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Chiune Sugihara
Japanese Consul in Kaunas
1 January 1900 - 31 July 1986

Honoured by Yad Vashem Righteous among the Nations in 1984


Much has been written about Sugihara's life and work.

We would like here to enlarge specifically on the Visas he issued with which many Jewish lives were saved.

ha'emes vehashalom ehavu
(truth and peace you shall love)
(Zechariah 8:19)


The Jewish people – and even some Christian churches – have celebrated the feast of Passover for generations.  Part of that tradition includes the reading
of the Haggadah which is a text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder.

In one part of this text are quoted [from the Mishna [is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions known as the "Oral Torah"] three learned
Sages who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE.  They were extoling the wonders of the Miracles of the 10 plagues which were inflicted upon Egypt before the
Israelites were given permission to leave that country in which they had been enslaved for 400 years,

The three sages each quoted a Biblical text in which God is described as bringing about those plagues, and with that as a basis, they gave reason why those
10 plagues should be viewed as multiplied and seen as 5, 200 and even 250 plagues.

We presume that some such Mishnaic zeal has driven some researchers to extoll the acts of the Righteous among the Nations Chiune Sugihara

Our research shows that Sugihara issued something in the order of 2000 visas and not 6000 or even 10,000 as others claim
                                                                             David Lewin


We bring here the research and article of Lucas Bruijn on the subject of

The numbers Game in the Sugihara Curaçao Visas

Escape from Lithuania.

On the grounds of Temple Emeth, in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, a monument was dedicated to
Chiune Sugihara in the year 2000.
The inscription on the monument reads:

CHIUNE SUGIHARA Japanese consul to Lithuania (Kovno)
In the fateful years of 1939-41
He issued some 2,000 visas
to 6,000 Jews – thereby saving
the lives of what today has become
3 generations of 36,000 people
Valiant man, whose heart is
like that of a Lion (II Samuel, 17:10)

One of the active members of Temple Emeth is Mr. Samuil Manski, himself a ‘sugihara survivor’.

The reader of the inscription will notice that the numbers seem to indicate a Miraculous Multiplication:
Two thousand visas serve 6,000 people, who multiply within 3 generations to 36,000. Everymen’s on-line encyclopedia
‘Wikipedia’ says about Chiune Sugihara: “The total number of Jews saved by Sugihara is in dispute, ranging from
6000 to 10,000; most likely, it was somewhere in the middle; family visas—which allowed several people to travel on
one visa—were also issued, which would account for the much higher figure. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has estimated
that Chiune Sugihara issued transit visas for about 6,000 Jews and that around 40,000 descendants of the Jewish refugees
are alive today because of his actions.”

Yet another source has even wilder demographics:

”Visas for Life Foundation is working to identify and document the stories of the 6,000 Sugihara survivors and their 100,000+
descendants. We want to illustrate the dramatic degree to which one man can make a difference.”

So, the numbers given by Temple Emeth are modest, but even so, the less mathematically gifted will find it difficult to figure
out how many children per family that makes on average. It is just a matter of statistical extrapolation:

In order to get to 6 thousand saved people 3 people must have traveled on one visa: Two parents and one child, 4,000 grownups and 2,000 children.
The 2,000 first generation children all marry and have 4 kids, thus creating a second generation of 8,000. If these all marry and have three kids the
third generation has 24,000 persons. All three generations together: 6,000 plus 8,000 plus 24,000 is 38,000 people. Say half of the original grownups
have died by 2000 and we get the Temple Emeth figure.

There is one slight mistake in the text: Sugihara arrived in Kaunas at the end of 1939 and left that city on 4 September 1940. It is true though, that
many of the holders of the visas issued by him only traveled to Japan during the first months of 1941.

The exact number of visas issued by Sugihara, at least those he had made a list of, was 2140, the first issued on 9 July 1940, the last on 26 August.
Most were Polish Jews, about a hundred Lithuanian Jews and another hundred had another nationality From this list and from a study of the travel
documents the visas were put in it becomes clear that mainly children under age traveled on their parents’ visa, but that the parents often, not always,
had separate visas. Many of the refugees were single men. Among the saved were about 350 yeshiva students, most of them unmarried, without children.
Most, but not all recipients of visas were Jews.

Issuing a transit visa is not the same as saving someone’s life. What counts is how many people made it to safety, that is, from Kaunas /Kovno to Vladivostok
by train, from there to the Japanese port of Tsuruga and hence to Kobe. Fortunately, we have the numbers of refugees from Lithuania that reached Kobe.

On September 12 1976 Mr. Jan Zwartendyk, the son of Jan Zwartendijk, to be introduced shortly, received a letter from rabbi Marvin Tokayer, for many
years the rabbi of the Jewish Community in Japan and author of many interesting books, giving the figures.



Total Refugees from Kovno -2178


Male    Age    1-15      99

                        15-30   657

                        31-50   636

                        50+      116

total     1508


Female            Age    1-15    114

                        15-30   178

                        31-50   228

                        50+        46

total       566


TOTAL 2074  (-104?)



MD                                15

Engineer                       62

Attorney                        61

Clerk                           233

Rabbis                           79

Rabbinical Student     341

total     791




USA                            532

Canada                       186

Australia                       81

New Zealand                 29

tot        828


Mexico                          17

Cuba                              27

Panama                           2

Argentina                      40

Brazil                            17

tot        103


Burma                           28

Manchuria                    15

tot           43

TOT                            1055

Shanghai                       860

Other                            ?

Total                           1915 (-263)

The Jewish community of Kobe made lists of the arrivals and reported to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. These lists give name,
birthdate, place of birth, profession, place coming from, arrival date, place left for, date of departure and relatives abroad. The lists appear to have
been kept fom December 1940 to May 1941. The system of registration is not uniform throughout. Assuming that Tokayer based his numbers on
these lists this could explain why his numbers don’t tally exactly, but 2000 to 2100 appears to be about correct.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which organised an exhibition on the subject in 2000/01, “Flight and Rescue”, with a catalogue (2001)
and website presentation, speaks of “some 2,100 Jewish refugees”. That again is close to the 2140 on the Sugihara list and we may conclude that about
as many people reached Kobe as left Kaunas with a Japanese transit visa.

Another source mentioning the number 2,000 is the ambassador of the United States in Moscow Laurence Steinhardt. He wrote a letter to the
Department of State to inform them of the refugee situation, dated October 6 1940:

I assume the Department is aware of the fact that Japanese transit visas were issued to these individuals on the basis of assurances made to the Japanese
Legation [Consulate] in Kaunas by the Dutch Consul at the instance of the* Joint Distribution Committee in Kaunas that entrance visas to the Dutch
possessions in the Americas were not required and that approximately 2,000 Japanese transit visas of this type were recently issued in Kaunas, specifying
on the face of the visa that the applicants were en route to the Dutch possessions in the Americas.
Each of the applicants thus far examined by the Embassy in Moscow regarded his Japanese transit visa marked as en route to the Dutch possessions in
the Americas as merely a means of obtaining a Soviet exit visa and transit across Japan with the intention of entering the United States and remaining
there for at least the duration of the war. ”

The story is somewhat more complicated. Not all holders of a Japanese transit visas actually went to Japan. Some went to other cities in China, such as
Harbin. Some did not leave Lithuania at all and some were deported to Siberia. But these exceptions are few in number. The inscription on the memorial
at Temple Emeth, the Temple of Truth, clearly overstates the number of people rescued by Sugihara.

Type in ‘Sugihara’ on ‘Google’ and a world of special websites dedicated to him will appear. A large list of publications, articles and books in many
languages will come up, television productions, plays and movies. Only few of them, among them the website of the USHMM, will give accurate data.
Most of them propagate a saga – meaning a story made up of facts, gross exaggerations, absolute lies and the omission of established facts.

It is not my intention to unravel these stories or to explain how they came about, but to clarify some points in the true story and to add some information
resulting from private research of some of the surviving travel documents.


What should be obvious is the fact that a transit visa only allows a traveler to travel through a country or arrive in a country en route to a final destination.
The Japanese transit visas were issued on condition that the traveler had a visa for the country he or she intended to travel to, as well as additional transit
visas necessary to reach Japan and from there the final destination. An other condition was, that the traveler had enough money to complete the trip.

The distance from Kaunas to Vladivostok, by plane, is 7,206 Kilometers. By train it is 9,289 kilometers from Moscow. Nowadays it takes six days to travel
that distance by train.

The Germans invaded western Poland on 1 September 1939. The Soviets occupied eastern Poland on 17 September 1939, including the city of Vilnius and
restituted the city to Lithuania on 28 October 1939. Vilnius had been taken over form Lithuania by Poland after the First World War.
Most refugees in Lithuania had come from Poland to Vilnius, after its occupation by the Red Army and its return to Lithuania. By January 1940 the Soviets
had sealed the border between occupied eastern Poland and Lithuania and according to Red Cross estimates an 11,000 Polish-Jewish refugees had crossed
into the Vilnius region by that time. (Zorach Warhaftig speaks about 12,000 refugees, Prof. Dinah Porat of  13,000 to 14,000.)
On June 15 1940 the Soviets invaded Lithuania, on August 3 1940 Lithuania was incorporated in the Soviet Union and became the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist
Republic. From June 15 to August 3 Lithuania was officially still an independent state and only a transit visa was needed to travel to the Far East. After the
incorporation an additional exit visa was needed in order to leave the Soviet Union Lithuania was now part of.

The Soviet Union was represented in Kaunas (Kovno) by a consul appointed by the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (NKID). This consul, Nikolai
Michailovich Yakovchik, remained in office until 3 october 1940, after which date visa request were dealt with by the Bureau for visas and Registration, OVIR
and the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD).

Visas were only issued to refugees, who had a final destination visa and the necessary transit visas and money to reach that destination.

The most popular destinations were the United States and Palestine, but the visas issued by the Americans were few and the same with the Palestine Certificates
and Palestine visas issued by the British. A new destination was invented, not as a true destination, but for the purpose of acquiring a Japanese transit visa and a
Soviet transit/exit visa. It was called the ‘Curaçao visa’, which stated that no visa was required for that island or for Surinam, Dutch Guiana, without stating that
admittance could only be obtained through the local Governors and that these seldom granted a landing permit. The man who issued at least 2345 such visas, the
first on July 22, the last on August 2, was the honorary consul Jan Zwartendijk, a businessman who had come to Kaunas as the director of Philips, manufacturer
of radios and other electric equipment.

All consulates and embassies but the Soviet consulate were shut down during the first week of September 1940. Sugihara left on September 3, around the same
date Zwartendijk left. The British Embassy last working day was 4 September, the American Embassy closed down on the fifth. From then on Moscow was the
seat of foreign diplomats.

Although we don’t have numbers, some Jewish refugees left Lithuania for Palestine or the United states at the beginning of 1940, but the escape through the
European countries became increasingly difficult, especially after the German occupation of France, Belgium and the Netherlands in May/June 1940.
On June 10 Mussolini joined Hitler’s war and escape to Palestine through Trieste became impossible as well.


A plan for an alternative route of escape was discussed by the Chief Rabbi of Palestine Chaim Herzog during his visit to London in February 1940 with the
ambassador of the Soviet Union to that city, Ivan Maisky. The new route would go from Lithuania through the Soviet Union to Odessa and from there through
Turkey to Palestine. This plan depended on the willingness of the Soviet Union to grant transit visas.

In a report to the People’s Commissar for Foreign affairs, Vjatsjeslav Molotov, dated 21 April 1940, which mentions the talks between Herzog and Maisky,
the Deputy People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR Vladimir Dekanozov gives as his advice:

I would propose that it would be possible to allow Intourist to take responsibility for organising the transit of Jews to Palestine through the USSR, instructing

it to reach agreement with the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the People’s Commissariat for Transport (NKPS), and the People’s

Commissariat for Navy affairs. (NKMorflota), about the logistics of this whole matter. “

Zorah Warhaftig, at that time a refugee representative in Lithuania heading a committee for Polish-Jewish refugees, reports in his memoirs that the decision

to grant transit visas was made public in Lithuania on April 22.

From May 24 to August 10 the Soviet consul Yakovchik issued 259 transit visas. We have a list with the names of the recipients, but no travel documents with such visas.

About 30 of the persons listed also applied for a Japanese transit visa and it is uncertain whether any of the people on the list actually went to Palestine through

Odessa and Turkey with such a Soviet visa.

Even if the Odessa scheme had worked, the British embassy issued very few visas for Palestine and it would not have been a solution for the many refugees

who wanted to get out after the Soviet invasion of Lithuania on 15 June 1940. Some refugees of Dutch origin thought up a new idea. Shortly after the invasion,

late June, Jan Zwartendijk, who had been appointed honorary consul in Kaunas on 14 June 1940 was approached by Mrs. Pessla Lewin, who before her marriage

to a Pole, Isaac Lewin, had the Dutch nationality She asked him whether he could issue a visa for the Dutch West-Indies. The answer was negative.

The main Dutch diplomatic representative in the Baltic countries was the Dutch ambassador L. P.J. de Decker in Riga, Latvia. Mrs. Lewin wrote to him asking

the same question. He initially told her, that there was no such thing as a visa for the Dutch Caribbean possessions because a landing permit could only be issued

by the local governors. She wrote to him again, asking him to make a note in her Polish passport that no visas were required for Curaçao and Surinam and this

time De Decker agreed, asking her to send him her passport. In her passport he copied the first half of the entry in his diplomatic handbook re the Dutch East

Indies, saying in French:

“For the admission of aliens to Surinam, Curaçao and other Dutch possessions in the Americas, an entry visa is not required.”


This remark was dated July 11 1940. However, De Decker refused to do the same for her husband. So she went back to consul Zwartendijk, who agreed to

copy the De Decker notice in Pessla’s passport on Isaac Lewin’s Lithuanian Sauf-Conduit document on July 22.


The next step for the Lewins was to obtain a transit visa for Japan, because the only route to the Dutch West-Indies was through Japan. On July 25th and 26th
the Japanese consul Chiune Sugihara granted them transit visas. They are on his list (their son Nathan was included):

LEVIN, Leiba Polnisch 25 July No.13

LEVIN, Isak Polnisch 26 July No.17


Sugihara wrote above the visas, in Japanese characters, in English:


Transit Visa 26 VII 1940. Seen for the journey to Curaçao and Surinam through Japan.”

The Lewins never intended to travel to the Dutch West-Indies, they just thought up a way of escape from Lithuania. The Lewin family also obtained

another destination visa, for Palestine, issued to them by the British consulate on 18 August 1940. Eventually, on 11 December 1940, the Lewin family

would receive a transit / exit visa for the Soviet Union for the journey to Palestine via Vladivostok. They had 15 days to make the journey and according

to the Vladivostok exit stamp they left that city for Japan on 31 December 1940.


We meet them again on the list of arrivals for January 1941 made by the Jewish community in Kobe:


100. Lewin Izaak Age 30 Born in Wieliczka; Profession: Rabbi; Date of arrival 2.1.1941, coming from Vilno

101. Pessla Age 30

102. Natan Age 5.

On the Kobe lists we also find two Dutch citizens under arrivals in December 1940:

Gutwirth, Tenzer Nathan, Age 24 Coming from Telschei, date of arrival 24.12.1940

Gutwirth, Nechama, Age 23, Born in Vilno, Coming from Telschei, date of arrival 24.12.1940

On the Sugihara list:

GUTWIRTH, Tenzer Nathan Neserlands 6 August 1264


Nathan Gutwirth, a student at the Telshe yeshiva (in Telšiai, Lithuania) is also connected with the ‘Curaçao visa’ story. Being Dutch he hoped to travel

to Surinam or Curaçao in order to reach the United states from there.

It is not clear from the accounts whether he thought up the Curaçao solution independently or had heard about it from the Lewins. Mid July he visited

Zwartendijk and asked for a ‘Curaçao visa’ for himself and for some of his friends. Since there was a precedent, Zwartendijk agreed and eventually

issued the statements about the West-Indies not needing a visa to all who asked for it. He numbered them and the visa with highest number recovered

is No. 2,345, issued on August 2 to Eliasz Kupinski and family. The first 1300 he wrote out by hand, after that he used a stamp. He stopped after that date,

because the Soviets had confiscated his house and offices.


The Japanese consul continued issuing visas until the end of August. According to his list the last visa was issued on 26 August, but some travel documents

with his visas dated 29 August have been found.


Because the Sugihara visa stamps start with the text: Transit Visa, Seen for the journey through Japan (to Suranam, Curaçao and other Netherlands’ colonies.)

one would think that the Curaçao visa scheme was a kind of Dutch-Japanese joint venture and that the two consuls had reached some understanding about helping
refugees this way. The two men never met and never discussed the matter. There is no indication that Sugihara realised that the Curaçao visas were not regular
destination visas.  According to his instructions he was to issue transit visas to people in possession of an end visa and money to complete the trip to their final destination,
and so he did. Like Zwartendijk he first wrote them out by hand, to switch to a stamp later.


Why not to the Dutch East-Indies?

The Dutch East-Indies, or the Dutch-Indies were invaded at the end of February 1942 by the Japanese and the Allied Forces surrendered on March 8.
Why the Dutch-Indies, now Indonesia, were not chosen as a final destination is not known.

The combination of a Curaçao visa and a Japanese transit visa opened up a new possibility of escape, but during the period these visas were issued none

of the recipients obtained a transit or transit/exit visa from the Soviet authorities and if they did receive a Yakovchik transit visa they did not make use of

it or could not make use of it. The two consuls did not know that their visas would ever be used with success. Their visas offered some hope, but no guarantees.

It should be mentioned that no one actually tried to go to Curaçao. Not one of the refugees showed op either in Curaçao or in Surinam.

The numbers of visa issued by both consuls are not exactly the same: 2,140 Sugihara visas against 2,345 Zwartendijk visas, a difference of 205.

Sugihara starts his list with visas issued on 9 July 1940, while the first visa to a holder of a Zwartendijk visa was his No. 13, issued on 25 July. He also issued

transit visas to holders of different end visas, for the United States, Canada and Palestine. In those cases the line “to Suranam, Curaçao and other Netherlands’

colonies” is crossed out and replaced by the final destination. To mirror all Curaçao visas Sugihara’s list should have more visas instead of less. Some families,

but not all, traveled on one family visa. For instance, Nechama Gutwirth is not on the list, only Nathan, but the Lewins have two separate visas. Whether one

or more visas were issued depended on the travel document used. In case of passports, both parents have their own passport and small children are added

to the passport of one of the parents, usually the mother’s. Most Polish refugees did not have passports and traveled either on a Lithuanian ‘Leidimas’ or

Sauf-Conduit document or on a ‘Zaświadczene Certficat’, often referred to as a ‘Polish Certificat’, a document certifying that the holder was a Polish citizen.

The latter were issued by the British Embassy, Chargé-d’Affairs for the Polish interests in Lithuania. These document were made out to complete families.

These family visas could account for the difference in numbers, but it is also possible that some people who had received Curaçao visas never took the next step.

The 2178 arrivals in Kobe mentioned by Tokayer include small children that traveled on the visas of their parents.


Alledgedly some sugihara visas were ‘fakes’. Mid-March 1941 a ship with 74 refugees was sent back from Tsuruga, because the had Sugihara visas, but no

Curaçao visas. The Dutch deputy-consul-general N.A.J. De Voogd signed 74 Curaçao visas. with the same French text as used by Zwartendijk. Of these

74 persons only about halve are on the Sugihara list and the others must have traveled on forgeries. The Dutch National Archives also keep copies of 68 of

Curaçao visas, made out for about 77 others, this time written in English, without any explanation why they were issued.

These extra refugees don’t change the number of Kobe arrivals.


It appears that Sugihara wrote out some visas after taking up his post as consul in Czechoslvakia, early 1941:


“John G. Stoessinger, Ph.D. (Harvard), a prize winning author of ten leading books on world politics, has been the recipient of the distinguished Bancroft Prize

for History for The Might of Nations, and has served as Acting Director for the Political Affairs Division at the United Nations. On the eve of World War II,

Dr. Stoessinger fled from Nazi-occupied Austria to Czechoslovakia. His family was saved by a Japanese diplomat, Chiune Sugihara, who issued three visas to

transit Russia, allowing them to escape to Shanghai via Siberia and Kobe. “


The Soviet Visas

We have no precise information about when, why and by whom the decision was taken to issue Soviet transit / exit visas.
The decision to grant transit visas as advised by Dekanozov in his letter of 21 April to Molotov did somehow not result in the departure of many refugees by
way of Odessa to Palestine. From the evidence we have, no refugees left Lithuania before September 1940.

In August 1940 there seems to have been an effort to revive the old Odessa plan.

In an exchange by telegram between Ivan Maisky, the Soviet Ambassador in London, and the Chief rabbi of Palestine Herzog of August 28 1940 Maisky

reported that the Soviet government had agreed that persons in Lithuania holding valid end-visas could be permitted to exit the Soviet Union.


Dekanozow, the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, had arrived in Kaunas with the Soviet troops on 15 June and was in charge of the Sovietisation

of the country. but he had left Lithuania in July, around the Lithuanian elections of July 16. The newly elected parliament would decide a few days later

that Lithuania wanted to be incorporated in the Soviet Union, a wish granted on 3 August 1940. The further integration of Lithuania into the Soviet Union

was trusted to Nikolai Pozdniakov after Dekanozow’s departure. Although after the integration of Lithuania into the Soviet Union there was no need for a

consul of the Soviet Union in Lithuania any longer, consul Yakovchik would remain in office for two months. He had temporarily stopped issuing transit visas

on August 10 1940.


The little evidence we have for the visa history after the incorporation comes from the about twenty travel documents we have collected, that have a Soviet

transit / exit visa. There are many more travel documents known containing Curaçao and Sugihara visas, but not all have a Soviet visa. We have two examples

of Soviet visas that were stamped on loose sheets, to be attached to the main travel document and most likely most of these loose documents got lost over the years.

From the stamps in this collection it appears that consul Yakovchik resumed the issuance of visas on 4 September 1940, After Sugihara and Zwartendijk had left

and all other embassies and consulates had closed down. The last visa in the collection signed by him has as date 21 September. By then he had issued 302 visas,

going by the lowest and highest numbers on these visas. There is a gap in the collection between his last and the next visa, which was issued on 23 October.

Possibly he kept working until 3 October, while his successor started on 4 October. In that case the total number of Soviet visas would increase by a few hundreds.


Yakovchik, a Foreign Affairs official (NKID), was replaced by an Internal Affairs person (NKVD), and a Visa and Registration person (OVIR), who both signed

the visas. The signature of the NKVD man on the visas changes frequently, the signature of the OVIR man only twice. The name of the OVIR man following up

Yakovchik is not known, we failed to decipher his signature. The next one is known to us by his family name, Orechov, but we have no further information about

the man.


From 23 October 1940 to 20 December 1940 609 visas were issued, about the same monthly amount as under Yakovchik. In January 1941 a huge amount of

visas was co-signed by Orechov. From January 10 to February 11 1941 he issued 1973 visas.


All three worked with visa numbers belonging to a different series, so the visa numberes of the tree men are not consecutive. From the visanumbers we have

it can be concluded that the total of Soviet visas issued was at least 2,885 visas, but the total number may well have been above the 3,000.

The soviet visas were numbered, but one visa could have more than one number, for instance two parents and one older child would give three consecutive

numbers. The names and age of smaller children would be entered, but they did not get a separate visa number.


Other destinations.


There is evidence that apart from the 2,000 refugees that reached Japan another group made it to Palestine through Turkey after all, but the information is

confusing and numbers given vary: from 300 to 1,100 or 1,200 and even 3,000. The numbers 1,100 and 1,200 are taken from correspondence of the head of the

Jewish Agency office in Istanbul, Chaim (Charles) Barlas.

There are several individual stories about the trip. Here a selection of items found on the internet:

The Menn family:

The Soviet army occupied eastern Poland as part of the German-Soviet Pact and arrived in Molodeczno the same day as the Menn family. A young Soviet officer

approached the Menn family and offered Bella a chocolate, asking David, who fought for the Russian forces in WWI, if they were Jews. Taking a risk David spoke

to him in Russian and confirmed that they were. The officer said he, too, was Jewish and helped the Menn family get on a train to Vilnius. The family lived in the

Vilnius ghetto for a year during which time Julius was able to attend a Lithuanian-speaking Tarbut school. In the fall of 1940 David managed to get four of a total

three hundred transit visas that had been issued by the Soviet Union. The Menn family traveled by train through Kiev and Moscow to Odessa. From Odessa by ship

to Turkey, then from Istanbul by train through Syria, Lebanon, and back to Palestine. They arrived in Tel Aviv in October 1940.

[extracted from]


Yaakov Banai Tunkel

As a youth, Banai was a member of Betar, the Revisionist Zionist youth movement and was a founding member of the Irgun in Poland and leader
of the Eastern Poland branch of the party. He graduated from the state Gymnasium high school in 1938 and studied law for one year at Vilnius
University (1939-1940). In 1941, following the Soviet invasion and shortly before the German invasion of Lithuania, Banai obtained a Sugihara 
visa and made his way to Israel via Turkey with other members of the Betar.

[Extracted from ] 

On Yakovchik list:

Mennas D. G.

Mennas R. Kh.

Yaakov Banai:



On Sugihara list:



Rabbi Shach

Escaped to Eretz Yisroel
It was not long before the Russians invaded Vilna, forcing the Torah community to flee to nearby Yanove. Joining Reb Aharon there, Rabbi Shach continued
to learn with incredible hasmada. But they soon realized that the noose was tightening and escape from Lithuania would be the only alternative. Rabbi Shach’s
uncle, Rabbi Aron Levitan, helped get visas for Rabbi Aharon Kotler to come to America. At the same time, Rabbi Shach’s uncle, Reb Isser Zalman, who by
then had moved to Yerushalayim where he was serving as Rosh Yeshivas Eitz Chaim, helped Rabbi Shach and his family get certificates to go to Eretz Yisroel
(known then as Palestine), from the British Mandate powers.
At the time, the German General Rommel was poised to attack Palestine, and many tried to dissuade Rabbi Shach from his plans. Nevertheless, together with
other Rabbanim and Gedolim, among them Rabbi Lazer Yudel Finkel, Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin, Rabbi Shabsi Yogel, and Rabbi Yosef Chizkiya Mishkovski, the
Shach family set sail for Turkey. The Turkish authorities refused to let refugees disembark on their soil, but a Jewish merchant vouched for the families, and
paid for their hotel expenses.
Without this unknown benefactor, these great families might have been lost. Finally, after circuitous train rides through Syria and Lebanon, they arrived in Palestine.
Rabbi Shach and his family came to Eretz Yisroel absolutely penniless, without even enough money for one day’s food, as Lithuanian border guards had seized their
few meager possessions. From the port, they headed directly to their uncle, Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, moving into a one-room apartment at Rechov Modi’in 10,
in the old Kerem section of Yerushalayim.
[ Extracted from]

 Rabbi [Zalman] Sorotzkin:

 Rabbi Sorotzkin managed to flee the war and escape to Mandatrory Palestine.

 When the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages) of the Agudath Israel was founded in Israel, Rabbi Sorotzkin was appointed vice chairman.
In 1953, the Chinuch Atzmai was formed and Rabbi Sorotzkin was chosen to head it.

Death and legacy


Rabbi Sorotzkin died in Israel on June 27, 1966 (9 Tammuz).

Rabbi Sorotzkin authored the works, Oznaim LaTorah, a commentary on the Torah, and Moznaim LaTorah, on the Jewish festivals.

He was survived by his five sons, Rabbi Elchonon Sorotzkin, author of Leman Achai VeRai and leader of the Chinuch Atzmai; Rabbi Baruch Sorotzkin,
Rosh Hayeshiva of the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio; Rabbi Eliezer Sorotzkin, founder of Kiryat Telz-Stone in Israel; Rabbi Yisrael Sorotzkin, Rosh
Hayeshiva in Lomza and Av Beit Din in Petah Tikva; and Rabbi Benzion Sorotzkin, leader of Chinuch Atzmai.

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On Sugihara List:






Hisya Reuveni-Shapira:

 Hisya Reuveni-Shapira (“Elinoar”), the daughter of Nette and Pesiah Shapira, was born in a small town in Poland on March 20, 1922. She attended the Tarbut
elementary school and gymnasium. She joined Betar at the age of thirteen and when the IZL cells began to be organized she became extremely active in one of
them. In 1939 she was recruited to one of the Briha (Escape) groups that illegally crossed the border to Vilna. From there she proceeded with great difficulty to
Turkey, reaching Erez Israel in June 1941. She immediately joined Lehi as a runner to and from Avraham Stern, even on the day he was killed. The fact that she
was unknown to both the Jewish police and the British CID aided her in this work. With the establishment of the state she married Nichko Reuveni, a fellow Lehi
member. Since city life was too tame for them after their underground activities, they decided to fulfill their egalitarian ideals at Kibbutz Kabri in the Western
Galilee, where Hisya became engaged in educational and cultural activities.

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A small group of British nationals,  foreign students at yeshivas, travelled to Vladivostok and went from there to Hong Kong. From Hong Kong they went to
Australia. Some, who had had a U.S. visa, had a Sugihara visa, others, intending to return to England, had not. Most of them went on to the U.S.A., three
stayed in Australia.


During the early years of World War II, Rabbi Elya Meir Bloch and Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz  were in the United States on a fund
raising mission. As the war broke out, their only option to ensure the longevity of the Yeshiva was to transfer the whole yeshiva to American soil.
In October 1940, a group of students led by Rabbi Chaim Stein escaped from war-ravaged Lithuania as it was overrun by the Nazis. This daring flight
took place on the Sabbath. While travel is prohibited on the Sabbath, to save lives, and to escape great peril, one may transgress this prohibition.
The original faculty, their families and most of the student body left behind in Europe, were killed in Lithuania by Nazi forces and Lithuanian collaborators.
Escaping to Russia as the war ravaged Eastern Europe, another war was taking place in the Pacific- the very direction that the students led by
Rabbi Chaim Stein were headed. The students achieved safe passage via the Trans-Siberian Railroad to the Far East. The group had somehow acquired
visas from the renown Chiune Sugihara, and became beneficiaries of his admirable action to risk his life so many persons from war-torn Europe were given
the opportunity to seek refuge elsewhere in the world. Shortly after, the students traveled to Australia. Being that there were some students that were
British subjects in possession of British passports- such as Rabbi Shlomo Davis, their visas were granted. Upon arrival in Australia, they were greeted by
the small but vibrant Jewish community in Brisbane. As they planned out their next course of action, the group of students reached out to improve the
Jewish quality of life amongst the native Australians. Amongst this group was Rabbi Chaim Stein, who today is Rosh Yeshiva in Wichliffe, Ohio, Rabbi
Shlomo Davis who became a teacher and later a senior administrator for the students registrar, (currently retired and living in Lakewood, New Jersey),
and Rabbi Nosson Wachtfogel ZT"L who later became the Mashgiach in Beth Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. This group found their way
to the United States in early 1941. Once reunited with their Roshei Yeshiva, Rabbi Elya Meir Bloch ZT"L & Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Katz ZT"L, they
eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

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