In 1940, five-year-old Hiroki Sugihara, the eldest son of the Japanese consul to Lithuania, saw from the consulate window hundreds of Jewish refugees from Poland. They had come to Hiroki's father with a desperate request: Could consul Sugihara write visas for them to escape the Nazi threat?
The Japanese government denied Sugihara's repeated requests to issue the visas. Unable to ignore the plight of the refugees, he turned to his family. Together they made the crucial decision that saved thousands of lives.
Passage to Freedom, based on Hiroki Sugihara's own words, is one of the most important stories to emerge from the ruins of the Holocaust. It is the story of one man's remarkable courage, and the respect between a father and a son who shared the weight of witness and an amazing act of humanity.
This is a quiet book about one corner of the horrors of WWII. Just about every piece of this story is unique to WWII lore--it is set in Lithuania. Its hero is Japanese. There are no explicit battles or concentration camps. Yet this is still a moving story, maybe all the more moving for its simplicity.
What I liked best about Passage to Freedom is that it showed how one ordinary man used his ordinary business powers to help people. Mr. Sugihara is not in the military. He doesn't hide people under his floor. He simply does his job--giving visas to people. The catch is that he does his job even when told not to. Despite the consequences (which are laid out in the Afterword), Mr. Sugihara does what he can to help people.
Isn't that all any of us can do? No matter who we are or what we are good at, I believe that we can help others. It might not be flashy, but it is necessary. This is an excellent story to drive home that point.
Four out of five cramped hands.
Release Date: May 1997
Reading Level: Grade 2+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: BLUESTEM