NAGOYA (Japan) • "Even a hunter cannot kill a bird that flies to him for refuge." This samurai maxim inspired one gifted and courageous man to save thousands of people in defiance of his government and at the cost of his career. Last Friday, I came to Nagoya at the invitation of the Japanese government to speak in honour of his memory. The astonishing Chiune Sugihara raises again the questions: What shapes a moral hero? And how does someone choose to save people that others turn away?
Research on those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust shows that many exhibited a streak of independence from an early age. Sugihara was unconventional in a society known for prizing conformity. His father insisted that his son, a top student, become a doctor.