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
Chicago Finance Whiz Honors 'Japan's Schindler'
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)

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." (More Chiune Sugihara stories.)

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