On the onset of World War II, many Jewish refugees and residents applied for exit visas via Japan to escape the genocide.
Coming just two decades after the last great global conflict, the Second World War was the most widespread and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries and resulting in more than 50 million military and civilian deaths (with some estimates as high as 85 million dead). Sparked by Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939, the war went on for six deadly years until the final Allied defeat of both Nazi Germany and Japan in 1945.
“I am really lucky to be sheltered from war” says Arielle Salomon, a holocaust survivor descendant. When Germany invaded Poland, her grandfather Abram Salomon fled to Lithuania to escape the holocaust (extermination by the Nazis). “Whole family was murdered except him and his brother, and that survival was due to one man- Chiune Sugihara” she adds.
Night and fog (1955) is one such documentary that gives us a glimpse of the untold fear and unspoken suffering of the Jews in the concentration camps.
Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat posted at the Japanese consulate in Lithuania. On the onset of World War II, many Jewish refugees and residents applied for exit visas via Japan to escape the genocide. Disobeying the government orders, Chiune Sugihara and his wife issued as many as 6000 visas in 1940 one of which was Arielle’s grandfather. They estimated around 40,000 descendants that are alive today because of this man. But after the war, when Sugihara returned home, he was ignored by the Japan government for his actions. He did not seek attention and rarely spoke about his experience.
“I think he really exemplified not doing it for the accolades but doing what he thought was right” says Shoshana Buchholz-Miller, Illinois Holocaust Museum. He was given the Honor of The Righteous Among the Nations, one of Israel’s highest honors. “Hero? I think he doesn’t want to be a hero, he just did what needed to be done” Chihiro Sugihara (grandson of Chuine Sugihara)
“It is something very emotionally overwhelming” Arielle Salomon after meeting the grandson of Sugihara to express her gratitude directly.
After his heroic act, he came to be known as a ‘Japanese Schindler’. Chuine Sugihara was a good grandfather to a few but a savior to many more.
-by Vrushali Mahajan
Vrushali is pursuing her graduation in Journalism and is an intern at NewsGram. You can reach the author at twitter- Vrushali Mahajan