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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

What U.S. Success in Syria Should Look Like

April 26 2018

Surveying the history of the Syrian civil war, Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explain that Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule and vicious tactics have led to the presence in his country of both Shiite terrorists, led by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Russia, and Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Any American strategy, they argue, must bear this in mind:

The best option is a Syria without Assad, committed to a future without Iranian or Russian influence. This is not a Pollyanna-like prescription; there are substantial obstacles in the way, not least those we have encountered in Iraq. . . . [But] only such a Syria can guarantee an end to Iranian interference, to the transshipment of weapons for Hizballah, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of the kind we saw used at Douma. (Iran has been instrumental in Syria’s chemical-weapons program for many years.) And, most importantly, only such a Syria can disenfranchise the al-Qaeda and IS affiliates that have found a foothold by exploiting the Syrian people’s desperation.

How do we get there? The United States must first consolidate and strengthen its position in eastern Syria from the Euphrates river to the eastern Syrian border. This involves clearing out the remnants of Islamic State, some several thousand, and ultimately eliminating pockets controlled by the Assad regime and Iranian forces in northeastern Syria. This would enable the creation of a control zone in the eastern part of the country as a base from which to build a credible and capable partner that is not subordinate to the Kurdish chain of command, while effectively shutting down Iran’s strategic land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. A regional Arab force, reportedly suggested by President Trump’s new national-security adviser, would be a welcome addition. But we should seriously doubt [the Arabs] will participate without American ground leadership and air support.

In western Syria, the United States should rebuild a Syrian opposition force with advisers, weapons, and air power while upping the pressure on Assad and his cronies to select a pathway to a negotiated peace. Pursuing a settlement in Geneva without such leverage over the Assad regime is pure fantasy. Finally, the United States and other Western powers must impede Iran’s and Russia’s ability to be resupplied. Syria’s airfields must be destroyed, and Syria’s airspace must remain clear.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hizballah, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy