Sugihara Chiune’s father wanted his son to study medicine. Instead, he wanted to study languages and joined the diplomatic corps.
In 1939 he was sent to Lithuania, where he ran the consulate. There he was soon confronted Jews who fled from German-occupied Poland.
Three times he called his embassy, asking for permission to issue visas to the refugees. the answer was no. Chiune desired to defy the government:
“Day and night he wrote visas. He issued as many visas in a day as would normally be issued in a month. His wife, Yukiko, massaged his hands at night, aching from the constant effort. When Japan finally closed down the embassy in September 1940, he took the stationery with him and continued to write visas that had no legal standing but worked because of the seal of the government and his name. At least 6,000 visas were issued for people to travel through Japan to other destinations, and in many cases entire families traveled on a single visa. “
He was not the only one to save Jews:
Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker, teamed with 20 others and smuggled 2,500 children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, some in ambulances and trams between October 1940 and April 1943 and placed them in Catholic homes. And in the UK, they had Frank Foley and sir Nicholas Winton.
Wolpe, David, 2018, the Japanese Man Who Saved 6,000 Jews With His Handwriting The New York Times (15 October).