.Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project
preserving the past to protect the future ...

An Open Invitation
to Yad Vashem --The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority
for Revisiting the Sugihara Story in View of the New Detailed Documentation Coming From Japan

Dated: December 31, 2007.




Chiune Sugihara revisitedChiune Sugihara revisited








From The Netherlands, a few days ago, we have been alerted of a stunning new documentation from Japan in a blog posting entitled "Japan That Helped the Jewish Refugees" dated December 3, 2007 and photocopied in full herein in our Exhibt-Japan_Revisited which throws a completely new light at Japan during the Holocaust years that deserves a further examination and scrutiny. The examination and scrutiny of the new material coming from Japan is esential in re-evaluating the diplomatic actions of the late Japanese Consul Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara in Kovno, Lithuania.

Japan During the Holocaust Years
as Seen from the New Documentation

From the Japanese documentation presented herein, it is clear that while in Nazi Germany and the rest of the Nazi-occupied Europe, Jews were in great peril, in Japan (and in its occupying Chinese territories including Shanghai), the situation however was quite different.

Jewish Refugees in a Shanghai Government Office
Jewish Refugees in a Shanghai Government Office
[Source: Yad Vashem Archive]

The Imperial Government of Japan had allowed Jews to be welcomed in the late 1930s. Between December 1937 and December 1939, three (3) Far-East Asian Jewish conferences were held in Japan planned by Dr. A. Kaufmann, leader of the Jewish community in Harbin. Then, thereafter, free passage to the Jewish refugees "was made a standing policy." (2nd line, Block 4, ibidem). Because of this policy, "many Jewish refugees were admitted to Harbin and Dalian, and then went on to America or Shanghai. (lines 3-5, Block 4, ibidem). Furthermore, when the Nazi Germany issued a protest over the Jewish refugees in Japan, that protest was ignored by the Japanese officials, (2nd ¶, Block 4, ibidem) and, to the contrary, a national Japanese policy to protect the Jewish refugees began to emerge.

According to the exhibited documentation, 1938 was a tumultuous year for Japan in shaping its policy towards the Jewish refugees. Nevertheless, on December 6, 1938, a Japanese national policy of protecting Jewish refugees has been formulated that was in direct disobedience to Japan's allay, the Nazi Germany. (Block 5, ibidem).

As a result of this national policy of protecting Jews, in the following year, in 1939, "the unrestricted influx of refugees was causing problems for the Shanghai Jewish community and Shanghai's department of works." (Block 6, ibidem). The Japanese government, in spite of these difficulties, allowed the influx of the Jewish refugees to Shanghai to continue.

Jewish Refugees, Dec. 14, 1938.
After the Anschluss (German annexation of Austria), Austrian Jewish refugees disembark from the Italian steamship "Conte Verde." Shanghai, December 14, 1938.
[United States National Archives and Records Administration]


Jewish refugees from Germany an Austria
Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria arrive at the port of Shanghai,1938-1939.
[YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York< USA]


Two German Jewish refugee women stand behind the counter of the Elite Provision Store (delicatessen) in Shanghai. Pictured on the left is the owner, Gerda Harpuder; on the right is her cousin Kate Benjamin. In 1939 Hans and Gerda Harpuder sold their crystal, silver, and other family possessions shipped from Berlin in order to open a grocery store in Hongkew at 737 East Broadway.

Ralph Harpuder, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Dr. Heinrich Mannes in Shanghai
Dr. Heinrich Mannes, a refugee dentist in Shanghai
[John and Harriet Isaack Collection, USHMM]

Shanghai 'house' for refugees
Jewish Refugees from Europe in one of the 'Houses' Established in Shanghai in the Early 1940's
[Yad Vashem Archive]

The Myth of Chiune Sugihara as Currently Portrayed

Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese Vice-consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, is being credited with the issuance of 2,139 family visas for the stranded Jewish families during the period from July 29 to August 26, 1940. The myth that is being propagated worldwide is:

  • 1) that he, single-handed acted against his Japanese government;

  • 2) that he, has placed his life in jeopardy as a result of his diplomatic actions; and

  • 3) that he, as a result of those actions was dismissed from the Foreign Service.

Based on these three combined grounds, on October 10, 1984, Vice-consul Sugihara was awarded the status of "Righteous Among the Nations" by the government of Israel trough Yad Vashem --The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. (Exhibit-Sugihara_YadVashem).


Getting the History Right:
Evidence Contradicting the Yad Vashem Findings on Sugihara
(with a Supplemental Note***)

Sakamoto's book: Japanese diplomats and Jewish refugeesThere is perhaps massive prima facie evidence supporting the finding that notwithstanding Japan's alliance with Nazi Germany, Japan did not share nor became a partner in Hitler's broad Anti-Semitic campaign. This buried historic fact needs finally to surface in its full light.

Some years ago, Pamela Rotner Sakamoto in her 1998 book "Japanese Diplomats and Jewish Refugees: A World War II Dilemma" noted that the pro-Jewish Japan appeared to have evolved not of a particular pro-Jewish sentiment but rather because of the rudimentary state of Japanese immigration policies and poor coordination among various branches of the Japanese government. That maybe so, but the new exhibited documentation clearly brings a new element and dimension that needs further be explored --that of the so-called "Universal Brotherhood" imprinted in Japan's fabric by its founding emperor Jinmu. This quotation from the ending of Block 9 and begining of Block 10 (ibidem) is perhaps most relevant for further study and scrutiny:



. Many people of the time (especially military men) thought of the words of the founding emperor, Jinmu, after creating the state of Japan: "Universal Brotherhood." This great principle was behind all thought and conduct.
.This is why, when dealing deliberately with the Jews who were in crisis at the time, it was only natural that they did so according to "Universal Brotherhood" rather than being concerned about "the Jewish peril."
. Sugihara was probably thinking about this when he said, "As I was confronted by these wailing Jewish refugees, what I thought was, 'what would His Majesty do if he were here?' When I thought that, the conclusion was obvious. I had to do what I thought His Majesty would have done."

All this background and context does not fit the picture of Sugihara that is currently being portrayed, as some sort of rebel acting alone against his own government, but rather of a man of deep conscience acting in the spirit of the founding emperor Jinmu.

Sacred Treasure 5th class


Sacred Treasure 5th class
Also misleading is the representation of Yad Vashem that Sugihara " when he returned to Japan in 1947, was asked to leave the Foreign Service due to his act of defiance in 1940" (
Exhibit-Sugihara_YadVashem, hereto). This simply is not true as supported by prima facie evidence.

In 1947 Sugihara was no longer a simple diplomat unrecognized by its own government, but a distinguished Japanese diplomat as he, Chiune Sugihara, on November 15, 1944, was awarded by his own government with the Order of the Sacred Treasure (Zuihosho), 5th-class for his diplomatic services. (Block 5, ibidem).

[Note: In the NationMaster Encyclopedia under "Order of the Sacred Treasure" at <nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Order-of-the-Sacred-Treasure> and in the Wikipedia at <en.wikivisual.com/index.php/Order_of_the_Sacred_Treasures>, Chiune Sugihara is listed as one of the recipients of this exact stated medal.]

It is true that Sugihara left the Foreign Service in 1947 as, on that year, on June 7, he resigned his post. But this was not, in any shape or form, due to his diplomatic activities in Kovno, Lithuania, but was because at that time Japan was under the American control and administration. (Block 5, ibidem). This very point is also noted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Sugihara where it is stated (Ehibit-Sugihara_USHMM):

"When Sugihara returned to Japan in 1947, the Foreign Ministry retired him with a small pension as part of a large staff reduction enacted under the American occupation."

Uesugi Chitoshi, the author of "Japan That Helped the Jewish Refugees," concluded his exhibited posting (ibidem) with these lines:

"As an ally of Nazi Germany, Japan cooperated militarily and diplomatically, but definitely not with the idea of anti-Semitism. The Japanese firmly believed, and acted on, the spirit behind the ideal of the founding of the Japanese state of "Universal Brotherhood" -- that is, the acceptance of Imperial will and acting in accord with it was the active principal of the Japanese people."

Monument Commemorating Jewish Refugees in Shanghai
Monument Commemorating Jewish Refugees Living in the Hongkou District of Shanghai during WWII [Source: Yad Vashem]



Uesugi Chitoshi's conclusion based on Japan's so-called "Universal Brotherhood," if upheld by additional scholarly examination, will be able to put perhaps a new dramatic light on Japan during its terrible alliance with the Nazi Germany. In a contrasting historic background, Japan's long standing hostility towards China and its 1937 invasion of China (with its subsequent 8-year brutal occupation of part of China) needs also be examined in seeing how it can square and be reconciled with Uesugi Chitoshi's "Universal Brotherhood" doctrine. Chiune Sugihara, that remarkable man of conscience and duty, was for sure a biproduct of that complex and contradictory behavior of Japan.

Dr. Pan Guang's articleA Chinese perspective on the matters presented herein can be found from the Chinese History & Political Science Professor, Dr. Pan Guang, Director and Professor of Shanghai Center of International Studies and Institute of European & Asian Studies in Shanghai, Dean of Center of Jewish Studies Shanghai (CJSS), and Vice Chairman of Chinese Society of Middle East Studies, in his scholarly article entitled "Jews in China: Legends, History and New Perspectives."

Also, we may want to mention in here, that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in its exhibit "Flight and Rescue" has posted these two (2) entries on Japan:
#1: Japanese Policy Toward Jews

In a late 1938 cable, the Foreign Ministry informed its embassies that adopting an anti-Jewish stance was not in Japan's interests. Jews were to be treated like other foreigners in matters of immigration to Japan. The cable addressed the growing refugee problem. In fall 1938 Jews fleeing Nazi persecution were besieging Japanese consulates in Vienna, Berlin, and other cities of the Reich, seeking certificates to enter Shanghai, then part of the Japanese Empire, and visas for transit through Japan to other destinations.

"It is pivotal for the Empire's diplomacy to maintain close friendly relationships with Germany and Italy under the present circumstances. We should as a rule avoid actively embracing Jews who are being expelled by our allies, but to radically expel Jews as Germany has done is not in keeping with the spirit of the Empire's long-standing advocacy of racial equality. It also would bring extremely unfavorable results in the progress of the war effort under the emergency situation that confronts the Empire at the present, especially the need to invite foreign capital for economic development and to avoid any further deterioration of relations with the United States."

Source: USHMM -- <ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/flight_rescue/exhibition_en_05.php>  

Refugees KaunasRefugees KaunasFlight and Rescue
#2: Help from Kobe's Jewish Community

With the consent of Japanese authorities, a representative of the Jewish community in Kobe met the now-destitute refugees upon their arrival in Tsuruga and accompanied them on the train to Kobe. Using funds largely from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish community, led by Anatole Ponevejsky, set up group homes, arranged for housing and food, and interceded on the refugees' behalf in dealings with local officials.

-- <ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/flight_rescue/exhibition_en_07.php>   

that, in essence, support completely Uesugi Chitoshi's detailed documentation exhibited herein.

Finally, also perhaps of interest, for additional research, is the examination of the Soviets' role in this complex visa scheme upon the annexation of Lithuania as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Why did they agree to give exist visas to the stranded Jewish refugees holding a Sugihara visa? In the article "Polish Jews in Lithuania: Escape to Japan" (posted at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum), it is noted, and we quote,
"...hundreds of Jewish refugees applied for Soviet exit visas. It remains unknown why the Soviets allowed refugees with Polish travel papers, many of dubious validity, to leave."

However in "Born In Kovno" webpage, we have a number of accounts from Holocaust survivors fostering the view that the Soviets, upon annexing Lithuania, viewed the Jewish refugees in transit therein as "undesirable elements" and thus, the Soviets were glad to give them an "exit visa" as soon as possible.

Oh, that no good Jews ...

Respectfully submitted,

K. K. Brattman
Managing Editor
Dated: December 31, 2007.

*** Editor's Supplemental Note:
From Japan and Lithuania, we found two additional credible sources challenging Yad Vashem's findings on Chiune Sugihara

The webpage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan entitled "Story of a Courageous Diplomat of Humanity, Mr. Chiune Sugihara" at <http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/middle_e/israel/sugihara.html> supports completely the more detailed analysis of the exhibited material presented by Uesugi Chitoshi. In particular, we note this paragraph posted therein:
"After the Japanese Consulate in Kaunas was closed as a result of Lithuania's annexation to the Soviet Union, Sugihara served at the Consulate General in Prague, the Consulate General in Königsberg and the Legation in Romania. "The Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Rays" was conferred upon him by the Japanese Government in 1944, before he finally returned to Japan in 1947 and left the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

In the webpage of the Lithuanian Global Genealogical Society, point 8 entitled "Sugihara Foundation --Diplomats for Life" at <http://www.lithuaniangenealogy.org/labas/december.html#8>, we can find this paragraph:
"The Japanese Consul Sempo (Chiyune) Sugihara lived in Kaunas 1939-1940. Transit visas, which he issued contrary to the wishes of the Japanese government, saved the lives of thousands of Lithuanian, Polish, and even German Jews. After he returned back to Japan in 1947, he retired from the Ministry on his own will. However, until the time of retirement he was given rises in salary and a decoration was conferred on him. Mr. Chiune Sugihara was also paid a retirement allowance and pension. In 1984, that is the year before his death, Yad Vashem recognized Semo Sugihari as 'Righteous Among Nations.' The Japanese government recognized his service in 1992, and in the same year Sugihara's city Yaotsu opened a memorial. Japanese Prime Minister Noburu Takeshita and other official dignitaries participated in the ceremony."
that also supports in part Uesugi Chitoshi's study exhibited herein and, contradict and challenge Yad Vashem's findings.





Chiune Sugihara revisited

Chiune Sugihara revisited


Special Selected Links:

Jewish refugee in Shanghai Ghetto
From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

In 1939, thousands of Jewish refugees escaped Nazi persecution  
to the only place that was open to them...  



Religious school for Jewish refugee children. Shanghai Ghetto, China, September 8, 1944.