Making a Stand

Making a Stand


Have you heard of the Japanese Orthodox Christian who saved the lives of thousands of Jews? Chiune Sugihara, baptized as Pavlo Sergeivich, wrote thousands of transit visas for Jews to leave Lithuania during World ​W​ar ​II. He knew he had a choice. “…if he issued the visas, he could be fired and disgraced; if he didn’t, the Jews would die. He told his wife, ‘I may have to disobey my government, but if I do not, I will be disobeying God.’ ” He later paid a price for his decision and was imprisoned for 18 months after he was captured. But he never regretted his decision.

​Honoring a Japanese Diplomat Who Saved Thousands of Jewish Lives​

…​The refugees began to arrive by the thousands begging for visas. When some began to scale the walls of the consulate, Sugihara came out and promised them he would not abandon them.

And he didn’t. When he was forced to leave Kaunas before the consulate was closed, Sugihara spent the entire night before writing visas. Eyewitnesses said that he continued to write them on the train, tossing them out of the windows as he completed them. In the end, he simply signed and sealed blank visas to be filled in later.

As he was on the verge of departing, he said, “Please forgive me. I cannot write any more. I wish you the best.” He bowed deeply to the crowds, and someone called, “Sugihara, we’ll never forget you. I’ll surely see you again.”

No one knows exactly how many visas Sugihara wrote. Not all were used; some people waited until it was too late to leave. Others were for heads of households, so several people would travel under a single visa. The most commonly accepted number is that 6,000 – 10,000 Jews escaped the Holocaust because of Sugihara’s actions. Today, somewhere between 40,000 and 80,000 people are descendants of the Jews saved by Sugihara.

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Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+

About author

Presvytera Vassi Haros

Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.