The Japanese Seaman Who Helped Rescue Jewish Refugees from the Nazis

March 3 2016

During World War II, Tatsuo Osako worked aboard a Japanese passenger ship, the Amakasu-maru, which brought hundreds of refugees on the three-day journey from the Siberian city of Vladivostok to Tsuruga, Japan. Most were Jews who had fled to the Soviet Union from areas controlled by the Nazis, or were fleeing from the Soviet Union once Hitler invaded. Throughout his life, Osako kept photographs of seven people he had rescued, which they had given him as a small token of appreciation; after his death in 2009, his friend Akira Kitade went about tracking them down. Hillel Kuttler writes:

From September 1940 to June 1941, the Amakasu-maru and other vessels ferried refugees from the Nazis to shelter in Japan. According to a nine-page memoir Osako wrote in 1995, he worked more than twenty such voyages. Kitade said Osako estimated that there were 400 passengers aboard each. . . .

This incredible story reaches . . . all the way to Chiune Sugihara, Japan’s consul in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas. It was thanks to Sugihara that most of these passengers reached Vladivostok, likely on the Trans-Siberian railway. Beginning in the summer of 1940, Sugihara, defying his foreign-ministry superiors in Tokyo, issued what Yad Vashem . . . later estimated to be 3,500 transit visas, with which refugees could cross the Soviet Union and reside temporarily in Japan.

The Amakasu-maru’s staff likely didn’t know of Sugihara. The Japan Tourist Bureau, for which Osako, then in his mid-twenties, worked, contracted with an American company and several Jewish organizations to handle the sea crossings. His tasks included checking names and visas against the manifest and disbursing funds forwarded for each traveler. The work was complicated, he wrote, by the pitching boat that often relegated him to bed with seasickness, particularly during winter storms.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Chiune Sugihara, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Japan, Refugees

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism