Chiune Sugihara

Chiune Sugihara (1900-1986) was a Japanese diplomat who served as a consular officer in the Baltic region during World War II. In this role, Sugihara helped several thousand Jewish refugees flee Nazi persecution.

Sugihara was born in Gifu Prefecture, central Japan, the second of six children. His father was a bureaucrat in the tax office, so the family were comfortably middle-class and Sugihara received a good education.

After completing school, Sugihara entered a prestigious training academy for diplomats specialising in Soviet Russia. He became fluent in the Russian language and in the early 1930s was posted to Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet state in northern China that bordered the Soviet Union.

In November 1939, the Japanese sent Sugihara to Kovno in Lithuania. He was posted there as a consular officer but also tasked with gathering intelligence and reporting on German and Soviet military activity. He did this by establishing ties with Polish intelligence agents based in the country.

By early 1940, tens of thousands of Polish Jews had fled the Nazi occupation and taken refuge in Lithuania. These refugees were again endangered after the Nazis and the Soviet Red Army occupied parts of Lithuania in June. Many turned to Sugihara for help, seeking an avenue out of the war zone.

Citation information
Title: “Chiune Sugihara”
Authors: Jennifer Llewellyn, Steve Thompson
Publisher: Alpha History
Date published: August 31, 2020
Date accessed: April 12, 2024
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