Much has been written about the horrors and slaughter of millions during the Holocaust, but few are aware of the stories of rescue and survival by those who have been honored by Yad Vashem as “Righteous among the Nation” for their acts of bravery and courage in saving others. Few had a greater impact than Chiune Sugihara, who as the Japanese imperial Consul-General to Lithuania, saved Jews by issuing temporary transit visas for them to escape Europe. Chiune Sugihara and his wife, Yukiko, when confronted with evil, obeyed the kindness in their hearts and the conscience of their souls, and took action that saved the lives of over 6000 Jews. These survivors became known as “Sugihara Survivors”. Chiune Sugihara performed these acts of compassion in defiance of orders from the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo that denied him permission to issue these life-saving visas. Chiune Sugihara selflessly sacrificed his diplomatic career and risked his life, and the lives of his family, in order to save others. In 1985, more than 50 years later, he and his wife, Yukiko, were recognized as Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel for his actions. He is the only Japanese national to be so honored.
Am Yisrael Chai is honored to present: Leo Melamed, one of the Sugihara Survivors and Chihiro Sugihara, grandson of Chiune Sugihara.
Leo Melamed was born in Bialystok, Poland on March 20, 1932. On September 1st, 1939, Germany declared war on Poland. Leo and his family narrowly escaped death as they managed to flee on the last train out of Bialystok and headed for Vilnius, Lithuania. The situation in Lithuania deteriorated rapidly. Leo Melamed and his family were fortunate to receive one of Chiune Sugihara’s visas. Leo and his parents traveled the treacherous Trans-Siberian Railroad to Japan, and then in 1941 immigrated to the US where they settled in Chicago. Leo attended Law School, and is now a lawyer, writer, lecturer, and financial market innovator. Leo is recognized as the founder of the financial futures market, and is Chairman Emeritus of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group.
Chihiro Sugihara, grandson of Chiune Sugihara and Chairperson of the Visas for Life non-profit organization, has dedicated his life to the legacy of his grandfather, and will share his insights about his grandfather.