World History: January 1933, Germany. The Reichstag election takes place and the Nazi Party (NSDAP) wins 44 percent of the votes. President Paul von Hindenburg appoints Adolf Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany. After Paul von Hindenburg’s death in 1934, Hitler combines the offices of President and Chancellor into one making himself an autocratic leader.
Refugees: The most rapid Jewish integration into the German society started at the end of the 18th century and lasted throughout the entire 19th century. Germany was one of those European countries where this integration was the most extensive. In the Weimar Republic, which lasted from 1918 till 1933, the Jews were granted all the civil and political rights. They were not discriminated by the government; however, the discontent of the Radical Right was growing increasingly
Ch. Sugihara: In 1924 he is appointed as an officer in the Consulate General of Japan in Harbin, China.
World History: The year 1936 marks the beginning of the aggressive foreign policy initiated by Nazi Germany. This year the Nazi occupy the demilitarized Rhine River zone. The Anschluss of Austria takes place on March 12, 1938. On September 28 of the same year, the Sudetenland is annexed and is followed by the occupation of Czechoslovakia on March 15, 1939 and Memel on March 22, 1939.
Refugees: The Nuremberg Laws passed in Germany in 1935, which started the racial discrimination against Jews. According to the laws, those who descend from the Jewish grandparents (if “Jewish blood” is traced in any of the latest four generations) are deprived of certain civil rights, as for instance the right to work for government.
Ch. Sugihara: In 1933 he is appointed as the Chief of the Manchuria Railway Company.
World History: The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is signed on August 23, 1939 and the independent Central and Eastern European countries are divided into Nazi and Soviet spheres of interest. According to this Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, the entire territory of Lithuanian is assigned to Germany.
Refugees: Racial discrimination against Jews grows and expands all across the occupied territories. The Nazis are treating Jewish people as second-class citizens. The Jewish emigration gets greatly influenced by the Crystal Night (a.k.a. the Night of the Broken Glass or Kristallnacht), which happens on November 9 - November 10, 1938. The pogrom is followed by an increased number of Jewish emigrants from Germany and Austria; however, obtaining a visa is not easy. 36 thousand Jews emigrate from Germany and Austria in 1938. Another 77 thousand flee the countries in 1939.
Ch. Sugihara: In 1934 he resigns from his position as the Chief of the Manchuria Railway Company.
World History: On September 1, 1939 the World War II begins.
Refugees: Right after the beginning of the World War II, on September 17, 1939, the Nazis occupy the most part of Poland making the Jewish refugees flee the country and move to the neighbouring independent Lithuania, where they hope to find safety and security. However, the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet army follows shortly. At the beginning of the summer of 1939, the number of refugees increases even more due to the Soviet invasion of Poland. The people start hiding from the Bolsheviks.
Ch. Sugihara: In 1937 he works as an interpreter in the Embassy of Japan in Helsinki, Finland.
World History: On October 10, 1939 the mutual assistance pact is signed between Lithuania and the USSR, under the conditions of which Lithuania accepts the Red Army (the Soviet military basis) into the territory of the country and Vilnius, the long-term capital of the country is transferred back to Lithuania. At this time the residents of Vilnius are mostly Poles, Jews and Russian.
Refugees: On October 14, 1939 a mass-migration of war refugees into Lithuania starts. At this time Lithuania is still an officially independent country, therefore it should serve as a convenient basis for emigration into other states. Many Yeshivas (religious schools) are also transferred to Lithuania in order to escape the forthcoming threat.
Ch. Sugihara: In 1939 he becomes a Vice-consul in Lithuania.
World History: On June 15, 1940 the Soviet Union occupies Lithuania. At the end of the summer, Lithuania completely loses its independence and becomes the 15th republic of the Soviet Union.
Refugees: On April 6, 1940 the Soviets agree to allow Jewish people to cross the Soviet territory. The Winter War starts and the only way to escape the country is through the Soviet Union.
Ch. Sugihara: Throughout the summer of 1940 he is issuing visas to Jewish refugees.