Chiune Sugihara Saved Thousands of Jews during World War II, Without Defying His Government

On the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara wrote thousands of visas for Polish Jews, allowing them to escape to the Far East and thus avoid Hitler’s grasp. Since his heroic actions began receiving public attention in the late 1960s, the facts about his story have gotten mixed up with a number of myths. Amanda Borschel-Dan seeks to set the record straight:

Today, Sugihara is lauded internationally as an anti-establishment figure who went against the orders of [authoritarian] Japan to save the Jews. According to this narrative, after eighteen months of dire Soviet captivity in Romania starting in 1944, he returned to Japan and in 1947 was fired by the Foreign Ministry for his deeds. [As a result], he lost his pension and died in poverty. However, say historians and his sole surviving son, almost none of this is true.

Born in 1900, during his short stint in 1939-40 as the Japanese vice-consul to Kovno (today Kaunas) in Soviet-occupied Lithuania, Sugihara is credited with issuing up to 3,500 transit visas to Jewish refugees and families who had fled Nazi-occupied Poland. . . . With these visas, and a complex mechanism of aid from other consuls, companies, and individuals, up to 10,000 Jews are thought to have been saved. . . .

[The Japanese government had] sent Sugihara to Kovno where, using his Russian language skills, he was to report back to Japan about any German or Soviet military movement in the area, which would allow Japan time to move its troops. In short, like every wartime attaché, he was a diplomatic spy.

But Sugihara never defied any orders. He reported regularly on his rescue activities, even if he engaged in some creative stalling and bureaucratic maneuvers to carry them out. His subsequent diplomatic postings in other European cities suggest that he was on a successful career path; the Japanese foreign service fired him in 1948 due only to a U.S.-initiated reorganization.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Chiune Sugihara, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Japan, Righteous Among the Nations


Putting Aside the Pious Lies about the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Jan. 23 2018

In light of recent developments, including Mahmoud Abbas’s unusually frank speech to the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s leadership, Moshe Arens advocates jettisoning some frequently mouthed but clearly false assumptions about Israel’s situation, beginning with the idea that the U.S. should act as a neutral party in negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah. (Free registration may be required.)

The United States cannot be, and has never been, neutral in mediating the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is the leader of the world’s democratic community of nations and cannot assume a neutral position between democratic Israel and the Palestinians, whether represented by an autocratic leadership that glorifies acts of terror or by Islamic fundamentalists who carry out acts of terror. . . .

In recent years the tectonic shifts in the Arab world, the lower price of oil, and the decreased importance attached to the Palestinian issue in much of the region, have essentially removed the main incentive the United States had in past years to stay involved in the conflict. . . .

Despite the conventional wisdom that the core issues—such as Jerusalem or the fate of Israeli settlements beyond the 1949 armistice lines—are the major stumbling blocks to an agreement, the issue for which there seems to be no solution in sight at the moment is making sure that any Israeli military withdrawal will not result in rockets being launched against Israel’s population centers from areas that are turned over to the Palestinians. . . .

Does that mean that Israel is left with a choice between a state with a Palestinian majority or an apartheid state, as claimed by Israel’s left? This imaginary dilemma is based on a deterministic theory of history, which disregards all other possible alternatives in the years to come, and on questionable demographic predictions. What the left is really saying is this: better rockets on Tel Aviv than a continuation of Israeli military control over Judea and Samaria. There is little support in Israel for that view.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, US-Israel relations