THE LIST OF OVERSEAS GUESTS SPEECHES
Samuil Manski
Recipient of Sugihara Visa
[Biography]
Chairman of Temple of Emeth Memorial Park. Mr. Manski fled from Poland to Lithuania in December, 1939. After receiving the visa, he traveled across Russia to Japan and finally arrived in the United States in 1941. He has been a member of Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) since 1941, was National Vice-President of the ZOA, and is a member of the National Executive of the ZOA. Also serves as a member of the Middle East Committee and the Holocaust Committee of Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and Vice-President/board member of the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts.
Ambassador Yasushi Akashi, Chairman of the Committee, the Honorable Takumi Ueda, Co-Chairman of the Committee, I am very grateful to you for making this event possible so we can pay respect and love to Mr. Sugihara for his wonderful deed. Honorable Ueda, your quotation "As you sow, so you reap" is very appropriate for this occasion.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished guests, especially Mrs. Sugihara, it is with great humility that I stand before you, I am taking the liberty of speaking on behalf of all the Sugihara's survivors, their children, grandchildren, and future generations to come.
We have survived one of the darkest periods of human history. I am very grateful to Mr. Chiune Sugihara for his courage and strong humanitarian beliefs which he showed by issuing two thousands visas despite the orders given to him by his superiors. I personally did not have the privilege and fortune to meet Mr. Sugihara, but my mother and sister did when they obtained our visas in Lithuania. I'd learned later that my mother prevented me from going to see Mr. Sugihara after my paternal grandfather warned the Soviet was searching for me due to my Zionist activities as a young man. In particular, the Soviet found a Zionist flag that I buried before leaving Lida, Poland to Lithuania. I did eventually have the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Sugihara and his son Hiroki in Boston in 1989 at the Holocaust event sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League in the state capital.
On August 9, 1940 consul Sugihara issued my family a transit visa to the Curacao islands by way of Japan. We arrived in Tsuruga on February the 24 in 1941. My first impression entering Tsuruga was a fairy land with small houses, flowers, clean streets, and very polite people. I ate my first banana. I never before ate anything that tastes like that. We traveled from Tsuruga to Kobe, where we lived for two months. Our time in Japan would have been much more enjoyable, had we known the outcome of our visa application to the United States. As the world situation worsened, our apprehension rose. I spent my time walking through the city of Kobe, going to stores, and waiting for our visa. I had a language barrier. Some Japanese spoke Russian or German, and I replied in Yiddish. With others, I communicated using my hands. After two months of waiting, we received our passport to freedom on April 30, 1941. We arrived in Seattle, Washington, on May 18, 1941. From there we traveled to Boston where we joined my father.
After I arrived in Boston, I enrolled in an evening school for immigrants and began to learn English. I spent my evenings at school and worked during the day. I always wanted to attend college but, being a Jew, this was not possible in Poland. Now in the United States, I was able to enroll at Boston University and I graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1948. Subsequently, I returned to Boston University in 1982 and received my Master's Degree in liberal studies in 1983. My college education, which had been a dream to me in Poland, became a reality because of Mr. Sugihara's noble deed.
While in college, I met my wife Estelle in 1946. After two dates I told her that I wanted to marry her. She thought I was crazy because we really did not know each other. However, we did marry that year and we recently celebrated our 54th anniversary in September. We have three sons, two of whom are college professors and one a bank director. Each of our sons is married and has two children, so we have six grandchildren in all. Finding my wife and the accomplishments of my children are the result of Mr. Sugihara's action in helping to rescue me.
Beyond myself, Mr. Sugihara helped to rescue my brother and sister as well. My brother has two sons and three grandchildren. My sister has two sons, a daughter, and seven grandchildren. So, as a result of saving the lives of my family in Europe, Mr. Sugihara has brought to life 8 children and 16 grandchildren, all because of the action of one man who thought of humanity more than of himself.
In the late 1980s, I wrote a book entitled gWith God's Helph which was published and accepted in the library of Congress. The book describes my city in Poland, which was destroyed and my experience in the U.S. Mr. Sugihara is a big part in my book. I wrote it for my children, grandchildren and future generations to know what happened to our people.
Since the release of the movie "Schindler's List," many people have thought of Mr. Sugihara as a "Japanese Schindler." To me, there is a great difference between the two men. The results were perhaps the same-lives were saved. However, Mr. Schindler derived economic benefits from having Jewish laborers. Mr. Sugihara did what he did purely because of his humanitarian heart.
I have always appreciated what Sugihara did for us, but I began to think a great deal about him after a Boston Globe correspondent stationed in Japan interviewed me about 10 to 11 years ago. I saw that the younger generations were completely in the dark about what transpired in Europe between 1939 and 1945. I decided to do something about this, because it is very important to me that young people know what happened at that time.
I have been active in the Jewish community in many capacities from the time that I arrived in the United States, and I have been a member of Temple Emeth in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts for 42 years. As an officer in the temple, I suggested that we establish a memorial stone for the Shoa (Holocaust), which we call the stone of remembrance. The stone depicts the cities and towns where family members of Temple Emeth lived before they were slaughtered and destroyed. Each village, town and city is marked on the map that shows the political boundaries as they existed from 1918 to 1939. The names of all the communities are remembered.
After completing the stone of remembrance, I undertook to design and establish at Temple Emeth a memorial stone for Mr. Sugihara. This granite stone, dedicated earlier this year, commemorates a ray of light and hope in the darkest years of 20th century Europe. The inscription reads "Chiune Sugihara, Japanese consul to Lithuania. In the fateful years of 1939-1941 he issued some two thousand visas to 6000 Jews-thereby saving the lives of what has today become 3 generations of 36,000 people."
The stone has a quotation from the Bible selected by our Rabbi Turetz, as follows: "A valiant man whose heart is like that of lion." (Samuel II. 17:10) The stone is inscribed in English, Hebrew, and Japanese. Mr. Sugihara's face is etched in the granite. The stone is set in a Japanese garden with lights that resemble those used in Japan. A cobblestone walk leads to the stone of remembrance, which connects to the flagstone walk to the Sugihara stone.
The Sugihara memorial stone was dedicated on April 30, 2000 on the grounds of Temple Emeth. Close to 600 members of the Japanese and Jewish communities were in attendance. The Japanese chorus of Boston directed by Noriko Sakamaki was joined by Shirai Emeth, the Temple Emeth choir directed by Gennady Konnikov. Together, they sang Japanese, American, and Hebrew songs. There was also a presentation of senbazuru by the Showa Boston student representatives. This time I'd like to thank Masa Sakamoto, a researcher in Children's Hospital and the Japanese Consulate in Boston for their help.
The event is best described in a note I received from Professor Emeritus Saul Toster of Brandeis University. He writes, "Dear Samuil Manski, Sunday's dedication ceremony to Sugihara's memory combined with Yom Hashoah was a powerful one. It stood for me not only as remembrance, but with the temple choir and Japanese chorus singing together as reconciliation as well. I write that as one who served in the Navy in the Pacific war."
In conclusion, my people have a long memory. The word "remember" is in the Bible over 600 times. We never forget that we were slaves in Egypt. We never forget the Exodus from Egypt. We never forget the destruction of the temples by the Babylonians and the Romans. We never forget the exile from Judea after the destruction of the second temple. We never forget the 2000 years in exile. We never forget the expulsions from Spain, Portugal, and other European countries. We never forget that we were a disposable people. We will never, never, never, forget the Shoa (Holocaust).
But we will also remember that our people have contributed to the world through Moses, Jesus, Karl Marx, Freud, and Einstein. We will remember the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, so we will never again be a disposable people. We remember Entebbe. We also remember a man by the name of Chiune Sugihara. His memory will be carried forward for generations to come. Thank you.
Nathan Lewin
Recipient of Sugihara Visa
[Biography]
Attorney. Mr. Lewin was born in Lodz, Poland in 1936 and fled to the United States at five. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he began his service in the government. In the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, he was Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. He currently serves as Honorary President of the American Section of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists and National Vice-President of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs.
Mrs. Sugihara and distinguished members of the committee and distinguished guests, I wish I could address you in Japanese, but I am afraid that my fluency in that language was greatest 60 years ago when I was here in Japan, and I can no longer do that. Let me tell you the story. I was three-and-one years old in September 1939 when my father paid a smuggler to lead us through a forest in the dead of the night to cross the border between Poland and Lithuania. I don't remember that terrifying night, but my father carried me in his arms and he told me years later that he frightened me into absolute silence by telling me that there were wolves behind the trees who were ready to devour me if I made a sound. My mother added that the most frightening moment was when the metal potty being carried in a knapsack clanged against a low-hanging limb.
Our immediate goal was Vilna, in the still independent Republic of Lithuania, a haven for Polish Jews who had fled their homes to avoid the Nazis. After we arrived in Vilna, my mother, who had worried about a German invasion of Poland even before it happened and had planned for quick departure, searched for some means to leave Europe.
My parents had given up a very comfortable and respected life in Lodz, Poland's second largest city, where I was born. My father had been elected in his early thirties to the City Council of Lodz by its large Orthodox Jewish population, and he was the City Council's youngest member. He was destined to follow in the footsteps of his father, my grandfather, Rabbi Aaron Lewin, the respected rabbi of the City of Rzeszow, who had been twice elected to the Polish House of Representatives, the Sejm. My maternal grandfather, a highly successful businessman in Amsterdam, owned textile mills in Lodz, and he put his new son-in-law, my father, in charge of operations. And so I spent the first three-and-one-half years of my life in this Polish metropolis, as my father divided his time between the mills--which he barely tolerated--and the City Council chambers--where he encountered and battled with some of Poland's most vicious anti-Semites who demeaned the Jews of Poland on the official record of Lodz City Council record.
On September 1, 1937, when Hitler's Blitzkrieg forces crossed the German-Polish border, my mother's entire family was with us in Lodz. My mother's father, a prominent Dutch citizen, was a very daring soul. He quickly booked a commercial flight from Warsaw to Amsterdam to retrieve jewelry and other valuables that he could use so that we could escape from the Nazis. My mother never saw her father again. Relatives in Amsterdam have told me that, unable to rejoin us in Poland, he tried to cross the border into Switzerland with a fortune in diamonds sewn into his coat. He was apprehended on the Swiss border, handed over to the Nazi authorities, and ultimately transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau's gas chambers and crematoria.
My mother had been raised in Amsterdam as a Dutch citizen. In those pre-feminist days, married women were legally transferred to their husbands' citizenship, so my mother officially became Polish and was that when I was born. Accompanying her in Lodz, even after my grandfather had left, were her mother and her younger brother, both of whom were still Dutch citizens. They joined us on the midnight border crossing and settled with us in Vilna.
No sooner had we come to Vilna, as Jews call Vil'nyus, than my mother and her brother Leo, who was in his twenties, began searching for ways to reach either the United States or Palestine or some other locations. Dutch citizens learned that they had a right to enter Dutch colonies in either Asia or South America. The Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) were open to citizens of Holland, as were the Netherlands Antilles island of Curacao and the Dutch colony of Surinam, between Venezuela and Brazil. From Vilna one could travel to Moscow and then, by trans-Siberian railroad, to Vladivostok. Passage by boat from Vladivostok to Japan required travel by boat and that could be done in transit to either the Dutch East Indies or the Dutch West Indies.
But, my mother was no longer a Dutch citizen. And, of course, neither was my father or I. But my mother persevered. She corresponded in Dutch with the Netherlands Ambassador, L.P.J. deDecker, who was stationed in Riga, and with a young Dutch Honorary Consul who was living in Kaunas, also known as Kovno to the Jewish population. The Dutch Consul was named Jan Zwartendijk, and he too was entitled to credit, along with today's principal honoree Chiune Sugihara, in the rescue of the thousands of Jews who made their way from Lithuania to Japan in 1940 and 1941.
Ambassador deDecker wrote to my mother that although Dutch citizens were legally entitled to enter the Dutch East Indies, no visas to those colonies would be issued to Polish citizens such as my father, me, or my mother who was then a Polish citizen. So far as visas to Curacao and Surinam were concerned, said deDecker, he could not help us because entry to those Dutch colonies did not depend on a visa. The local governor, a Dutch government official stationed in Curacao, had total and absolute discretion to allow in whoever he wished.
After consulting with Consul Zwartendijk, my mother and my uncle came up with an ingenious course of action. She wrote to the Dutch ambassador and asked whether he could endorse on her Polish passport the fact that no visa was required for entrance to Surinam , Curacao, and the other Dutch possessions in the American hemisphere. On July 11, 1940, Ambassador deDecker did exactly that. He wrote an endorsement in French on her Polish passport declaring that for the admission of foreigners to Surinam, Curacao, and other possessions of the Netherlands in America, no entrance visa was required.
Now in the meantime while we were in Vilna, Russia occupied Lithuania. Since the Russian authorities no longer recognized Poland as an independent country, my parents' Polish passport was useless. My father instead took out a Latvian laissez-passer, called a "Leidimas," for himself, my mother and for me. When my mother's now-invalid Polish passport came back in the mail with the Dutch ambassador's endorsement, she delivered it and the "Leidimas" to Mr. Zwartendijk. Zwartendijk whom she had talked to copied deDecker's endorsement on that document, on the Latvian document, identically accepted that. Instead of it being a declaration by the Dutch embassy in Riga, it became a declaration by the consulate in Kaunas. This is a copy of that handwritten notation. The original is a family treasure at our home. Zwrtendijk's endorsement is dated July 22, 1940. I don't know of any endorsement earlier than that. A few days later, when the number of applicants began to run into the hundreds, a rubber stamp with this notation was produced, and most travel documents having the Sugihara visa have that rubber-stamped endorsement.
And herein came the noble Chiune Sugihara. I grew up being told that Consul Sugihara was a friend of Jan Zwartedijk and that he had agreed with the Dutch consul that he would issue transit visas to Jews bearing the Dutch endorsement in their passports. Mr. Zwartendijk's son, with whom I have corresponded, has said that he thinks his father never knew Consul Sugihara. I nontheless believe what I was told in my childhood. Maybe they met at some diplomatic reception. But in any event Jan Zwartendijk said in a letter he wrote in 1963 before he passed away, "The Japanese Consul at Kaunas was entirely willing to issue transit-visa to those who had my annotation for the Netherlands West Indies in their passports." Now to me, the words "entirely willing," particularly in the context of a letter in which Zwartendijk said modestly that he did not even remember details of what he had done, indicate to me that Zwartendijk had come to some understanding with Consul Sugihara.
Our travel document has the marvelous Sugihara visa written in an elegant Japanese hand dated July 26, 1940. On a list compiled by Consul Sugihara that Professor Hille Levine of Boston University discovered in the Japanese Foreign Ministry several years ago my grandmother who was with us is number 16, my father is number 17, and my uncle number 18 on the list of visas. The two, my grandmother and my uncle appear as Dutch citizens and my father with the document that was issued for him and my mother and myself as Polish. Nathan Gutwirth, the Dutch citizen who some have credited with being the first to get a Curacao visa appears as number 1264 on that list as having received it on August 6, 1940. In her autobiography, Mrs. Sugihara begins her account with the following words: "The events that unfolded on the morning of July 27, 1940, are still very vivid and clearly imprinted in my mind." She reports that on that day--July 27--between one and two hundred Jews stood unexpectedly in front of the Japanese consulate in Kaunas seeking visas. That was the day after Consul Sugihara had issued visas to our family. I remember being told by my mother that she had told friends in Vilna that she had obtained such a visa. Those people, including Minister Warhaftig who later became a very important official in Israel, traveled on the next day from Vilna to Kaunas.
My mother never spoke of meeting the Japanese consul who saved our lives. Nor did my father. From the sequence on Sugihara's list--my grandmother, my father, and my uncle Leo--I surmise that my uncle actually did the legwork of traveling to Kaunas with the documents, including the critical endorsement by deDecker on my mother's Polish passport, and of visiting Consul Zwartendijk and Consul Sugihara. He probably presented the requests in a group, following his mother's and his sister's with his own.
It was a remarkable testament to the respect shown to Consul Sugihara and to Japan that the Communist regime of the Soviet Union permitted the holders of Sugihara visas to leave Russia. We traveled from Vilna to Moscow, rode on the trans-Siberian railroad for 2 weeks from Moscow to Vladivostok, and then went by boat and ultimately ended up in the hospitable Japanese city of Kobe. My father was fortunate enough to be on a list of distinguished rabbis whose entry to the United States--in non-immigrant status initially--was requested by several leading Jewish organizations. My father and I first came to America in the spring of 1941. The American authorities were not as kind to my uncle and my grandmother. Despite repeated efforts by my mother, who had stayed in Japan for several months to try to obtain a visa for her mother and her brother, they were not allowed into the United States, and my mother said farewell to them in Kobe. That was the last time that she saw her brother.
Before Japan entered the war in December of 1941, my grandmother and uncle traveled to the Dutch East Indies. My uncle Leo served in the Dutch armed forces. He died on a far-off island in the Flores Sea. My maternal grandmother was the only grandparent I remember--the only one who survived the Holocaust. She lived with us for about five years after the war.
My father's father--the esteemed rabbi of Rzeszow--was murdered in cold blood in Lvov when the Russians left that city and Germans were entering it on June 30, 1941. His widow hid in a concealed apartment for several months, until she was discovered and sent to her death at Belzec extermination camp together with my father's only sister and her young daughter.
Rabbi Judah, the great Jewish scholar who lived almost 2000 years ago and compiled the Mishnah, the primary exposition of the Jewish Oral Law, observed that some individuals can win eternal reward with a good deed in a single hour, while others labor for the same objective for a lifetime. By doing what was right--with no expectation of reward or acclaim (indeed, with ignorance for many years of whether his kindness had any effect whatever)--Consul Sugihara won his eternal reward. He has to his credit not only the six thousand lives of the Jews who fled Europe with the travel document bearing his elegant Japanese script, but also the tens of thousands of descendants of these survivors. And he can take credit for the survival of a great institution of Jewish learning--the famous Mirrer Yeshiva. Its students and faculty escaped to Japan and then spent the war years in Shanghai before coming to the United States.
Chiune Sugihara was a true hero who merited immediate entry to the roster of Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. The Foreign Ministry in Tokyo not only failed to authorize the issuance of transit visas, but it explicitly directed him not to issue them in the most direct cables. Chiune Sugihara ignored these instructions and continued with his life-saving effort until he was on the train leaving Kaunas.
What can one say about this angel of mercy? There is a Hebrew phrase--"kishmo ken hu"--the name describes the person. I do not know the Japanese meaning of the sounds that make up the name Chiune Sugihara, but it is amazing for me to consider the Hebrew meaning. "Chiune" which in Hebrew could be pronunced "hiyuni" means "life-giving." Rabbi Judah Ha-levi, the master of Hebrew usage, speaks in his Kuzari of "hakoach hachiyuni"--the life-giving force.
And if one sounds out the name Sugihara, the word "hara" means pregnant--a woman who is about to give birth. The matriarch Sarah was told, "Hinach hara veyaladet ben"--"You are pregnant and will give birth to a son." And "sugi" is a sort of Aramaic or Hebrew word that means "subject." Hiyuni (Chiune) Sugihara is, therefore, the "subject of conception," of life-giving, of fruitfulness--of continuity through the generations.
It is indeed an appropriate name for one who gave life and who offered continuity and productivity to thousands who were otherwise facing death and destruction.
I now have a grandson and a granddaughter. My grandson, Gidon Moshe Lewin Halbfinger, and granddaughter, Ayelette Tova Lewin Halbfinger, are alive today because of the decency and courage of Consuls Sugihara and Zwartendijk. Gidon Moshe, my grandson, was born on the sixteenth day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz more than four years ago. I checked the Hebrew calendar and discovered that it was on the sixteenth day of Tammuz sixty years ago--July 22, 1940--that Jan Zwartendijk inscribed on a piece of paper the Dutch endorsement that gave Consul Sugihara four days later the opportunity to grant a visa for life to Gidon's grandfather and to his great-grandparents.
To the family and memory of Chiune Sugihara, I offer my thanks and the gratitude of my own family--my daughters, my brother, and my grandchildren, who would not have been conceived and born in the United States if not for the gift of life granted by Consul Sugihara, and I believe the thanks of my wife, who would never have met me if not for Chiune Sugihara. May the widow of Chiune Sugihara and his children and descendants live many years in health and happiness. They deserve the age-old Jewish blessing--L'Chaim, to life.
Thomas C. Homburger
Chairman
National Executive Committee
Anti-Defamation League
[Biography]
Attorney with J.D. from Columbia University School of Law. His practice is concentrated in the areas of complex real estate transactions. After serving as Chairman of Chicago Regional Board of ADL and Vice Chairman of National Commission of ADL, he was elected to the current position. Also serves as a trustee of ADL Foundation.
Good afternoon, I can think of no greater honor for the Anti-Defamation League and for me as chairman of its National Executive Committee and to take part in this ceremony honoring a man of such principle and humanity as Chiune Sugihara.
This is a man whose humanity shone all the more brightly because it was in the middle of inhumanity which we know as the Holocaust. He was the man who was blessed in this moment of the greatest challenge because his wife and partner Yukiko Sugihara joined in his decision to do right. They made the decision even though it placed them in personal danger. They both knew that it would spell the end of career they had worked so hard and long to build and the way of life it had brought to them.
This event is so significant for the Anti-Defamation League because we as an organization have as our purpose the same mission which motivated Mr. and Mrs. Sugihara almost sixty years ago. We were established eighty-seven years ago to combat bigotry, hatred, and prejudice against all people. As a Jewish organization, our wise founders realized that the best way to protect our people against the bigotry, hatred, and prejudice we have experienced over the centuries was to combat bigotry, hatred, and prejudice against all people wherever or whenever we find its ugly face. This is the mission which has motivated us in the United States throughout the years and which has motivated our activities throughout the world in the past decades.
We have realized that the tools to accomplish our mission lying in many venues. The obvious is the use of the courts and of legislation to fight those whose bigotry, hatred, and prejudice threaten to harm their victims. This we have done for years in the United States with great success and we have been proud to explore our methodology around the world to help others of like-mind fight the same fight in their countries. But I am happy to say that the arsenal of weapons does not stop with the tools I have just described.
We realized that perhaps the most powerful weapon against the evils of hatred, bigotry, and prejudice is education. Children are not born hating. It is something they learn. Something they are taught while their minds are being molded. Chiune Sugihara observed the noble principles of the Samurai Code that would not let him be anything but the hero he was. Likewise, children can be taught to accept and respect the differences of people around them. If this lesson can be firmly inculcated into the child' mind as he or she is growing up, the hatred which Mr. and Mrs. Sugihara had to contend with will be avoided. This is the best insurance to protect future generations against the ravages of the hatred, bigotry, and prejudice. The urgency of education mission is demonstrated to us so powerfully when we see what the reverse can do. The Nazi authorities taught the German children to hate. This created the environment which forced Mr. and Mrs. Sugihara to have to choose to give up all they had worked for in order to do right. We can see it even today when the schoolbooks used in the lessons taught to the Palestinian children by their instructors teach hatred of Israel. If these lessons continue, we will be assured of future generations of people who will hate with the suffering and bloodshed that are the unquestionable consequences.
Our educational programs are varied in large part in a learning methodology we call "the World of Difference." In this program we teach teachers to teach in turn their students the acceptance and respect of differences in others. In the United States this program has been presented to over 150, 000 teachers who in turn have presented to over 15 million students. We are now sharing our methodology with educators and others throughout the world. We hope that they can take this program and adapt to the needs and issues of their individual countries. I am so proud to say that one of those countries is Japan. In fact, our experts have worked with experts right here in Osaka where "World of Difference" program is currently underway. We believe that together we can make a difference.
As you heard also, the Anti-Defamation League also sponsors an essay contest in various cities in the United States, named and in honor of Sugihara-san. The student contestants are asked to write essays examining the moral dilemma which Sugihara-san and his wife faced in making the choices they made 60 years ago and how it relates to the students' own lives. As you have heard, we have this year's three winners with us today: Emile Brock of San Francisco, Allison Vuona of Boston, and Nicholas Sher of New York City. This event also has great personal significance for me and my family including my wife Louise who has joined me for this occasion.
In 1938 my family and both my mother and father's sides all resided in Central Europe, mostly in Vienna in Austria. When the Nazis came to Austria, some of my family were fortunate enough to escape to the safety of the United States. My father escaped after being threatened by arrest by Gestapo. In fact, he was saved by his Sugihara-san, his non-Jewish maid who at risk of her own personal safety protested so vociferously that Gestapo officers left, promising to return. Needless to say, my father did not wait for their return. My grandfather was arrested in a street of Vienna in November of 1938, on the morning after Kristallnacht and sent to Dachau, a notorious Nazi concentration camp. He was only released because of the bravery of my grandmother who sought the assistance of the Mayor of Vienna. The Mayor was a fellow officer with my grandfather in the Austro-Hungarian Army in the First World War and persuaded the commandant of Dachau to release my grandfather because of his heroic war efforts. He was released on a condition that he and my grandmother leave Austria in a few days with what they could carry in the suitcase. So noble Italians sheltered them until they were granted the visa to come to the United States. But you know, as matters turned out, my immediate family and a few others of my family were the lucky ones. They survived. All the others remained in Europe. All the others died. Sugihara-san and his wife fought so valiantly for the victims of the hatred. They fought so valiantly through their acts of personal bravery.
Finally, being here today, has another personal significance for me. One of the few lucky others in my family to escape the Nazis was my grandfather's brother. He and his wife traveled the East and ultimately only he ended up in Japan in 1940 because his wife had died on a way in Shanghai. He then sent for his son and daughter whom he had left in what he had mistakenly thought was the safety of Vienna. He and his children were sheltered here throughout the war. They lived in Japan in safety from 1940 until 1947 when they immigrated to the United States. They survived only because of the shelter and hospitality provided them by the Japanese people.
In closing, I want to congratulate the other diplomats and their families who are here today and whose heroism also saved so many lives. When so few were wiling to stand up, they did. I want to thank Akashi-san and Ueda-san for inviting us to participate and helping us bring the contest winners here today. I also want to mention Dr. Ed Alster, ADL's Associate Director of the Education Division who, as you heard, is also with us today here and whose tireless efforts made our group's participation possible. Finally, Mrs. Sugihara, our National Director Abraham Foxman who would have been here today, but for his recent and fortunately successful heart surgery, would like to share in this occasion and personally expressed his congratulations to you and to the other diplomats being honored today.
In a reading I did about Sugihara-san he has often been called, as Mr. Manski said, the "Japanese Schindler." I would agree with Mr. Manski. With observations of Leo Melamed, another Sugihara survivor who is now in Chicago, where I am from, and who went on to become one of the giants in the United States' financial world. As I mentioned to you before personally, Mrs. Sugihara, Mr. Melamed sends both his congratulations and his apologies for not being here today. But Mr. Melamed observed as did Mr. Manski, that Mr. Schindler saved thousands of lives for his acts, but also made considerable money. Sugihara-san and his wife, on the other hand, gained nothing for what they did except, of course, for the immeasurable personal satisfaction of knowing that what they did was right and what they did made a difference. In fact, Sugihara-san's actions caused him and his family to lose all most of us hold to be so important: job, material wealth, and the position he held in his society for so many of later years of his life.
Do you know in Yiddish, there is a word which defies short translation, a "Menche." I try to define it for you, Mrs. Sugihara. A Menche is one who is principled, who is kind, who is selfless, and who shows true humanity. Sugihara-san was a Menche in all senses of the word. Thank you.
S. Floyd Mori
National President
Japanese American Citizens League
[Biography]
Mr. Mori was born in Murray, Utah, of immigrant parents from Japan. After graduating from Brighem Young University, he moved to California where he became a City Councilman and later Mayor of the City of Plesanton. Elected to and served six years in the California State Assembly. After several years in business, he founded Mori International, international business consultant firm. Also serves as a member of the Utah Governor's Asian Advisory Council.
Mrs. Sugihara, friends and family of Mr. Chiune Sugihara, Chairman Akashi, honored guests, and ladies and gentlemen. I am very proud to and honored to be here to represent the Japanese American Citizens League or JACL, as it is more commonly known. There are many common ideals that are represented by the life of Mr. Sugihara and the goals and purposes of the JACL.
If I may, I would like to reflect for a few moments on my personal life as I try to explain why the JACL has had such an interest in the pursuits of Mr. Sugihara.
I am a Nisei, although you may expect me to speak Japanese, I never had any formal education in Japanese, so you have to bear with my English today. I am a Nisei whose parents immigrated from Kagoshima-ken here in Japan. My father immigrated to the United States in the early 1900's. My father's family was very poor and it became his responsibility, as the oldest son, to come to the United States and earn money to support his family back in Japan. Being poor and without status, my father compensated by working very hard to buy property, develop a farm, and raise a family of eight children. In the rural Rocky Mountain West, my father along with a few other Japanese immigrants, faced not only the harsh weather, but a harsh attitude that these independent people of the West expressed towards foreigners who were of a different color. These hard working Japanese pioneers in America faced many economic jealousies that often turned into hate, violence, and rejection.
This hate and resistance that the Japanese people experienced gave birth to the JACL, which was organized in the late 1920's. It became the first organization of its kind to serve a specific ethnic minority from Asia. Today, JACL is the largest and oldest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States. We have some 115 Chapters throughout the States including one here in Tokyo, Japan. JACL has been the communication link to government and society as a whole in explaining the injustices that were being thrust upon the Japanese American community in the United States. JACL has been the advocate of the Japanese American people in promoting laws that made sure that Japanese Americans and other minorities maintained the same rights and privileges that were enjoyed by the majority population.
World War II was a very difficult time for Japanese Americans in the United States. Hysteria swept the country and the fear and hate toward Japanese Americans lead to the evacuation of 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast of the United States into concentration camps that were located in desolate parts of the West and South part of the United States. Basic Human and Civil rights were violated in direct contradiction to the Constitution of the United States. There was no recognition of "Due Process of Law" which is guaranteed by our Constitution. While these injustices continued, many men and women who were in these camps volunteered to serve in the armed services in order to prove that they were loyal to the United States.
Following the War, there were many court battles that were waged to right the wrongs that were suffered by the Japanese Americans during the War. However, most were unsuccessful and the community went about rebuilding all that was lost to them during the War.
JACL decided during the 1970's that they must organize a campaign to have dignity and honor restored to their community. They began the process of advocating for "Redress" and an Apology from the United States government for the unjustified wartime evacuation that was experienced by the Japanese American community. After over a decade of hard work from individual people as well as a National effort in Washington D.C. by the JACL and other supporting organizations, the first of which were many organizations in the Jewish community, the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. This Act of Congress provided Redress to all surviving Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in the camps, and more importantly, for the first time in the history of the United States, the government recognized its wrongdoing and apologized to each person who was unjustly incarcerated. Today, the JACL continues its vigilance to assure that basic human and civil rights are afforded to all peoples of the world.
A clear and strong understanding of basic human rights is what guided Mr. Sugihara in his decision to issue Visas for Life to thousands of Jews during the War in Europe. The compassion that he expressed in his act of heroism is unparalleled in the Foreign Ministry of Japan. Although the Jews were looked down upon and despised by a strong ally of Japan, Mr. Sugihara recognized the worth of a human being, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or creed. He was a true humanitarian and a prime example that a government should champion rather than force into obscurity.
Much like the Japanese American Community, who fought and died for maintaining the freedom and liberty they deserved, in spite of themselves being held in prison camps, Mr. Sugihara provided freedom and liberty to thousands even though he knew in his heart that he himself would be dishonored and dismissed from his prestigious government post. To him, humanity was more important than any personal comfort, glory, or honor that he might receive.
A very important element must be recognized at this point. Like the U.S. government, who recognized a wrong of the past and apologized to the Japanese Americans, the Japanese government has also recognized its harsh treatment of Mr. Sugihara and its failure to recognize his courageous actions. It is exceptionally commendable that Mr. Kono, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has recently apologized to the Sugihara family. In going a step further, the Japanese government now has honored his name and his accomplishments.
We in JACL are very proud of Mr. Sugihara and the example that his name will perpetuate to younger generations of all nations. For this reason, JACL passed a Resolution in its Biennial Convention in 1998 in support of all efforts to recognize and honor Mr. Sugihara for his act of heroism and to remove any dishonor caused by his diplomatic actions to save thousands of Jewish lives.
We commend the Japanese government for taking this bold step in promoting human rights throughout the world. In this modern Global society, we all need to recognize the worth of the individual human being. Japan and the United States, who are today the economic and political leaders of the world must never end efforts to be leaders in the field of human rights. We must take every opportunity to be an example to the real world where bigotry and extremism continues to guide the lives of millions. This celebration has been an expression that we will continue to strive for better human relations in all of our lives.
I would like to express my personal appreciation to all of those who made this celebration possible. This event will be a strong reminder to the great legacy left to us by Mr. Sigihara and the need to perpetuate his memory. I personally appreciated being here to share in this Spirit of Respect for Humanity.
At this time I would like to present to Mrs. Sugihara an original copy of the Resolution passed by the National Council of JACL on July 3, 1998. This Resolution was sponsored by the Salt Lake City Chapter of JACL. The Resolution recognizes the many accomplishments of Mr. Sugihara and urges efforts to formally recognize is acts of heroism. And let me note this time that to my recollection this is the first and only time that JACL has given the recognition to a non-citizen of the United States. The first and only time. We commend Mr. Sugihara and we appreciate being here with this celebration. Thank you very much.
Abraham Cooper
Associate Dean
Simon Wiesenthal Center
[Biography]
Born in New York, he was educated at Yeshiva University. He has been a long-time activist for Jewish and human rights causes around the world. For over 2 decades he has overseen the Wiesenthal Center's international social agenda from worldwide anti-Semitism, Nazi war criminals and Nazi Gold, to extremist groups and hate on the Internet. In 1999, he received Yeshiva University's Bernard Revel Community Service Leadership Memorial Award.
Ambassador Akashi, Mr. Ueda, Ambassador Kumlin, distinguished Counselor of the Embassy of Israel, other distinguished diplomats, Samuil and Nathan, representatives of the Sugihara survivors here today, old friends and new, it is with a deep sense of gratitude and humility that I represent Simon Wiesenthal, the great Nazi hunter and humanitarian as well as the 400,000 constituent families of the Simon Wiesenthal Center at the Centennial Celebration of the birth of Chiune Sugihara. Congratulations to the organizers of this important international initiative.
This historic gathering creates another opportunity for the Jewish people to fulfill the obligation of "Hakarat Hatov" - to say thank you to the late ambassador and to his partner and wonderful wife for saving Jewish lives and redeeming hope in a time of hopelessness.
Mrs. Sugihara, who, on the occasion of Israel's 50th birthday, I had the special privilege and the honor to accompany to a reunion in Jerusalem, Israel's capital, with the faculty and students of the Mirrer Yeshiva - people and the institution who only survived because she and her husband cared - in her own right, together with the memory of the late husband, continues to serve as a symbol of hope and dignity. May G-d bless you with many more years of good health and strength.
Now, we turn to the presentation of 22 Chiune Sugihara Humanity Awards.
In a few moments, Lloyd Williams will present this collective recognition to Sweden's Ambassador, Krister Kumlin. But I would like to take a few moments to introduce each name and briefly introduce you 22 other Sugiharas.
This is Aracy de Carvalho Rosa, an aide to the Brazilian Ambassador in Berlin, who for her actions in helping to save Jews in the capital of Nazism, Berlin. Rosa was awarded the Righteous Among the Nations.
Feng Shan Ho, Consul General of China in Vienna. Dr. Ho was one of the first diplomats to save Jews during the Nazi era. He issued visas to Jewish people seeking to escape Austria after the Anschluss in 1938. He issued those life-saving papers on his own authority despite orders to desist and an eventual reprimand from his superiors. Frank Foley, British Vice Consul in Charge of Visas in Berlin on the eve of the outbreak of World War II. Historians estimate that Mr. Foley issued at least 3,000 visas to Jewish refugees during the years of 1938 and 1939. Despite the British policy of giving visas only to a few Jews, it was known that he tried to do everything he could to help these unfortunate individuals.
Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, the trade attache to the German Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is a German diplomat during World War II. When Mr. Duckwitz learned that the Nazi occupying government was planning to deport Danish Jews to the death camps, he alerted the Danish government. He made a clandestine trip to the Prime Minister of Sweden in order to arrange safe haven for those Jews. The Danish underground implemented the rescue of over 7,000 Jews of Denmark. As a result, 99% of them were smuggled into Sweden and saved. After World War II, he became Germany's ambassador to Denmark.
Jan Zwartendijk. You've already heard the incredible family odyssey. But this was a man who was the Honorary Dutch Consul in Kaunas. He is credited with devising and pioneering the use of the "Curacao visa" in early July 1940. Along with Sugihara, he issued the end visas to the destinations of Curacao and Surinam.
Giorgio "Jorge" Perlasca, "Acting Charge D'Affaires" of the Spanish Legation in Budapest, Hungary. This gentleman was granted Spanish citizenship for fighting on the side of Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Yet he used that designation to serve humanity. In fall of 1944 in Budapest, he placed as many as 3,000 Jews under the protection of Spanish safe houses in the capital of Hungary. In December 1944, the Spanish Ambassador evacuated Budapest, so this very interesting diplomat had himself appointed "Spanish Ambassador" and continued on his own to issue thousands of protective passes.
Jan Karski, one of the great heroes of the Second World War who died a few weeks ago. Mr. Karski prepared written eyewitness accounts of the German atrocities in Nazi occupied Poland in real time. Later, he was smuggled out of Poland and into the United States, where he reported to US Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter. Karski gave hundreds of talks to anyone who would listen in the United States and Great Britain in order to bring about pressure for interventions to stop the Nazi Holocaust. He was not successful.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese Consul General in Bordeaux, France. Mr. Mendes issued perhaps as many as 30,000 life-saving documents 10,000 were for Jews and 20,000 were for other refugees fleeing the German onslaught into France. He personally conducted hundreds of Jewish refugees across a border checkpoint on the Spanish frontier. All of his life-saving activities were done against the explicit orders and policies of his government. He was fired from his job and lost all of his property. He died in poverty in Lisbon in 1954. In November of 1995, Portugal finally restored his career and its national dignity when it awarded him a special medal for his humanitarian efforts.
Angel Sanz-Briz, the Spanish Minister in Budapest, Hungary. In the summer of 1944, Mr. Sanz-Briz appealed to Madrid for permission to provide Spanish protective papers for Jewish citizens in Budapest. Unable to obtain permission, he nonetheless issued hundreds of Spanish protective passes on his own authority. He authorized the establishment and protection on dozens of safe houses in Budapest. By the end of the war, many thousands of Jews were saved as a result of his interventions.
Jose Santaella, Spanish Agricultural Attache in Berlin was awarded the Righteous Among the Nations medal for helping to save German Jews trapped in Nazi Germany. I'll come to the several Swedish personalities in a moment.
Ernst Prodolliet was the Swiss Consul General in Bregenz, Austria. Mr. Prodolliet received Israel's Righteous Among the Nations for his life-saving activities in Austria during the Nazi Holocaust.
Charles "Carl" Lutz, Consul for Switzerland in Budapest, Hungary and Gertrud Lutz, wife of the Consul for their activities in Budapest. Mr. Lutz was the first neutral diplomat in Budapest to rescue Jews. He is credited with inventing the Schutzbrief (protective letter) for Jewish refugees in Budapest. He obtained permission from the Hungarian government to issue protective letters for some 8,000 Hungarian Jews for emigration to Palestine. But he used the 8,000 not for individuals but towards families. He established 76 Swiss safe houses throughout Budapest. Between the years of 1942 and 1943, he helped some 10,000 Jewish children and young people to emigrate to Palestine.
Harald Feller, the Swiss Minister in Budapest. From the beginning of his appointment in 1944, Dr. Feller was tireless in his efforts to support Consul Charles Lutz and the rescue of Jews. He constantly pressured the Hungarian Government to end the persecution and stop deportations to Auchwits. Toward the end of the war, he hid endangered Jews in the basement of his own consular residence in Budapest.
Selahattin Ulkumen, the Turkish Consul General in Rhodes. For many diplomats here today, if the name Ulkumen rings a bell, and if you have ever been posted in Geneva, his son is the ranking ambassador for the United Nations. In July 1944, the Germans began rounding up the Jews on the Island of Rhodes. Mr. Ulkumen interceded on behalf of those Jews who were Turkish nationals or had any contacts or connections with Turkey. Through his efforts, 42 families, totaling more than 200 Jews were set free from the deportation to and the certain death at Auschwitz-Birkenau. In reprisal, the authorities bombed Ulkemen's official residence, fatally injuring his pregnant wife, but not before she gave birth to a baby who today serves the world as diplomat at the United Nations.
Angelo Rotta, the Vatican diplomat in Sofia, Bulgaria and Papal Nuncio in Budapest. Monsignor Rotta took measures to save Bulgarian Jews by issuing false baptismal certificates and visas for Jews to travel to Palestine. Later as the Dean of the diplomatic corps in Budapest, he issued some 15,000 safe conduct certificates for Jews. He also issued hundreds of safe conducts and false baptismal certificates for Jews who were already in labor camps, at deportation centers and on death marches. He personally set up and protected numerous safe houses throughout Budapest.
Which brings us to the intervention of the Swedish diplomats in Budapest in 1944. Per Anger, Lars Berg, Swedish Minister, Carl Ivan Danielsson were three very distinguished diplomats representing the Swedish nation. Together and inspired by Mr. Raoul Wallenberg who was not a professional diplomat but who came on a mission of mercy to Budapest in the summer of 1944, the Swedish legation worked tirelessly to help more than 30,000 Hungarians Jews. Wallenberg's personal intervention prevented Nazis from deporting and murdering Jews in the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. He even had a personal confrontation with Adolf Eichmann, the person in charge of the final solution. With the staff of Jewish volunteers, he rescued thousands of Jews who were forced on death marches. He also established and protected dozens of safe houses throughout Budapest. In the final days of the Second World War, as the Soviet troops were coming close to Budapest, Raoul Wallenberg went to see the general, the German general in charge of the city, who had orders to dynamite the Jewish ghetto and the remaining 17,000 Jews in the city. In a singular act of courage, Raoul Wallenberg threatened this general with a war crime tribunal after World War II unless he desisted from the plan. The force of Raoul Wallenberg's action and the commitment of the people of the embassy worked. Together, we can say the Raoul Wallenberg mission saved about 100,000 Jews from certain deaths in the final months of the Second World War. And what was his reward? On January 17, 1945 Raoul Wallenberg was arrested by the liberating Soviet Army and disappeared. In a few weeks, the Swedish and Russian governments, we hope, will come out with a definitive report. There were reports that he was murdered by the Soviets in 1947, but eyewitnesses that we interviewed saw him in the Soviet Gulag many years after.
So, how we can best understand the underlying courage of these individuals, among them Christians, Moslems, Buddhists and I imagine more than a few agnostics. I suggest that we can look to a single decision that occurred over 3,000 years ago in Pharaoh's Egypt which changed history forever.
It was there that a young prince by the name of Moses, went out to visit the massive work projects where the Israelite slaves were toiling. The Bible relates that Moses saw an Egyptian taskmaster whipping a Hebrew slave, and the narrative adds that Moses looked around and "saw that there was no man," at which point he slew the oppressor and saved the life of a single, helpless slave. But what does the Bible mean when it says that Moses saw that there was no one there? Surely there were thousand of slaves and hundreds of slave masters involved in building the pyramids and other huge projects.
Rashi - perhaps the greatest Jewish commentator on the Bible provides this special and very relevant insight: "BIMKOME SHEH'AIN ISHE, HISHTADAIL LEE'YOTE ISH"- No, Moses was not alone, but no one else saw what he saw - the flogging of a Hebrew slave was an act repeated in the ancient Egypt thousands of times a day, it hardly raised an eyebrow, let alone a voice in protest. Even the slaves themselves had lost virtually all hope.
"BIMKOME SHEH'AIN ISHE, HISHTADAIL LEE'YOTE ISH" - in a place where there is no man. The test of a true humanitarian, of a true leader is to have the courage to be a man where others have lost their humanity, to see the worth of a helpless victim, when the victim has lost all hope. That was the measure of the greatness of Moses, that was what set him apart for greatness and leadership and it is that biblical quality of courage, that unique vision of decency that each of these 22 diplomats showed in humanity's darkest hour, when the rest of the world turned their backs on the Jewish people, when the Pope and other religious leaders turned a blind eye to the Nazi genocide, and when even many of the victims themselves gave up all hope for the future.
In a place and time when there were no men, these 23 with Sugihara included, stood up for the Jewish people and they confirmed humanity. They will each forever have their places in our hearts and from today with this new award will also be forever honored by the people of Japan.
Lloyd A. Williams
President/CEO
Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce
[Biography]
As a head of the oldest ongoing business/civic organization in Manhattan, he has been working on the business/economic development, revitalization, and quality of life issues of the Upper Manhattan area. Also serves as Chairman of HARLEM WEEK, Inc., Vice Chairman of US Black Travel & Tourism Association, President of Greater Harlem Housing Development Corporation, Vice Chairman of Harlem Visitors & Convention Association, etc.
It has been an enlightening and historic program. Following Abraham Cooper, I guess it is quite appropriate for me, not Japanese, not Jewish, to share with our friends the opportunity and time to recognize others from around the world who played a very significant role in dealing with humanitarian issues during World War II and beyond. I am here because of strong relationships with Mr. Ueda. And I want to take a moment to recognize Mr. Ueda. I have traveled many thousands of miles over a couple of days and we will be going back shortly to speak for a few moments. It is something I would do at the request of Mr. Ueda and his distinguished associates from Tigre because of what they mean to me.
As a student of history and teacher of history, the name, Mr. Sugihara, has been in my mind and lived for many, many years. I spent much time studying World War II and the related ethnic and international divisions. I am very pleased that I have been here today. Here a number of continents are represented in this room. They are Asians, Europeans and of course that which I represent the African and Caribbean portions of the world. I bring to you great greetings from a good friend of Tigre, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, a unifying force in our country pulling together the issues that are important to Japanese interest, to Jewish interest and obviously to the interest of the Caribbean-American and African-American communities.
I spent a few years not only dealing with my associates in Japan, but also I want to recognize another one of my associates we spent many, many days early in the morning, talking about African-American, Caribbean-American and Jewish interest with Mr. Michael Miller from the Jewish Community Relations Council. We have an African-American and Jewish leadership group that meets to talk about multiple issues around the world and in particular around our region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Out of that exchange, we've been able to share and introduce a person who has been quite important to us, Mr. Katsuya Abe. Mr. Abe representing the culture and education and business sectors of Japan has reached out to make sure that there is a collective relationship between our communities and I am very pleased to be here today.
To the survivors, I had an opportunity on yesterday evening of briefly talking with Mr. Manski and his wife. I am not sure if they can ever understand what that brief exchange meant to me. Just to hear Mr. Manski speak about his family, the experience and what Mr. Sugihara meant to them, and their experience living in Japan for short period of time, and then coming over to the United States, and their treatment there, and to see him here today with his wife. If you can just imagine how many, many, many hundreds of, thousands of miles he has traveled from 1941 to this period of time to be here. To the other survivor, Nathan Lewin, I just would like to let you know how meaningful your remarks were. The organizer of this Celebration, you are to be congratulated because not only you did it but the quality and the manner you put behind it. It's really important that we have Sugihara essay winners. I had an opportunity to meet with those three extraordinary essay winners. I ask them to stand again. If you would, please do stand up. They have come from different sections, from the east coast of America to the west coast. People do essays and they win but what sometimes they write do not reflect the quality of the individual. In a very brief period of time I have been with all three, there is a consistency of the quality of their essay to the decency of three young persons. And I'm very proud of that.
I want also to say to my distinguished associates, Carl and Fay Rodney who will be part of the next program. They have a distinguished publication called, CaribNews. Mr. Ueda and Mr. Abe and his associates have joined with us for the last couple of years and went to the Caribbeans for the international business conferences that the Rodneys hosted so that we could bring the Asians, the persons from Latin America, Europe and the United States to talk about how we do international business. I am very honored that they are here. Karl is a member of the Board of our Chamber. This is my second time of being with the Rodneys in Japan. I know how difficult their schedule is. And the fact they are here speaks volumes for the respect they have for the interest of the partnership with Japanese friends, but more importantly for what the Sugihara legacy is. Thank you very much for your coming out.
It is hundredth year and we are going into another millennium and it is quite interesting not only because it's not the centennial celebration of Mr. Sugihara but also because it is as important as ever in the next few centuries because the real issue in front of us is going to be to remember what he stood for, what he did, and to remember the time that some of us right now are forgetting, what happened to this world just short sixty years ago.
In closing, I have really come because as an African-American, my family is really from the Caribbeans, but as an African-American, I understand the connection. The connection between that which happened to the Jews in Europe, that which happened to the Japanese in America during World War II, and that which happened to my people in America, past and today. And there is a connection. The only way that we take advantage of that connection is to communicate. By communicating, we will find a way to create a better life for those who follow us.
I close by simply saying that, if you really want to understand Mr. Sugihara, I would like you to take a look at his wife. If you just look at her, and if you just listen to what she said in her speech and how she said it, and if you look at her family, you will understand Mr. Sugihara. The brief words that Mrs. Sugihara said spoke volumes. She could not have said more than what she had actually said in a short period of time. And I looked at her face and saw the quality of Mr. Sugihara. And I just say to Mrs. Sugihara and the family that we are so honored to be in your presence and we so much appreciate your sacrifice and the sacrifice of your husband and your family. Thank you very much for your time.
Michael S. Miller
Executive Vice President
Jewish Community Relations Council Of New York
[Biography]
Mr. Miller began his career in Jewish communal service in 1976 as a United States Army Chaplain in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Later, he was appointed spiritual leader of a congregation in Springfield, Massachusetts. He currently serves on many boards and frequently acts as a consultant on a wide range of local, national and international issues.
According to Jewish tradition, it is proper to begin remarks by offering honor and respect to one's hosts. Thus, on behalf of the organization I represent - The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the central resource and coordinating body for over 60 different Jewish organizations in the New York area, and the one and a half million Jews who reside there, I offer profound gratitude to Chairman Akashi, Vice Chairman Ueda, and the organizers of this historic event. Further, I am deeply appreciative of the warmth and embrace my wife, Phyllis, and I have received here in Osaka. We are honored to be here. Thank you.
Two thousand years ago, our sage Rabbis, our great teachers wrote that: gHe who saves one life it is as if he saved the entire world.h
We are here tonight to pay tribute to one man, Chiune Sugihara, who, according to our Rabbis, saved not only one life, one entire world, but 6,000 worlds. 6,000 individuals whom he did not know, whom he never met, whose personal lives were oblivious to him, who were of a different race, who practiced a unique religion, who spoke multiple languages, who were strong, who were weak, who were tall, who were short, who were scholars, who were laborers, who were saints, who were ordinary.
Chiune Sugihara saved 6,000 worlds, extending the hopes and dreams of men, women and children, who by fate, were Jewish by birth and who, through the cruelty of the rulers of the period nobel laureate Ellie Wiesel referred to as the gKingdom of Nighth were doomed to certain, if not excruciating death. In an environment that reeked of pain and extermination, Chiune Sugihara, this diplomat from Japan, brought more than a glimmer of solace and renewal, dignity, humanity, and justice.
I am not a Holocaust survivor. I was born in New York, in the United States in 1949 after the war. My parents were born in America. My mother's parents were born in New York. My father's parents came to America around 1900. I know of no family members who were murdered during the Holocaust. Not one.
But as a Jew, I feel the loss of every fellow Jew. The six million Jews killed by the Nazis were my brothers and sisters, my uncles, my aunts, my cousins. The million and a half children so callously cut down, who never had a chance to grow, are very much a part of me.
I never met Chiune Sugihara. But I have encountered several of the worlds he saved. Until a month ago, little did I know that my friend from high school and college, the man with whom for the past 16 years every Saturday, every Jewish Sabbath, I study Jewish law, this fellow Ira Jaskoll, is the son of the late Szaps Jaskulka. Szaps, in 1940 as a 20 year old yeshiva student made his way from Poland to Kaunus, to Kovno, Lithuania. In Kovno he received the gift of life from Sugihara - a visa, a copy of which I brought with me. Szaps made his way to Kobe and then to the United States. He married, had several children, one of whom is Ira, my friend, who married the daughter of Holocaust survivors, and they have four children and one grandson, born in Israel.
And yet another world. Our oldest daughter is dating Benjamin Kohn, a fine young man from a wonderful Jewish family. This past week I was informed that Ben's grandfather Chaskiel Meir Kohn, a Polish Jew, was the recipient of a Sugihara visa in Kovno, Lithuania. Grandfathers, to fathers, to sons, to grandsons. These are but two of the 6,000 worlds saved by Chiune Sugihara. Two worlds that touch me, my wife, my family very personally.
What can I say to the Sugihara family? To offer my thanks? Yes, of course, and from all the Jews in New York and around the world! But does that really suffice? Indeed, there is a more profound expression of our everlasting indebtedness to Chiune Sugihara.
I was invited to propose a toast. And in the Jewish tradition when one raises the glass we offer the penultimate message today, in the presence of Mrs. Sugihara, to the memory of the honorable principle for which Chiune Sugihara stood. L'Chaim! To life!
Karl B. Rodney
Publisher/CEO
New York Carib News
[Biography]
Founded Carib News 18 years ago in order to serve as a bridge between Caribbean-American community and the larger community. Currently serves as Chairman/CEO of Accent Travel & Tours, publisher of Easy Magazine, a board member of the New York United Way, a member of Advisory Board of the Caribbean Cultural Center etc.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I've been asked to do a very simple task and that is to extend congratulations to the essay winners. And we've heard a lot about the past which we should respect, but these essay winners are the ones that we must ask to lead the charge. And so my task is going to be rather simple. It is not only to congratulate the winners but also charge them with grasping what all his efforts mean to today and what they can mean to them in the future.
I'd like to say thanks to the organizers of this event because it is so significant for us as we talk about globalization, and as we talk about humanity. If we can't live together, much in the same way as Sugihara had saved lives driven by humanism, then all of what he has accomplished mean nothing. So we must say thanks to the Tigre group, we must say thanks to the experience shared by the survivors. And for all the talk by the leaders in the Jewish community and certainly in the Japanese community. So I want to say thanks for that experience and thanks for the courage that brought about today's happening.
As we move forward, that gratitude was expressed in such a way as we can feel a deep sense of belonging to the process. And while we move on, we know that effort and sacrifice went into making today possible. So thanks to Mrs. Sugihara for the sacrifice you've made through all the years of sticking with your husband. We really need to say thanks to you in a profound way.
To the scholarship winners, I would like to say congratulations. Congratulations because you've put into words what is being attempted here in honor of Consul Sugihara. The task is to do the right thing.
The Essay competition was founded in 1995 with the sponsorship of the Holocaust Oral History. This project enjoys cooperation from the New York City Board of Education. The contest targets 10th to 12th grade public school students and invite them to examine the moral dilemma of Sugihara. In the word of Sugihara, humanity must come in the first place more than anything else. And out of this shared conviction we are congratulating the winners of the essay. It is also here that we challenge them. We must challenge them not just to look at the essay in terms of writing, but how you can now live your lives and not only that impact your colleagues because the future belongs to you and how you can through your experience here continue to make the world a better world and certainly for all of us, a better place.
We have three winners. Allison Vuona, 18, a resident of Massachusetts, now a premed student at University of Rhode Island. Emile Brock, 18, currently attending a college in his own state, California. Nicholas Sher, 17, a senior high school student in New York City. When I was told that I would be extending congratulations, I thought whether or not I should have private conversation with each one and then I decided, against that.
But then I had an opportunity to sit with them at lunch. And I can tell you all three are not only bright individuals but also you can get a sense of comfortableness in talking with them. They are no hang-ups, they are very given-taken in the conversation, have no hardlines, but three young people who saw within themselves a way of moving and living, and I was just happy to watch and observe them much in a way Lloyd Williams did. You can see there three individuals who will contribute something of significance to this world.
So I say congratulations to all three and to charge them with coming out of today's meeting to move forward, work to make this world a better world much in a way Sugihara did in this time.

(In order of appearance at the Celebration)

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