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::: Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre - Human Rights :::
Righteous Among the Nations Profiles
A Passage to Safety

Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Lithuania, defied his government to save Jews. When Soviet forces annexed Lithuania in 1940, forcing all foreign diplomats to leave, Sugihara acted quickly. His government had expressly forbidden the issuing of Japanese visas to Lithuania’s Jews, but Sugihara and his wife felt a strong commitment to save them, especially as more doors kept closing to Jewish refugees around the world. As he was preparing to leave Lithuania, Sugihara issued some 2,000 transit visas for Jews.

As he stamped passport after passport, often enlisting the help of other Jews to speed the process, he received warnings from Tokyo against issuing these non-approved visas. His disregard of orders ensured that thousands of Jews were able to leave Europe safely. Among these Jews was the Lermer family, who had desperately escaped to Lithuania from Poland, and were eventually secured a safe passage to Japan. They later settled in Montreal.

Sugihara was immediately dismissed from the Foreign Service when he returned to Japan, on account of his defiant rescue mission. He spent the rest of his life scraping together a living.

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