Thanks to the 1993 Oscar-winning film directed by Stephen Spielberg, the whole world learned the story of Oscar Schindler, a German businessman and member of the Nazi party who saved hundreds of concentration camp Jews during the Holocaust. But even today, few have heard of the Japanese Tiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who worked in the Lithuanian consulate in 1940 and repeated Schindler’s feat.
This story, which can be called one of the most striking in the history of the war, is rarely mentioned even in historical reports on the events of the Holocaust.
In 1940, Sugihara worked as Japan’s Vice Consul in Kaunas, which was then the capital of Lithuania. The city had a large and prosperous Jewish community of about 30,000 people. Between 1939 and 1940, the number of Jews in the city increased by several thousand people fleeing persecution in Nazi-occupied Poland. The refugee stories of the horrors that befell the Jews under Nazi rule literally forced blood to be washed away in the veins of local residents. Continue reading