It’s September 1939, and Hitler’s Nazi regime is taking flight. German forces have invaded Poland, and thousands of Polish Jews – fearing the worst – have fled to nearby Lithuania. But the USSR, at the time allied with the Germans, was on the move – the refugees knew it wouldn’t be long before their situation became even darker. Fortunately for many of them, Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara had not long arrived in the Lithuanian city of Kovno, and he would go on to help save thousands of their lives.
A gifted Russian speaker, Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to provide Japan with intelligence on the movement of Soviet and German troops around the Baltic region. He was also part of a larger Japanese-Polish cooperative plan, which saw him issue exit visas to Jews hoping to escape their increasingly dangerous environment.