NPO Chiune Sugihara. Visas For Life


June 30, 2023

Since the launch of NPO Chiune Sugihara Visas for Life in 2001 by Chiune’s widow Yukiko, our first chairperson, the family has worked to convey Chiune’s story to an ever-wider audience.

Chiune Sugihara, serving as consul in Lithuania in wartime Europe, issued thousands of transit visas through Japan to rescue Jews escaping persecution by the Nazis and ultimately mass slaughter in the Holocaust. Yukiko explained in her book “Visas for Life” that Chiune issued the visas to the desperate refugees in direct defiance of a directive from the Foreign Ministry to turn down anyone without prior permission to enter a third country, fully aware that his actions could lead to his dismissal. Indeed, upon returning to Japan after the war, Chiune was asked by the ministry to retire in a large retrenchment conducted under the orders of the occupying forces. Japan consequently lost a seasoned diplomat and fluent Russian speaker despite the mounting Cold War tensions between East and West, and Chiune was forced to scrape by in a series of menial jobs.

During the incident, Chiune initially struggled over whether to follow his duty or his conscience. He ultimately decided that “humanity and compassion come first” and resolutely issued the visas. He recalled years later, "I was just doing what I should as a human being." Refugees saved by the Sugihara visas arrived in the city of Tsuruga shortly before the outbreak of the Pacific War and spent time in Kobe and elsewhere in Japan before traveling on to the United States, Canada, Australia, present-day Israel and elsewhere, where they thrived. We should note as well the dedicated support of the many others at home and abroad who helped these people in their time of need. The Sugihara List of visas held in the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs lists more than 2,000 names. If the descendants of those visa holders are included, we can say that 200-300,000 persons owe their existence to the Visas for Life.

Reports of hatred and barbarous threats to human life unfortunately remain in the news just as in Chiune’s time. We will continue to do our part to help realize a world free of the misery, suffering and sadness caused by conflict, aiming to replace this by a tolerance and understanding transcending differences in race, religion and politics.

In June this year, an Israeli family kindly donated an actual visa stamped by Sugihara that they had kept as an heirloom. Thinking of Chiune himself holding this visa in his hands all those years ago, we felt as if he was reaching out to us. His handwriting is bold and clear, and the visa is in top condition. This great honor inspires us to work even harder in our mission.

We would like to offer our warm appreciation to all our supporters and ask for your further guidance and encouragement.

Madoka Sugihara, Chairperson
NPO Chiune Sugihara Visas for Life

NPO Chiune Sugihara. Visas For Life
1F,2-22-21 Akasaka Minato-ku,Tokyo

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