Chicago Finance Whiz Honors 'Japan's Schindler'
Chiune Sugihara saved 6K Jews during World War II
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 30, 2014 6:40 PM CDT
Updated Jun 30, 2014 7:10 PM CDT
Japan's Emperor Akihito visits the monument to Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who rescued Jews in Lithuania during World War II, in Vilnius, Lithuania,Saturday May 26, 2007.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – An 82-year-old Chicago finance wizard arrived in Japan today to pay homage to Chiune Sugihara, who saved him and 6,000 other Jews during World War II, Reuters reports. "It was truly death's door," says Leo Melamed of his family's flight from Lithuania to Japan. "What was coming was the fire that was going to annihilate all of us, and he made the decision he did." Melamed's family found a new home because Sugihara—a diplomat who saved many more Jews than Oskar Schindler—was illegally issuing exit visas for Lithuanians. "He did it because, as he said to his family, 'If I follow the dictates of my government, I will violate the dictates of my God,'" says Melamed.

Settling in the coastal city of Tsuruga, Melamed's family was grateful but at times confused by Japanese culture, the Jewish Daily Forward reports. "My mother had to leave the table; she couldn’t look" at the food, Melamed says of their first meal. "I sat there, but I wouldn’t touch it." Still, their experience in Japan was so positive that Melamed couldn't relate to anti-Japanese images in US culture after moving to Chicago. There, he became a lawyer and head of Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where he created financial futures trading. Now he's meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting a museum in Tsuruga. Sugihara is "the epitome of the issue of 'Can one man do anything himself?'" says Melamed. "The answer is yes."

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Showing 3 of 7 comments
Jul 1, 2014 3:35 PM CDT
Mr Sugihara's deeds are forever enshrined in the "Righteous Among the Nations" at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem
Jul 1, 2014 4:34 AM CDT
A truly amazing scenario that I have never heard of before. Kudos to people of integrity and honesty whose hearts are open to the needs of others less fortunate. (Congress, take a hint!)
Jun 30, 2014 11:14 PM CDT
But currently: The japanese very much do not want anyone in Japan unless they're japanese. Honour was there, but is now a thing of the past