Chronology of Rescue by Chiune Sugihara, Japan


Chiune Sugihara, Vice Consul for Japan in Kovno, Lithuania, issued transit visas to thousands of Polish Jews stranded in Lithuania.  He issued these visas between July 27 and August 28, 1940.  Sugihara asked for and obtained an extension to remain in Kovno for an extra 20 days from the occupying Soviet government officials.  He even issued visas as his train was leaving Kovno for his next assignment.  He issued the visas against the express orders of his government.  These orders explicitly stated that he was not to issue visas to refugees who did not have proper documentation and funds to travel through Japan.  Most of the Jewish refugees met neither requirement.  The Japanese transit visas allowed the refugees to escape from Lithuania through the Soviet Union to Kobe, Japan.  From there, many were able to escape to the United States, Canada, South America, Australia and Palestine.  About 1,000 refugees survived the war in Shanghai, China.  In 1947, he was forced to resign from the Japanese diplomatic service.  He always believed this was for his actions in Lithuania.  Sugihara was declared Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel in 1984.  He died in 1985.  In 2001, the Japanese government apologized to Sugihara’s family for not recognizing his heroic actions sooner.


January 1, 1900
Chiune Sugihara is born in rural Yaotsu Town, Gifu Prefecture.  Second son of father Yoshimizu and mother Yatsu (a family of five boys and one girl).

Enters Waseda University.  Majors in English Literature.

Passes Foreign Ministry Scholarship exam.  Enters Harbin Gakuin (National University).  Studies Russian.

Drafted into the Japanese Army for one year as Reserve Lieutenant.

Graduates Harbin Gakuin (national language school).

Becomes Deputy Consul of Manchurian Government Foreign Ministry.

Appointed Chief of Northern Manchurian Railroad Acquisition Office, by the Manchurian Government Foreign Ministry.  Sugihara successfully negotiates the purchase of the railroad for the Japanese government.

Sugihara resigns in protest of the ill treatment of the Chinese in Manchuria.

Returns to Japan.  Marries Yukiko Kikuchi.

Becomes translator for Japanese legation, Helsinki, Finland.

July 6-15, 1938
Representatives from 32 countries meet at Evian, France, to discuss refugee policies; none of the participating countries are willing to open their doors to Jewish refugees.

After the annexation of Austria by Germany, the Swiss government sets up policy to bar emigration of Jews. They demand that passports of Jews be stamped with a red "J" to restrict them from crossing into Switzerland.

July 1939
Sugihara is sent to Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, as a one-man consulate.  His primary mission is to gather intelligence for the Japanese government.  He is to report on Soviet and German troop movements in Eastern Europe.

September 1939
Germany invades Poland.  Thousands of Jews are killed during the invasion and subsequent pogroms.  Thousands of Jews flee to Lithuania for refuge.

December 1939
Sugihara is invited to the first night of Hanukah by a young Lithuanian boy named Zalke Genkind (Solly Ganor).  Sugihara and his wife, Yukiko, attend the Genkind party and are exposed to Jewish life in Kovno.  During the Hanukah dinner, Sugihara hears of the plight of the Jewish refugees from Poland.

Later, Sugihara gives visas to the Genkind family, but they are unable to use them.

18,000 German, Austrian and Polish Jews flood into Japanese-occupied Shanghai, China, some of them bearing Sugihara visas. 

Sugihara’s third son, Haruki, is born in Kovno.

July 2, 1940
Thousands of Jewish refugees from Poland request Japanese visas from Sugihara.

July 24, 1940
Sugihara asks for permission from Japanese government to issue visas to Jewish refugees.  Government states he can issue visas only to Jews who meet immigration requirements.  Virtually none of the Jews meet these regulatory requirements.  Sugihara decides on his own initiative to issue transit visas, in direct violation of orders.

July 27, 1940
Issues first transit visa to Polish Jews.

July 27-August 28, 1940
Sugihara issues more than 2,139 transit visas, many of them for whole families.  He arranges with acting Dutch Consul Jan Zwartendijk for destination visas and with Russian officials for transit permission.

July 30, 1940
Sugihara again asks for permission to issue visas.  Permission denied.

August 2, 1940
Told by Ministry of Japanese Foreign Affairs to close down Kovno office and leave Lithuania.  Russia intends to take over Lithuania August 3.

August 9, 1940
Sugihara further requests permission to issue visas to Jewish refugees.  He receives no reply.

August 28, 1940
Ordered to close down consulate and moves to Hotel Metropolis.

September 1, 1940
Sugihara family leaves Kovno for Berlin.  Sugihara issues visas as train leaves station.

September 27, 1940
Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis alliance is signed.

Becomes Consul General to Königsberg, Germany.

June 22, 1941
Germany army invades Soviet Union; Nazi Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) begin mass murder of Jews, civilians and Communist leaders.  More than one and a half million people are killed.

Sugihara becomes Consul General to Bucharest, Romania.

World War II ends. 

More than 80 percent of Polish Jews have been murdered.  More than 97 percent of Lithuanian Jews have been murdered. 

Sugihara family is interned by the Russian government for 18 months in Siberia.

Sugihara family returns to Japan.  It is the first time Sugihara has been back since 1937.  Sugihara is forced to resign from the foreign ministry.  He is told it is because of “that incident in Lithuania.”

Works for World Peace Organization.

General Manager of American PX, Tokyo.

Manger, A. Ponbee Export, Tokyo.

Chairman, Miteru Import-Export Co.

Translator of Russian, English, German and French into Japanese, Technical Information.

International Department of NHK Broadcasting.

Branch Manager, Kawakami Export-Import Ltd., Moscow.

Israel honors first of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Employed by Chori Ltd.

Employed by Kokusai Koyo.

September 1969
Received Israeli government medal.

September 1983
Fuji Television broadcasts a program about his actions in Lithuania.

January 1985
Yad Vashem awards Sugihara the title of “Righteous Among the Nations.”

July 31, 1986
Dies in Japan.  Buried in Kamakura.

Sugihara is awarded honorary Israeli citizenship and a park is named after him.

Hill of Humanity memorial built by Takao Ikami and the town of Yaotsu, Japan, in remembrance of Chiune Sugihara.

Group of Sugihara survivors visit Japan to honor Sugihara.  Opening of Visas for Life exhibit, which tours Japan.

Solly Ganor, who first met the Sugiharas in December 1939, is reunited with Yukiko Sugihara.  Solly Ganor is inspired to finish his autobiography, Light One Candle.

Sugihara honored by Holocaust organizations in US.  Major exhibit opens at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and is later sent as traveling exhibit to over 40 museums worldwide.
Visas for Life, the autobiography of Yukiko Sugihara, is published in English.  The Visas for Life Project edits the manuscript.

Solly Ganor publishes his book, Light One Candle: A Survivor’s Tale from Lithuania to Jerusalem.

June 1997
Das Andere Leben: Kindheit im Holocaust is published by Geschichte Fischer, Frankfurt.  This is the German translation of Ganor’s book Light One Candle.

Visas and Virtue, a short theatrical film on Sugihara, is released.  It wins an Academy Award.

Yukiko Sugihara visits Israel for the Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats exhibit opening and issuing of a commemorative stamp for Chiune Sugihara.

Yukiko Sugihara nominated for Righteous Among the Nations medal.

Solly Ganor’s book Light One Candle is published in Japanese.

January 2000
Sugihara honored in Visas for Life exhibit at the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust in Stockholm, Sweden.

April 2000
Sugihara is honored in Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats exhibit opening at the United Nations headquarters, New York City.  The film Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness is shown.

May 2000
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington dedicates exhibit to Sugihara and Zwartendijk, called Flight and Rescue.

July 2000
Sugihara honored in Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats exhibit opening at the United Nations European headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland.

September 2000
Japanese foreign ministry dedicates memorial to Sugihara in its headquarters.  Formally apologizes to Mrs. Sugihara for not recognizing Sugihara’s work earlier.

Film Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness wins prestigious Independent Documentary Association award and Hollywood Film Festival award.

October 2000
Chiune Sugihara is honored in a special exhibit at the Epstein Gallery in Bloomfield, Michigan.

December 2000
Chine Sugihara is honored, along with other Righteous Diplomats, in a special centennial celebration of Sugihara’s birth in Osaka, Japan.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry formally honors Chiune Sugihara for his action in saving Jews in Kovno, Lithuania.  A plaque is dedicated in the presence of his widow, Yukiko Sugihara.

January 2001
Sugihara is honored at a special exhibit in Winnipeg, Canada.

April 2001
Sugihara is honored in exhibit at the University of West Hartford, Connecticut, and at an exhibit at the Presidio of San Francisco.

September 2001
Sugihara is honored at the Memorial du Martyr Juif Inconnu at the Centre du Documentation Juive Contemporaine in Paris, France.

The film Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness is shown at a number of film festivals, where it wins several awards.

April 2002
Sugihara is honored in a Visas for Life exhibit hosted by the London Jewish Cultural Centre at King’s College in London.

October 2002
Sugihara is honored in a Visas for Life exhibit at Boston University.

Sugihara is honored in a Visas for Life exhibit at Rider College, Princeton, New Jersey.

November 2002
Sugihara is honored in a Visas for Life exhibit that opens at St. Mary’s College in San Antonio, Texas.

December 2002
Sugihara is honored in a Visas for Life exhibit that opens at Cape Town Holocaust Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.  The exhibit then tours to Johannesburg and Durban, South Africa.

Memorial statue to Sugihara is dedicated in Los Angeles, California.  Mr. Shaoul Levy is the sponsor.

A commemorative medal honoring Chiune Sugihara is minted by the Israeli State Mint.  It is sponsored by the Mowszowski family.

April 2003
Yukiko Sugihara is honored by the Governor of Hawaii and the Hawaiian State legislature in a special ceremony.

Colonel Harry Fukuhara and Major Noby Yoshimura are honored with a One Person Can Make a Difference award by Visas for Life for their role in discovering the Sugihara story.  They are given a medal in a special ceremony with Mrs. Sugihara in attendance.

May 2003
Sugihara is honored in a Visas for Life exhibit that opens at the Marshfield Public Library, Marshfield, Wisconsin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The exhibit is also shown in Milwaukee.

Light One Candle: A Child’s Diary of the Holocaust exhibit (includes story of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara) opens at the YIVO institute in New York City.  Exhibit runs through November 2003.

September 2003
Sugihara is honored in a Visas for Life exhibit that opens at the City Hall in Vienna, Austria.  Many families of the diplomats travel to the opening of the exhibition.  The exhibit is widely covered in the press.

October 2003
The Sugihara story is honored at a formal ceremony at the US State Department with Secretary of State Colin Powell present.  Powell is presented with a Sugihara medal.

Sugihara is honored in a Visas for Life exhibit that shows in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, sponsored by Congressman Tom Lantos and Senator Charles Schumer.  Sugihara medals are presented to various dignitaries.

December 11, 2003
Sugihara is honored in a Visas for Life exhibit that opens at the Arts and Cultural Center sponsored by the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in North Miami, Florida.  Guests of honor are the Mayor of Hollywood, Florida, and former US Attorney General Janet Reno.

January 2004
Sugihara is honored as part of the Light One Candle: A Child’s Diary of the Holocaust exhibit at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.  The exhibit in part tells the story of Solly Ganor and his friendship with Sugihara.

February 2004
Sugihara is honored in a special ceremony in conjunction with a Visas for Life exhibit that opens at the International Convention Center, Binyaney Ha’ooma, in Jerusalem, Israel.  There is a program at the Israeli Knesset (parliament).  Visas for Life Sugihara medals are presented to the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  The exhibit is sponsored by the American Jewish Committee and Julius Koppelman.

March 2004
Sugihara is honored in a Visas for Life exhibit at St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida.

May 2004
Light One Candle exhibition opens at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Center.

July 26, 2004
Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats exhibition opens at the Hungarian Foreign Ministry building in Budapest.  This is for a gathering of Hungarian diplomats in honor of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic rescue in Budapest.  Agnes Hirschi, Visas for Life European Exhibit Coordinator, organizes this program.

April 2005
Visas for Life exhibit opens in Montreal, Canada, and has a one-year tour.  The exhibit also opens at the Cleveland Public Library.

May 2005
WGBH, the Public Broadcasting System affiliate in Boston, broadcasts “Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness” on a national broadcast.

November 2006
Visas for Life exhibit opens in Morgantown, West Virginia.

January 2008
Visa Retten Leben: Die “Gerechten Diplomaten” [Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats] exhibit opens in Idar-Oberstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

April 2008
Visas for Life exhibit opens at Ellis Island national historic site.  Sugihara is featured in the exhibit.

October 2008
Mrs. Yukiko Sugihara passes away at the age of 94.

December 2008
Visas for Life exhibit opens at the Jewish Community Center in Mexico City.  The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Yukiko Sugihara.

Updated October 29, 2017