The story of Chiune Sugihara
In 1940, when Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara was delivering visas to Polish and Lithuanian Jews in Kowno, Tadeusz Romer was serving as the Polish Ambassador to Japan. By the end of summer 1941, thousands of Jewish refugees escaped from the occupied zone to the Far East as a result of the documents issued by Sugihara. However, their holders were still at risk of deportation to Germany, Japan’s ally.
Sugihara took on a great risk by delivering the visas and transit documents, but he was not able to coordinate the actions in his home country. Here, Ambassador Romer came to his aid, devoting much of his time to intervening with the Japanese authorities in order to extend the visas. Without his efforts, the refugees would have been deported to occupied Poland. In addition to granting new passports, Romer also helped Jews obtain visas to countries not involved in the war. Many Jewish lives were spared thanks to his help.
When the Polish diplomatic post was shut down in autumn of 1941, the people who had been under Romer’s care were sent to Shanghai. In November, Romer organised a community of Polish Jews under the leadership of the Shanghai Advisory Council. In August 1942, prior to his return to Europe, Romer formed the Chief Board of the Polish Association in China, an organization that would go on to represent the resident Polish Jews before the Japanese authorities.