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You've heard of "Schindler's List," but have you heard of Sugihara's visas?

Oskar Schindler, the subject of the film "Schindler's List," is credited with saving around 1,200 Jews during World War II. But have you ever heard of this humble diplomat-turned-lightbulb-salesman who was a hero to an estimated 6,000?!


Image via Wikimedia Commons.

His name was Chiune Sugihara.

It was 1939. The brink of World War II. Germany had annexed Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland. Jewish refugees from Poland were flooding the surrounding countries. At that time, a third of Lithuania's urban population were Jews.

In 1940, Sugihara was the vice consul of the Japanese consulate in Lithuania. Hundreds were coming into Sugihara's office begging for visas that would give them passage to Japan and away from encroaching war, persecution, and almost certain capture ... and death.

He knew a way to help. Visas.

The rules to get a visa were strict. And Sugihara's bosses back in Tokyo told him to follow the strict rules they'd made. But if he followed the rules, the chances of getting visas to those in need went down.

Too far down.

Actually, it's more accurate to say that if Sugihara wasn't issuing the visas, the people's chances of getting the visas virtually disappeared. The Japanese embassy in Lithuania was ordered to close, all while Sugihara sought permission to approve the visas (as many as three times) and was denied permission from the foreign ministry in Japan.

So, after consulting with his family, Sugihara decided to ignore the rules and issue visas without permission:

"People in Tokyo were not united. I felt it silly to deal with them. ... I knew that somebody would surely complain about me in the future. But, I myself thought this would be the right thing to do. There is nothing wrong in saving many people's lives."
— From "Hitler, Stalin and the Destruction of Poland: Explaining History"
by Nick Shepley

So, he set to writing.

Back then, that was how visas — especially these very special and more or less "illegal" visas — got made. By hand.

A copy of one of Sugihara's handwritten exit visas. Image via Huddyhuddy/Wikimedia Commons.

Pen stroke by pen stroke, he saved lives by giving thousands passage across the Soviet Union, through Japan, and onward.

These refugees weren't headed specifically to Japan but to Curaçao and Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) and had to pass through the Soviet Union and Japan to get there. From the end of July to the end of August, until his consulate in Lithuania was scheduled to close in early September (about a month!), Sugihara issued visas, completely ignoring the rules.

45 years after he signed the visas, Sugihara was asked why he did it. He liked to give two reasons: "They were human beings, and they needed help," he said. "I'm glad I found the strength to make the decision to give it to them."

He didn't stay involved in government after the war ended.

To support his family, he became an interpreter and translator and even did a stint as a door-to-door lightbulb salesman. He wound up managing an export company for the last 20 years of his life.

He was just an average working man ... with a huge, dramatic, bittersweet, and wonderful secret.

On a memorial built for Sugihara in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo, Sugihara is seated on a bench holding a visa.


Image via Joseph Brent/Flickr.

The quote that accompanies his statue is from the Talmud:

"He who saves one life, saves the entire world."

He doesn't have a movie, but wow. What a story. Score one for humanity!

Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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