Recently I posted an article about “Diplomats who saved Jews”. Today I can report and display a document issued by one of the *”Righteous Among The Nations”. (*an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.)
What you see here is a passort of Czechoslovakia issued to Egon Hertzka in 1936. On the first view nothing special on this passport but look at page 11 and you will see a Japanese visa issued by the Vice-Consul of Japan in Kaunas / Lithuania – Chiune Sugihara. He was a diplomat who saved thousands of Jews by issuing transit visas to Jewish refugees by risking his career and his family’s lives. In 1985, Israel honored him as Righteous Among the Nations for his actions.
Sugihara worked more than sixteen hours a day to issue 2,139 handwritten visas. He distributed them regardless of whether or not the refugees had the necessary supporting documents. In early September 1940, the Soviet authorities forced him to close the consulate in Kovno. As he and his family prepared to leave Kovno for Berlin, Sugihara continued to issue visas on the train platform. He handed out more once he was on board.
Upon his return to Japan, Sugihara was forced to resign from the Foreign Service. The official reason for his dismissal was the downsizing of the diplomatic corps, but the real reason was likely the disobedience he exhibited in helping the Jews of Kovno. None of the refugees ever made it to Curaçao. From Japan, most went to Shanghai, China, and others to the United States, Canada, and Palestine.
Since entire families were often included in a single visa, thousands of Jews survived due to the efforts of Chiune Sugihara, who passed away in 1986.
This passport with his visa is an important document and is most rare to find. By my knowledge the very first one ever seen. A fellow collector offered it once for sale via my website and it found a new home in the collection of a passionate Holocaust-document collector in the USA. I like to thank both the seller and the buyer to bring this outstanding passport to our knowledge.
For further reading I recommend: The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous – Stories of Rescue.