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Perla Frankel (October 1, 1939)

Wilek found it impossible to get into the Japanese Consulate, there were so many people waiting and pushing, trying to get in. Wilek looked around the consulate grounds and saw a gate at the back of the consulate leading to the garden. He went in and found a door which led to the kitchen. Opening it, he saw a Japanese maid who stared in amazement and then bowed. Wilek bowed back. After much bowing by both of them, he went up the stairs and started opening the various doors to empty rooms, suddenly finding himself in a room together with a very surprised Consul Sugihara. “How did you get in?” he asked in German. Wilek asked for forgiveness as he explained how he had entered and that he was desperate for visas for the family, particularly as two of them were children. Consul Sugihara calmly listened, picked up his pen and asked “What are their names?” When Wilek emerged with the visas nobody understood how he had got in to see the Consul. “Magic” he replied. “With God’s help I became a magician.”

 

Nina Admoni Wertans (November 17, 1932)

I was born, Nina Wertans, in Warsaw, Poland, on November 17, 1932 and led an uneventful childhood there until September 1, 1939, the day the Germans attacked Poland. Family conferences were held and it was decided to send us off to Wilno in Lithuania, where my Szeskin grandmother lived – to be away from the war. The German army was advancing. The family thought the war would not last long. The Russians then occupied Wilno [Vilnius], my uncle Miron Szeskin was sent to jail and ultimately to Siberia (Menachem Begin was his cell mate). Soviet soldiers started making midnight searches in our apartment in order to catch the “capitalists.” On a train to Kovno (Kaunas), the capital of Lithuania, my mother heard from a Chasid of the Mire Yeshive that he was going to a Japanese Consul there, to get a transit visa through Japan – on which basis – plus a visa to Curacao – one could obtain the much valued exit permits from Russian occupied Wilno. The Consul of the Netherlands provided us with a paper that said that a visa was not necessary for Curacao and on that basis Sempo Sugihara issued us with a transit visa for Japan. We then applied and received an exit visa from the Soviet authorities in Wilno. The train trip from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian Railway was long, about 12 days. The landscape from the train was mostly white, with occasional trees. There were many stops. We would get off at all the stations which were small and look around. There were signs proclaiming the sale of “Kipiatok” or boiling water, the only item to be purchased along the way. We arrived in Japan and were herded out for inspection by the authorities. My parents feared I would not be allowed to land but quarantined due to the red spots that appeared all over my face. I was given a kerchief and told to look down. I passed that inspector successfully and off we went to Kobe. We registered at a nice hotel, where my parents thought I could get medical aid without being noticed. I remember the bed being especially soft and luxurious after the long trip. Upon recovering we moved on, this time to a Japanese style hotel with a rock garden that I found quite beautiful. The rooms were separated by rice paper movable screens and doors. 

 

Edith Hamer Finkelstein (May 14, 1937)

"I was born on May 14, 1937 in Kaunas, Lithuania. In 1937 my parents were living in Klaipeda. My father was a successful import-export trader, and my grandfather was one of the owners of a lumber mill in Taurage. Our family was big. Considering the future, my mother went to deliver the baby to Kaunas, which was the capital of Lithuania at the time. That location was supposed to be more widely recognized on the birth certificate than the small town of Klaipeda where my parents lived. There was a small Jewish hospital in Kaunas. I was named Edith (Edita) in honour of my father‘s mother. This name was also convenient for being easily understood in many languages. When Klaipeda was occupied by the Germans my father was forced to give up his business and leave the town. At first we stayed in Taurage, where my grandparents resided, and later we moved to Kaunas. The further the more obvious it became that Jews are not safe in this part of the world. On July 24, 1940 we were issued the visas by the Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara in Kaunas. We could apply for the visas as my father originated from Eastern Prussia and held a German passport. All my mother‘s relatives held Lithuanian passports. When the Nazi occupied Lithuania, they were all exiled into the Kaunas ghetto. Almost all of them were shot at the Ninth Fort. We were lucky. We got the visas marked by numbers 7 and 8. My mother‘s passport had an entry stating that I was her child. "