“Even a hunter cannot kill a bird that flies to him for refuge.”

This Samurai maxim inspired one gifted and courageous man to save thousands of people in defiance of his government and at the cost of his career. On Friday I came to Nagoya at the invitation of the Japanese government to speak in honor of his memory.

The astonishing Chiune Sugihara raises again the questions: What shapes a moral hero? And how does someone choose to save people that others turn away?

Most of the world saw throngs of desperate foreigners. Sugihara saw human beings and he knew he could save them through prosaic but essential action: “A lot of it was handwriting work,” he said.

Day and night he wrote visas. He issued as many visas in a day as would normally be issued in a month.

His wife, Yukiko, massaged his hands at night, aching from the constant effort. When Japan finally closed down the embassy in September 1940, he took the stationery with him and continued to write visas that had no legal standing but worked because of the seal of the government and his name. At least 6,000 visas were issued for people to travel through Japan to other destinations, and in many cases entire families traveled on a single visa.

It has been estimated that over 40,000 people are alive today because of this one man.

Source: author Rabbi David Wolpe – The Japanese Man Who Saved 6,000 Jews With His Handwriting (What the astonishing Chiune Sugihara teaches us about moral heroism)

Chiune Sugihara, Japanese, foreign minister, diplomat

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan at a tree planted in memory of Chiune Sugihara in the garden of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.