Who Is Chiune Sugihara? Google Doodle Celebrates Japanese Diplomat
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Today, Google has paid homage to respected Japanese diplomat, Chiune Sugihara in the form of a stunning doodle. But who is Chiune Sugihara and what's the doodle all about? Here's everything you need to know.
If this is the first time you've ever heard of Chiune Sugihara, then don't worry, he's a little-known Japanese diplomat with a big story. He saved thousands of Jews during the Second World War. Known to be a humble and quiet man, Mr Sugihara was vice-consul at the Japanese consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1939, which was when the conflict started to break out.
He teamed up with a Dutch diplomat to concoct an escape route. The plan was for Jews to travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway through the Soviet Union, then into Japan before finding safety in the Dutch colony of Curacao in the Carribbean. Despite asking his superiors in Tokyo to grant the visas the refugees needed three times, he continually got rejected.
He was told: "Absolutely not to be issued any traveller not holding firm end visa with guaranteed departure ex Japan.
Chiune Sugihara didn't let this stop him and, against the wishes of his own government, he began writing visas.
He told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that it was a matter of humanity and said: "I did not care if I lost my job."
His mission had a deadline too as his consulate was due to shut down. Against the clock, the wrote as many as 6,000 visas by hand in just over six weeks, working from dusk until dawn. Reportedly, his wife who back his decision massaged his calloused hands each night so he could try and get some sleep in between days. Now that's a power couple right there.
When Chiune Sugihara was forced to leave Lithuania, he reportedly continued to write visas on the train as it was about to leave, throwing them into a crowd of Jews on the platform.
Thanks to the visas, thousands of Polish and Lithuanian Jews arrived safely in Japan.
Just a year later, the Nazis occupied Lithuania and murdered over 120,000 people.
It took until 1984 for Chiune Sugihara to get recognised by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum as "Righteous Among the Nation," which is a title given to non-Jews who saved Jews from Nazi extermination.
When asked why he helped thousands of refugees, Chiune Sugihara said: "People in Tokyo were not united. I felt it silly to deal with them. So, I made up my mind not to wait for their reply.
"I knew that somebody would surely complain about me in the future. But, I myself thought this would be the right thing to do. There is nothing wrong in saving many people's lives."
What a hero.