Book portrays unsung war heroes who saved Jewish lives

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TSURUGA, Fukui Prefecture–Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who served as vice-consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, during World War II, is aptly nicknamed the “Japanese Schindler”.

But what about Saburo Nei and Yoshitsugu Tatekawa?

Today an English translation of a book by Akira Kitade is set to be published, featuring five diplomats in Japan and abroad who helped thousands of Jews flee Nazi persecution in Europe. during World War II, just as Sugihara did when issuing his “lifetime visas”. .”

Titled “Emerging Heroes: WWII-Era Diplomats, Jewish Refugees, and Escape to Japan”, the English version is translated from the original edition published in December 2020.

Kitade, 78, a freelance writer in Tokyo, has extensively studied the period when a few individuals like Oskar Schindler, at risk to their lives, ensured that many Jews would survive the Nazi Holocaust.

“How relevant officials reached out to Jewish refugees fleeing to safety is covered in detail,” said Kitade, 78, expressing his expectations for the translation. “I hope people around the world who pick up the book will reflect on the past.”

It depicts, among other things, the achievements of Nei (1902-1992), the Vice Consul General of the Japanese Consulate General in Vladivostok, who allowed Jews to travel to Japan in defiance of a Foreign Ministry decree. not to issue visas out of fear. of a peak of refugees, and Tatekawa (1880-1945), the Japanese ambassador to the Soviet Union.

Other people featured in the book include a Dutch consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, and a Polish ambassador to Japan. Like Sugihara, diplomats outside Japan pledged to evacuate Jewish refugees to Japan and beyond, but are not as famous.

Kitade, who previously worked for Japan’s National Tourism Organization, visited former refugees and their descendants in the United States and other countries to weave stories of the exodus into her book.

In the process, Kitade referenced photos of passengers from a ship carrying Jewish evacuees between Vladivostok and the port of Tsuruga in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture.

The English translation by an American publisher should go on sale around June.

On May 13, Kitade attended a ceremony marking the release of the foreign-language edition at the Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum, located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, and dedicated to conveying the story of the Jewish refugees who arrived there safe and sound.

“I will get great pleasure if people get interested in Tsuruga after reading my book and come here,” Kitade said.

The English version will also be sold at the museum.

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