Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness

The film shows images of Tokyo in 1945 during and after the firebombing.

Although many documents were burned on purpose before the US occupation of Japan got started, some relating to the “Jewish problem” were not destroyed. This consisted of 7000 pages of materials about the Japanese analysis of the Jewish people during the 1930's and 1940's.Information about a Japanese consul in Lithuania is included in the papers. Sugihara wrote about his shock over what was happening to the Jews in Europe.

(This is very unusual in that Japan was basically anti-Jewish, although there was only an extremely small number of Jews in Japan at the time, around 1,500.)

He wrote that there were hundreds of Jews outside his consulate every day, wanting transit visas so they could flee the country. He asked for permission to give them visas, but the foreign ministry said no. He asked three times and was denied three times.

Despite that, Sugihara granted over 2,000 visas to Jews.

There's a brief history of Japan's early wars with Russia and China.

Shift, a Jewish banker gave the Japanese the money they needed for their early military exploits. He talked about the Russia attacks on Jews. He wants the Japanese to beat the Russians.

Suigihara was born on January 1, 1900. The samurai code was still strong at the time. He and his father didn't get along very well, and Sugihara eventually studied other cultures and won a scholarship to a school in China, a Japanese diplomatic training school.

The Japanese attack on Manchuria.

The Japanese attack on Shanghai, and the lack of control over their own army that Japan had is covered.

>Stuff made in Japan in the 20's and 30's was basically junk, the film says, noting that one group of industrialists had argued that making and selling products was a better way to become rich and powerful than using force.

German persecution of the Jews begins. The Manchurian Faction, the industrialists, were confused by this and developed a plan to import 300,000 Jewish refugees into Manchuria. The idea was to use Jewish industrial and scientific abilities and Japanese labor together.

The film talks about the millions of Chinese murdered by the occupying Japanese forces in China and Manchuria. Sugihara resigned his post because of how bad he felt about how the Japanese were treating the Chinese.

A meeting of Western nations in 1938 where most of them decided to close their borders to Jewish refugees.

The Five Ministers Conference in Japan tries to figure out how to balance German and American views about Jews, and they say basically that they will treat Jews like anyone else, but will keep an eye open for ones that could be especially utilized by Japan, thus trying to keep both Germany and the US happy. This was all part of the Japanese idea of establishing a Jewish state in Manchuria.

A Japanese diplomat met with a Jewish leader, Rabbi Wise, in the US and offered to take all the Jewish refugees from Europe without any passports or other restrictions. The rabbi threw him out. He thought America would open its doors to Jews, and England would open Palestine to Jews. He also felt he had no influence n Japan and could do nothing to help the Jews if something went wrong. The film notes that neither the US nor England welcomed the Jews, though.

By the time the rabbi changed his mind, the military had taken over the government of Japan and the plans for a Jewish state in Manchuria were scrapped.

Sugihara's second wife. His first wife was Russian, and he had gotten a divorce from her.

Sugihara was posted to Russia, but they wouldn't let him in to their country since he had been involved in the buying of the Manchurian railroad and got it for a decent price instead of being ripped off by the Russians, and they were still mad over that.

Polish Jews flee Poland when the Nazis and the Russians attack. Sugihara had been assigned to Finland just before the fighting started.

In the fall of 1939 Sugihara opened a one-man consulate in Lithuania, where the Polish Jews had fled. The Japanese had him do that because they wanted him to keep them informed on the movement of German troops near the border. They wanted to know if Germany would really attack the Soviet Union. If German and Russia fought, this would free up the Japanese troops for use elsewhere in China.

In June of 1940 Russia invaded Lithuania and took it over, bringing their anti-Jewish feelings with them.

For the Jews to leave Lithuania, they needed a regular passport, an entry visa (from the country they were going to), and a transit visa (the country they would be going through to get to the country they were going to.)

A place was found near South America for the Jews to go to; they still needed Sugihara's stamp on their visa since they would be traveling through Japan first to get to the island.

A plan is hatched to get lots of the Jews out of Lithuania, but they needed a transit visa from Sugihara. A group of five representatives met with him and he explained he needed permission from Japan. So he wrote and asked permission and was turned down. He also knew that most of the visas he was being given were actually fake.

Sugihara was denied permission several times. He also knew that if he gave out the transit visas and the Jews left, then both the Russians and the Germans could get mad at him and possibly arrest both he and his family. In spite of that, he decided to give out the visas at the end of July, 1940.

For around four weeks he issued hundreds of transit visas every day.

After writing more than 2,000 transit visas, the Russians insisted the consulate be closed and Sugihara and his family prepared to leave for Berlin.

He had been working sixteen-hour days and went to stay at a hotel for a night where more Jewish people asked him to write visas. He went to a train station, and at the station and even once he was in the train he wrote even more visas.

The refugees who managed to get their visas had to make a 6000 mile trip on a train through Russia, paying a lot of money for their ticket, and then take a boat to Japan.

There was a Jewish group in Kobe that helped the refugees. They were treated well by the Japanese people.

About 220,000 of Lithuania's Jewish population of 250,000 had been murdered by the end of the war, many murdered by the Lithuanian's themselves, in addition to those murdered by the Germans.

Sugihara was transferred from Berlin to Prague, where the Japanese ministry began to find out what he had been doing, although he still issued visas while in Prague.

Then Japan signed an agreement with Germany and Italy. Germany put pressure on Japan to adopt it's anti-Jewish policies.

The Japanese shipped the Jews to Shanghai. The military had met with Jewish representatives, and they were warned about the attitude of Germany and that Germany would come to wipe out the “yellow men” after they finished with the Jews. This seemed to leave an impression with the military generals, and they refused to go along with the German demands that they kill all the Jews in Japan. The Jews stayed there till the end of the war, then fled to the US, Israel or Canada.

At the end of the war Sugihara and his family were placed in an internment camp by the Russians. They were there for about a year. They finally got back to Japan in the spring of 1947.

He was basically fired by the Foreign Ministry, probably because he issued the visas. They claimed they were just doing “downsizing.” He ended up working in Moscow for a trading company for 16 years. Jewish people who survived because of him wanted to thank him, but the Japanese government said they had no information on his whereabouts.

He finally was able to return to Japan.

He was honored in 1985 as a “recognized rescuer of Jews” by a group in Israel.

A monument erected in 1992 above his home town to honor him as a national hero.

Another memorial to Sugihara, this one in Jerusalem.

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