Chiune Sugihara and Japan's Foreign Ministry, Between Incompetence and Culpability, Part 2
When the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany partitioned Poland in September of 1939, thousands of Jews fled Poland into Lithuania and fled across the USSR to Japan. With the help of Jan Zwartendijk, acting Dutch consul, and Chiune Sugihara, Japan's vice consul in Lithuania, the refugees obtained documents for their perilous escape from Nazi persecution. From Japan, many refugees moved on to Dutch-controlled Curacao or other final destinations. Decades after the war, and one year before his death in 1986, Sugihara was finally honored by Israel with the "Righteous Among the Nations" Award for the help he gave to the Jews in 1940. He also received the Raoul Wallenburg Award posthumously in 1990. However, in Japan little was known about Sugihara's heroic actions for more than five decades. The author, Seishiro Sugihara (no relation to Chiune), reveals a pattern of deception and obfuscation by Japan's foreign ministry to obstruct recognition of Sugihara's philanthropy. The Sugihara episode, the author contends, is only one in a long line of scandalous cover-ups which have plagued the Ministry, including its ill-fated Twenty-One Demands upon Nationalist China in 1915; and more infamously the failure of its Washington Embassy to follow orders and deliver the "declaration of war" on December 7, 1941 which resulted in the Pearl Harbor operation being stigmatized as a "sneak attack." His book is the first to demonstrate that, while Japan's military was abolished during the Occupation, the Foreign Ministry secured its own future at the expense of Japan and the Japanese people, and deliberately and systematically placed Sugihara's act of kindness beyond public scrutiny.
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