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.

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Read more at Times of Israel

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

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