The Mysterious Dutch Visas That Allowed Some Lithuanian Jews to Escape Hitler

April 28 2016

In 1940, Chiune Sugihara, then the Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, issued thousands of visas allowing Jews to transit through Japan to destinations elsewhere; he would eventually also grant visas to Jews without any proof of intention to proceed onward. He began by issuing visas to Lithuanian Jews who were also Dutch citizens, claiming they were en route to the Netherlands’ American colonies. Alyza Lewin explains the role her grandmother—who was born in Amsterdam but in 1940 was in Lithuania along with her mother and brother—played in this story:

In Lithuania, my grandmother sought help from the Dutch diplomats because her mother and brother were Dutch citizens and because she had been a Dutch citizen prior to marrying my [Polish] grandfather. She initially asked Jan Zwartendijk, [the Dutch consul in] Kaunas, if he could issue her a visa to the Dutch East Indies. . . . He refused. So she wrote to the Dutch ambassador in Riga, L.P.J. de Decker. He also turned down her request, . . . [but later] replied that the Dutch West Indies, including Curaçao and Suriname, were available destinations where no visa was needed. The governor of Curaçao could authorize entry to anyone arriving there.

My grandmother again wrote to de Decker asking whether he could note the Curaçao or Suriname exception in her still-valid Polish passport. She asked the envoy to omit the additional note that permission of the governor of Curaçao was required. After all, she pointed out, she really did not plan to go to Curaçao or Suriname.

. . . That is how my grandparents and my father received the very first Curaçao visa. Relying on [the Dutch envoy’s word], Sugihara agreed to give my grandparents (and my grandmother’s mother and brother, who were still Dutch citizens) transit visas through Japan on their purported trip to Curaçao.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Chiune Sugihara, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Japan, Lithuania, Netherlands, Suriname

How Israel Can Break the Cycle of Wars in Gaza

Last month saw yet another round of fighting between the Jewish state and Gaza-based terrorist groups. This time, it was Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) that began the conflict; in other cases, it was Hamas, which rules the territory. Such outbreaks have been numerous in the years since 2009, and although the details have varied somewhat, Israel has not yet found a way to stop them, or to save the residents of the southwestern part of the country from the constant threat of rocket fire. Yossi Kuperwasser argues that a combination of military, economic, and diplomatic pressure might present an alternative solution:

In Gaza, Jerusalem plays a key role in developing the rules that determine what the parties can and cannot do. Such rules are designed to give the Israelis the ability to deter attacks, defend territory, maintain intelligence dominance, and win decisively. These rules assure Hamas that its rule over Gaza will not be challenged and that, in between the rounds of escalation, it will be allowed to continue its military buildup, as the Israelis seldom strike first, and the government’s responses to Hamas’s limited attacks are always measured and proportionate.

The flaws in such an approach are clear: it grants Hamas the ability to develop its offensive capabilities, increase its political power, and condemn Israelis—especially those living within range of the Gaza Strip—to persistent threats from Hamas terrorists.

A far more effective [goal] would be to rid Israel of Hamas’s threat by disarming it, prohibiting its rearmament, and demonstrating conclusively that threatening Israel is indisputably against its interests. Achieving this goal will not be easy, but with proper preparation, it may be feasible at the appropriate time.

Revisiting the rule according to which Jerusalem remains tacitly committed to not ending Hamas rule in Gaza is key for changing the dynamics of this conflict. So long as Hamas knows that the Israelis will not attempt to uproot it from Gaza, it can continue arming itself and conducting periodic attacks knowing the price it will pay may be heavy—especially if Jerusalem changes the other rules mentioned—but not existential.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israeli Security, Palestinian Islamic Jihad