Yukiko Sugihara, who encouraged her diplomat husband to issue the visas that saved thousands of Jews, died Oct. 8 in Fujisawa, Japan, at the age of 94.
In 1940, Sugihara encouraged her husband, Chiune, Japan’s consul in Kovno, Lithuania, to issue visas to thousands of Polish Jews trapped in Lithuania, despite the risk to his career and family. Chiune Sugihara was named Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
Yukiko Sugihara was the author of the book “Visas for Life,” which tells the story of her husband’s heroic actions. She and her book inspired Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats Project, a traveling exhibit and program started in 1993 that features the story of life-saving diplomats.
“Human life is very important,” Sugihara wrote in her book. “Being virtuous in life is also very important. My husband and I talked about the visas before he issued them. We understood that both the Japanese and German governments disagreed with our ideas, but we went ahead anyhow.
“The Jews who passed through Kaunas still treasure the visas which my husband issued. They didn’t forget what they shouted when we were leaving Kaunas station: ‘We will never forget you. We will see you again.'” In future years, the Sugiharas met several of the Jews that had been saved by the visas. — jta