Sempo Sugihara (1900-1986) was the Japanese consul to Lituania during World War II. During his time there, he went on to help thousands of Jews escape from the Nazis.

Many Polish and Russian Jews came to the Japanese consolute looking for Visas to Japan in order to escape the oncoming terrors of both Germany and the Soviet Union. Even though the Japanese government had pretty strict codes and requirements in order to obtain a visa, Sugihara (who was later dubbed the Japanese Schindler) went against these rules and granted visas on his own. There is speculation on the amount of visas Sugihara wrote (sometimes by hand). The number ranges from 2,139 to 10,000. Many whole families went to Japan on one 10 day visa. There was even one day when 30 people came over on a visa for one "Jakub Goldberg." Sugihara was so dedicated to giving Jews visas that he was still signing them while sitting on the train to evacuate Lituania.

When he returned to Japan in 1947, Sugihara was almost immediately fired from Japan's Foreign Service. Though the Japanese government never came out and said it, his firing was due to his helping Polish and Russian Jews. His name was only cleared in 1992, six years after his death.

Now, Nippon Animation, one of Japan's biggest film studios is making a full length feature animation on his story. The studio enlisted the help of Israeli ambassador Eli Cohen, who agreed only after the studio promised to coordinate with the Japanese Foreign Ministry first.

The film will be marketed in 2008, in order to also commemorate sixty years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Japan.


  • At 3:10 PM, Blogger El Keter ben Tzadik said…

    There was also a nice documentary on PBS about Sugihara not too long ago as well. I can't help but think that were something like the Holocaust to happen today though a potential Sugihara's hands would be tied when it comes to granting visas and sneaking people out of affected areas and into safety because of general anti-immigrant sentiment, post-9/11 anti-terror hysteria, legislation like the Patriot Act and Homeland Security style beuracracy. Though I'm sure that's exactly the point.

    Anyway, I whish Ghibli was doing this film, I can only imagine how beautiful an experience they'd make it. I'm not that familiar with Nippon Animation myself.


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