A young boy wants to see the latest Laurel and Hardy movie, but he's given away his allowance to help Jewish refugees, thousands of them flooding in from Poland hoping to escape the Nazis.
Solly decides to hit up his aunt for a loan, one Lithuanian coin for the movie. At his aunt's shop a stranger overhears Solly's request and spontaneously offers the boy two coins. On impulse, the boy invites the stranger to his family's first night of Chanukah celebration.
That's how the Japanese Consul to Lithuania Chiune Sugihara came to attend Jewish Chanukah.
The following summer, Sugihara and his wife and children, woke one morning in mid-July to an enormous clamor outside. Peering out the window, they saw scores of people crowded up against the consulate fence. They were Jewish refugees desperate to flee the Nazis.
Jewish refugees trying to escape
Three times Chiune Sugihara wired Tokyo for permission to issue the Jewish refugees visas. Three times he was denied. He discussed the situation with his wife and children. "I spent an entire night plunged in thought," he wrote later.
"I could have refused to issue them, but would that, in the end, have truly been in Japan’s national interest? I came to the conclusion, after racking my brain, that the spirit of humane and charitable action takes precedence above all else," he wrote in is 1984 memoir. "“I am convinced to this day that I took that path of action faithfully, putting my job on the line, without fear or trepidation in my heart.”
For 29 days, from July 31 to August 28, 1940, they wrote and signed visas by hand, more than 300 a day. Yukiko made him sandwiches, when Sugihara refused to stop for meals. Jewish refugees lined outside waiting and when some climb over the consulate fence, Sugihara paused to go out and promise he was doing all he could to help them.
"They were human beings and they needed help," he said later. "I'm glad I found the strength to make the decision to give it to them."
Sugihara was a religious man and believed in a universal God of all people. He was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't I would be disobeying God."
Sugihara is credited with saving some 6000 Jews from the Nazis.
As for Sugihara's young friend...most of Solly's family was murdered in the Holocaust. But Solly and his father survived in one of the outer camps of Dachau. Ironically, in May 1945, Solly was liberated by Japanese American soldiers of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, men who had been interned in their own country.
Thanks to the Japan Times and the Jewish Virtual Library for photos and information.