Summary of the March 13 Lecture
"Polish-Japanese Secret Cooperation During World War II: Sugihara
Chiune and Polish Intelligence", by Dr.
The March meeting was one of the outstanding occasions of the ASJ, when
a near-capacity audience of around 150 gathered in the great hall of OAG
House, drawn no doubt by the topicality of the subject, which was reinforced
by a "national news brief" in the Japan Times the previous day,
announcing the meeting. The meeting was covered by Austrian television,
and attended by staff of the Japan Times Weekly, which had recently published
a feature article on Sugihara; the Japan Times followed up the meeting by
publishing a two-column report on page 2 on March 15th. Dr. Rutkowska expects
her paper to he published in Japanese this spring in "Polonoica",
and hopes for publication in English in the autumn in "Japan Forum"
(Journal of the British Association for Japanese Studies, Oxford University
Dr. Rutkowska's subject, Polish-Japanese cooperation during World War II,
mainly concerned intelligence activities, and she began by outlining the
difficulties facing a researcher in such a field. As agents keep no notes,
their later reconstructions of their activities are necessarily faulty,
and some of them adhere to the principle of secrecy, not revealing names
even when the need for secrecy has long since passed. Also the practice
of releasing state documents after 50 years does not always apply to military
documents, especially those concerning intelligence activities. Moreover,
in the case of Japan the authorities claim that the archives of that period
were either burnt or moved to the U.S.
In 1936 Japan signed an Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany and Italy. In the
next three years Hitler's policy of aggrandizement moved inexorably towards
war, and the final signal was the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty
on August 23rd, 1939. Japan took this as a breach of the Anti-Comintern
Pact, and, feeling no longer able to trust its allies, decided to set up
an observation post on both Germany and USSR in the form of a consulate
in Kaunas, Lithuania. In September Poland was invaded from both sides, and
some of the Polish military units in the east crossed the Lithuanian border
and were interned. Some escaped from the camps and set up an escape network,
in which they were assisted by the head of the Polish intelligence in Lithuania
(called Wierzba, 'Willow'), Ludwik Hryncewicz, whose main aim was to get
intelligence officers out of the camps. One of these was Lt. Leszek Daszkiewicz,
and he established contact with Capt. Alfons Jakubianiec in Kaunas. Meanwhile,
with the completion of the German and Soviet occupation of Poland, thousands
of refugees poured into Lithuania. However, the Polish legation in Kaunas
closed down in protest against the handing over of Polish territory around
Vilnius to Lithuania, and it was left to the British and French representatives
to look after the refugees. In this they were helped by the Polish intelligence
service, who soon extended their cooperation to the newly opened Japanese
consulate in Kaunas, and in particular to the Vice-Consul, Sugihara Chiune.
Sugihara, who was fluent in Russian, had previously served in Harbin, and
was charge d'affaires in Helsinki before being transferred to Kaunas. He
later described his mission in Kaunas as being to discover when Germany
was most likely to attack Russia, thus enabling Japan to transfer forces
from the Soviet-Manchurian border to the south Pacific. Hryncewicz learnt
of these Japanese intelligence operations by getting a Pole placed as a
butler in the consulate, and in the spring of 1940 Jakubianiec and Daszkiewicz
contacted Sugihara, using the names Kuncewicz and Perz respectively. We
have various accounts of what transpired. Sugihara says he used to see them
whenever they wished until August of that year, when the consulate had to
be closed down; at that point he issued them with Japanese service passports
as secretaries of the consulate, and sent them to Germany in his official
car. Hryncewicz says he had taken the initiative in this matter because
Jakubianiec was in danger; it was agreed that Sugihara would take the two
men with him to Germany, where they would then be able to contact Wierzba
through the Japanese diplomatic couriers plying between Berlin, Kaunas,
Moscow and Tokyo, and Sugihara would also help to transfer packages to Maj.
Michal Rybikowski in Stockholm for transmission to the Polish government
in exile in London. Daszkiewicz reports that during 1940 he passed to Sugihara
information about Soviet troop movements, and that Sugihara knew perfectly
well that he and Jakubianiec were involved in military intelligence. Sugihara
gave Jakubianiec a Japanese passport in April, but procrastinated over giving
one to Daszkiewicz, eventually issuing it in August but backdating it.
Daszkiewicz also reports on Sugihara's issuing of transit visas to Polish
refugees. He says Sugihara came up with the idea of sending the refugees
via Japan to a small island state off the coast of South America, and he
got the honorary consul of that state to agree to issue residence visas,
though they both knew that the refugees, once in Japan, would go elsewhere.
When the time came, it was the Jews who came in great numbers. The agreed
number of visas to be issued was 600, but they issued many more, about 900.
Daszkiewicz also suggested making a rubber stamp to facilitate the process,
and Sugihara agreed. They made a stamp for him, and also secretly made another
for themselves, with which they issued more visas after the closure of the
Kaunas consulate, backdating them.
Sugihara's own account of this is as follows. In August (probably in July,
actually) the consulate was besieged by refugees wanting transit visas.
They were eligible for these if they had visas for the country of final
destination, but most of them had not. For ten days he sent fruitless dispatches
to Tokyo asking for authorization to issue in any case, but eventually gave
up and issued visas on his own responsibility - about 3,500 of them, to
the best of his memory - having established that the USSR would also issue
transit visas if Japanese ones were issued first. Mrs. Sugihara added, in
a conversation with Dr. Rutkowska, that the refugees came because the Dutch
consul in Kaunas had the idea of granting them entry visas for Curacao in
the then Dutch West Indies, which could only be got to via Japan. She also
said that her husband knew that he could lose his job if he was discovered,
but was determined to go through with it. He worked from morning till night
without a break for several days, knowing that the consulate would soon
be closed; towards the end he got very tired, but fortunately he had a strong
When the consulate was closed, he burned all the documents and moved to
the Hotel Metropolis. The consular seal had already been packed, but he
continued to issue provisional laissez passers to refugees, writing the
last ones at the window of the train taking him to Berlin on September 1st.
In Berlin he reported his actions to the ambassador, Kurusu Saburo, who
belonged to the pro-American faction in the Foreign Office and did not say
a word. Soon after, Sugihara was moved to Prague as consul general, and
from there he sent his own report to the Foreign Office, stating that he
had issued 2,092 visas. His wife says that he had lost count, as he had
stopped writing visa numbers in August, and present-day estimates of the
number of Jews who escaped via Japan are in the region of 5,000-6,000.
The man charged with organizing their reception in Japan was the Polish
ambassador in Tokyo, Tadeusz Romer, and his unpublished reports to the Polish
government in exile make interesting reading. He organized a relief committee,
which raised funds from the local Polish and Jewish communities and also
from Jewish organizations in America, and found accommodations in Kobe.
The embassy worked to get visas to various destination countries, and when
it was closed down at the end of 1941 the Japanese transferred the remaining
refugees, about 1,000 of them, to Shanghai. Many years after the war, Romer
told his cousin, who had collaborated with Dr. Rutkowska in writing the
present paper, about an amusing episode. One day thirty people arrived in
Tsuruga from Nakhodka with forged visas, all using the same name "Jakub
Goldberg" written in the Japanese phonetic "katakana" syllabary.
The Japanese were furious, and sent them back to Nakhodka, where they could
not disembark as they no longer had Soviet entry visas. For several weeks
they sailed to and fro, until Romer finally got the Japanese authorities
to allow them to land on condition that they would leave Japan within three
weeks, which he arranged with the help of the Dutch and American ambassadors.
Back in Europe, Jakubianiec and Daszkiewicz went on from Berlin to Stockholm,
where they got in touch with Rybikowski. There they decided that they would
make use of their Japanese service passports to continue intelligence work
in Germany, Jakubianiec with the Japanese military attache in Berlin (passing
on all information from there to Stockholm), and Daszkiewicz with Sugihara
in Prague and, from March 1941, in Konigsberg (in the former East Prussia),
where Sugihara, under orders from Ambassador Oshima, opened a consulate
general, whose purpose, like that of the old Kaunas consulate, was to provide
information about German and Soviet troop movements. Wierzba again arranged
to have a Pole working in the Sugihara household, and he was Daszkiewicz's
most trusted co-worker. As Germany's preparations for war against the USSR
increased, they discovered that the consulate was under observation. Eventually
the Germans pressed the Japanese Foreign Office to recall Sugihara as a
persona non grata; the consulate was closed down in autumn, 1942, and Sugihara
was moved to Bucharest.
In July 1941, the Polish intelligence outpost in Berlin was liquidated by
the German counter-intelligence, and Jakubianiec was arrested, and executed
in Sachsenhausen in 1945. One reason for this disaster was Jakubianiec's
own lack of prudence in his personal relations, and another was the carelessness
of the Warsaw members of the network. Daszkiewicz escaped from Konigsberg
with Sugihara's help, but this was the end of the cooperation between the
Polish and Japanese intelligence services in Germany (Oshima fearing a deterioration
in their relations with the Germans), though it continued in Stockholm between
the Japanese military attache, Gen. Onodera Makoto, and Rybikowski.
A question time followed, during which many searching questions were put
to the speaker, and then the meeting closed with a vote thanks proposed
by Rabbi James M. Lebeau, who thanked both the ASJ and Dr. Rutkowska for
making available this information about a man of whom he had known nothing
prior to coming to Tokyo. This was not the end of the evening's activities,
however, as we were treated to a reception hosted by the Polish Ambassador,
H.E. Mr. Henryk Lipszyc, and members and visitors lingered on until close
to 10:00 pm.
Adapted from "The Asiatic Society of Japan Bulletin
No. 4", April 1995, compiled by Hugh Wilkinson.
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