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Monday, October 25, 2010

The Heart of Sugihara

I saw a very moving documentary some months back about a Japanese man during WWII who did a remarkable thing. It was a very noble act that literally saved the lives of thousands. As it has been proven by Hitler and other tyrants time and again in our history, it is appalling how horrible and sickening human nature can be. Still, there is a tiny spark of compassion inside all of us that can overcome any wickedness if we heed it. Can one man’s compassion make a difference? Yes, Chiune "Sempo" Sugihara proved that such a thing is possible.

He has been known as the “Japanese Oskar Schindler” but while that maybe a convenient moniker, the story of Sugihara deserves recognition on its own and be told once again. His legacy needs to be known because it is part of our innate obligation; that of letting the rest of humanity know that we were blessed to have had men such as him.

I had planned on writing a piece about this great man, but what can I say that hasn’t been said about him with far worthier words than I could muster.

The link below on an excellent write-up about him -

Information on his life and related topics on this Wikipedia entry -

Here’s a brief clip that was part of the docu on him entitled Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindess. Although it’s not the entire film, this segment details the actions he took to save thousands of Jewish people as a diplomat in his posting in Europe (Lithuania).

The full video can be found on the web on some film sharing sites. I watched it again on which I encourage you to (you need to sign up though and install a free video viewing software on your PC but it certainly is worth it for this film alone).

One maddening thing that struck me was that in his fading years, he had to endure anonymity, poverty and loneliness from having to earn a meager living far away from his family. The cynic in me has accepted the fact that life is indeed unfair and that justice is sadly wanting in the world. Yet, I suppose we could all learn from him, as he himself had courageously lived on enduring whatever consequence fate gave him in spite of his benevolent act.

As it was said, towards the end of his life when he did eventually receive some acknowledgement for his heroic act, he was asked what moved him to do so? He conducted himself in such a way that it was a natural thing, as if it was nothing extraordinary but something we were all meant to do.

Life on this earth could be worth living fully if we had a lot more people like him.

"Do what is right because it is right; and leave it alone."

Chiune Sugihara
January 1, 1900 – July 31, 1986

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