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Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara. The story of a Japanese rescuer and the people he saved. These Japanese characters (pronounced sasho) mean visa. Marti Matyska Mandel Fellow. The first Japanese diplomat posted to Lithuania. Graduated from Japan’s training center for experts on Russia.

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chiune sempo sugihara

Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara

The story of a Japanese rescuer and the people he saved.

These Japanese characters (pronounced sasho) mean visa.

Marti MatyskaMandel Fellow

the first japanese diplomat posted to lithuania
The first Japanese diplomat posted to Lithuania
  • Graduated from Japan’s training center for experts on Russia.
  • Negotiated the purchase of the North Manchurian railroad.
  • Since he could speak Russian, he was sent to Kovno, Lithuanian to report on troop movement in the Baltic Region. 1939
lithuanian safe conduct passes
Lithuanian Safe Conduct Passes
  • Polish Jews escaped to Lithuania and obtain bogus visas to the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao
  • Sugihara grants 10 day visas for transit through Japan to 2,140 refugees.
  • He does this despite the objections of the Japanese ministry.

In the summer of 1941

sempo sugihara and his wife yukiko in prague
Sempo Sugihara and his wife Yukiko in Prague

Sugihara transferred to Prague, then Bucharest. At the end of the war, the Soviets held him for three years. He returned to Japan and worked first under the American Occupation and then in jobs dealing with trade or teaching.


80% of the Kovno Jews made it out or Lithuania Some had no money for the train and some decided to chance staying in Europe

Forty-four years later, Warhodtig, a Kovno refugee, met Sugihara and thanks him.

the time was warped and i treasured the small amount of courage i was born with chiune sugihara

“The time was warped and I treasured the small amount of courage I was born with.” Chiune Sugihara

In 1986, Chiune (Sempo) Sugihara was honored by Yad Veshem with the title Righteous among the Nations. The award was accepted by his son since Sugihara was too sick to travel to Jerusalem. Sugihara died a year later.



  • Many Jews escaped Poland as the Germans invaded. This train station in Bialystok show the confusion and urgency.


Kovno, Lithuania

Jews waiting outside the Lithuanian Embassy

to receive visas from Sugihara



  • The Jews are granted unprecedented permission to travel across Russia, a country that had been closed to foreigners

Postcard written by refugee Eugene Wasserman in Moscow; sent in Japan.



  • After a trek across the Soviet Union, refugees boarded a Japanese steamer to Kobe.
  • Authorities confiscated their valuables.
kobe japan
Kobe, Japan


  • After a brief respite in Kobe, Jews are deported to China.


  • 1,000 refugees are confined to a ghetto designated for “stateless refugees.”
  • Refugees had no knowledge of what was happening to their loved ones left in Poland.
  • The Visas that Saved Lives (video) 1992 Kazuma Co. 1995 Ergo Media Inc. PO Box 2037 Teaneck, NJ 07666
  • The US Holocaust Memorial Museum