Tag Archives: Never Forget

An Uplifting Story About A Man Who Saved Thousands Of Jews From The Holocaust (In Defiance Of Orders)

If you watch the news or follow social media in any capacity, it’s easy to think that the world is going to Hell and we’re all just waiting for our turn to get burned. It’s not hard to find a terrible news story that seriously dents your faith in humanity. Sometimes, it’s not even headline news. There are plenty of stories of people just being assholes.

As I’ve noted before, these types of stories can skew your perspective. In the grand scheme of things, the world is getting better. You don’t have to look that hard for evidence of that, either. The problem is few people bother looking.

To help with that, I’d like to share a brief, but uplifting story from one of history’s darkest time periods. It occurred in the early years of World War II, just as some of the worst atrocities in human history were starting to unfold. In such a time, it’s easy to see the worst in people come out.

At the same time, it can also bring out the best in people. One of those people was a man named Chiune Sugihara. Chances are you haven’t heard of him and that’s a shame because what he did was incredible. At a time when thousands of Jews were fleeing Germany and seeking refuge, Chiune used his position as a vice-consul of the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania to issue visas to refugees.

On top of that, he did this in defiance of orders from the Japanese government. He broke rules and protocol to help thousands of desperate families escape Europe. He was even punished for it after the war. Even so, there are thousands of people alive today because of what he did.

His story is remarkable and one I encourage everyone to learn about. The Holocaust Museum has a nice summation of his actions, but there are so many more. Here is a small excerpt.

Following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 hundreds of thousands of Jews and other Polish citizens fled eastward ahead of the advancing German army; many refugees found at least temporary safety in Lithuania. Options for escape were limited and required diplomatic visas to cross international borders. One route was through Asia using a combination of permits issued by foreign envoys responding to the refugee crisis: a bogus visa for entrance to the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao and a visa for transit through Japan.

One such diplomat was Japanese Imperial Consul Chiune Sugihara, the first Japanese diplomat posted in Lithuania. In the absence of clear instructions from his government in Tokyo, Sugihara granted 10-day visas to Japan to hundreds of refugees who held Curaçao destination visas. After issuing some 1800 visas, Sugihara finally received a response to his cables alerting the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo of the situation in Lithuania. The Foreign Ministry reported that individuals with visas headed for the United States and Canada had arrived in Japan without money or final destination visas. In his response, Sugihara admitted to issuing visas to people who had not completed all arrangements for destination visas explaining that Japan was the only transit country available for going in the direction of the United States, and his visas were needed to leave the Soviet Union. By the time the Soviets ordered all diplomatic consulates closed, in late August 1940, Sugihara had saved thousands of Jews over the course of just a few weeks. Because of his efforts, Yad Vashem awarded him the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” in 1984.

The story of Chiune Sugihara may not completely restore your faith in humanity, but it should serve as a strong reminder. Even in our darkest hours, people can still do great things for the right reasons.

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Remembering September 11, 2001

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Today is a solemn, bittersweet day for America. On this day 18 years ago, the September 11th terror attacks shook our world and our spirits. I’m not going to dig into the politics surrounding that day, nor will I entertain the many absurd conspiracy theories that have emerged in wake of it. That wouldn’t be fair to the victims of the attacks and the importance of this day in the collective consciousness off all Americans.

Like so many other major events, everyone remembers where they were on September 11th, 2001. I was in school that day. I was on my way to my algebra class when I heard a couple of teachers talking about a terror attack on New York. At the time, I didn’t know what to make of it. I didn’t even know if it were serious.

I was just a kid. Terror attacks weren’t something that happened in real life. They only happened in movies. Even when they did occur, they were never the kind that demolished major landmarks. That all changed when I saw watched it all unfold on TV. To say it left me shaken would be the understatement of understatements.

There aren’t many days in history that most people can say without question that everything changed that day. September 11, 2001 is definitely one of those days. It marked the end of one era and the start of another. It defined the generations that came before and after it. There are kids alive today who have only ever lived in a post-9/11 world. Whether they know it or not, that fateful day will affect them.

The changes we’ve experienced since that day go beyond terrorism, politics, and war. It’s not unreasonable to say that this fateful day changed the course of history. How we see the world and how we go about surviving it changed a great deal. We’re still feeling the effects of that change today, but on a day like this, it’s also worth remembering how far we’ve come.

As devastating as the September 11th, 2001 attacks were, they brought out the best in a lot of people. You don’t have to look far to find stories of real, unfettered heroism that occurred on that day. Traumatic events have a way of bringing out the worst in some people, but in my experience, the better angels of our nature tend to shine brighter on those moments.

Whether you were alive on that day or not, I encourage you to take a moment to remember the events of September 11th, 2001 and honor those who died. If you can, please consider donating to charities for the victims. There are many harsh lessons we can learn from such a terrible event, but the biggest lesson of all is this.

We survived.

We endured.

We can and will grow stronger in the face of tragedy.

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Never Forget: A Tribute To The Victims Of 9/11 (And The Heroes It Inspired)

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Today is a solemn day, but one we should never forget. I don’t think I need to tell anyone over the age of 25 why September 11th, 2001 is a day we’ll never forget. Even for those born after, it affects them. Nearly two decades later, it continues to affect us all. That’s why we shouldn’t forget. We need to remember because we need to learn from it.

There’s a lot I can say about the issues surrounding September 11th, 2001. I could spend the next year, writing an article every day about the lives lost and the families shattered by that terrible incident. It still wouldn’t be enough. It still wouldn’t heal the scars.

With that in mind, I won’t lament over what and who we lost on that day. Instead, I’ll take the advice of the late Fred Rogers, a man whose capacity for love and compassion is legendary.

In the spirit of those wise, caring words, I think the best thing we can do to honor the victims and learn from the trauma we all experienced that fateful day is to acknowledge the heroes. You don’t have to look far to find stories of heroism on day like September 11th. On a day like this, though, those stories should carry even greater weight.

In the end, the losses are always going to hurt. However, it’s important to remember that even in the face of atrocity, good people find a way to be good. Amazing people find a way to be heroes. That, more than anything, is worth remembering.

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