Monday, May 19, 2014

World War II Memoir: Chiune Sugihara

There're quite a few YouTube videos today on Chiune Sugihara, but I was struck with this 20-minute Hirameki TV project "George Bluman's Story of a Jewish Family Saved by Sugiura's Visas" released on February 15, 2014, just a few months ago. George Bluman, professor of mathematics at British Columbia University, speaks of his father (Nathan), mother (Susan), and uncle’s family, and how they escaped Poland and Lithuania, from the Nazi's threats, thanks to Sugihara's visas. They traveled through Siberia, Vladivostok, Japan Sea, Kobe, Tokyo, and the Pacific Ocean to their final destination, Vancouver, Canada. A few ten dollar bills were all their parents had left after such a long journey. Nathan had to work immediately and secured a job as a meat packer and Susan as a seamstress. Nathan held an engineering degree from a Warsaw University but was not recognized in Canada. He had to enter a Canadian University to earn his degree anew, this time in agricultural studies.

George Bluman contends that it was only after the 1980s that Nathan found the name of Chiune Sugihara, as the Japanese Consul in charge who saved them, after reading "Fugu Plan" – the untold story of the Japanese and the Jews during WWII - written in 1979 by Marvin Tokayer and Mary Swartz. Nathan wrote to Chiura Sugihara to thank him. George did not mention if Nathan's letter ever reached Chiura, who was then no longer a diplomat, living in Moscow working as a trader.

The "Fugu Plan" book was news to me. I'm aghast. In building Manchuria, Japan planned to accept immigration of white Russians into Manchuria, and form a sort of autonomous region. Some countries, including the U.S. were not against the plan, at least not initially. Some Japanese coined it the Fugu Plan, analogous to the proverb "poison quells poison" - a double-faced delicacy or death of a puffer fish. It was well known that Japan won the Russo-Japanese war with aid from friendly white Russian financiers. The key then was how to harness the economic and political power of white Russians. The plan, however, was negated at the NYC World Jewish Congress and subsequently abandoned.

George Bluman then spoke of his sister Barbara who died of cancer in 2001 without finishing her book, I have My Mother's Eyes. Barbara's daughter, Danielle completed it in 2009 with help from the family. I was impressed with Bluman's dispassionate way of speaking, but brimmed with his profound affection for all his family members. Bluman spared no praise toward Chiune Sugihara and called him a brave man. Bluman says Chiune saved Jewish lives irrespective of the utmost danger he and his family faced. He really believes his parents would have perished in the gas chamber if not for Sugihara's visas.

He spoke of his daughter who became a professor of psychology, specializing in studies about happiness. Bluman quoted his daughter's theorizing that happiness has nothing to do with financial success. Happiest and most respectful is the man who helps others. Chiune deserves respect who was motivated only by his conscience and not out of personal gain or profit. Bluman then rephrases the usual way Chiune is praised. The real savior was Chiune Sugihara, and Schindler should be called the "German Sugihara". Bluman personally established a small Sugihara prize and urges the Japanese to follow suit.

He would like his sister's book translated into Japanese, as the book is full of positive life views (even toward adversaries) and would most likely inspire Japanese youth.

Additional Resources:
1. More info about Chiune Sugihara

No comments: