The policy of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs towards Jewish refugees / by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto.
Between 1938 and 1941, more than twenty-four thousand European Jews fled to Japan and China en route to destinations elsewhere. Three thousand moved on, while twenty-one thousand remained in Shanghai until the end of World War II. Few of the refugees chose to go east in order to reach the west. They ended up in Asia because Shanghai was one of the few places that did not require a visa and Japanese diplomats in Europe were issuing transit visas. This study examines the activity of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs when Japan became allied with Germany and its relations with the United States steadily deteriorated. While some Japanese military officials were fascinated by the possibility of exploiting Jewish refugees for Japan's gain, the Foreign Ministry continued to treat visa applications as routine matters. In general, entry visas for Japan were discouraged, though transit visas for Japan and Manchukuo, as well as travel certificates for Shanghai, were possible. Over time, visa requirements were made more stringent, but the ministry failed to anticipate the magnitude of the refugee problem until hundreds of Jews arrived in Japan in early 1941 with no place else to go. Most of these refugees had received visas from the only Japanese to be recognized by Yad Vashem--Sugihara Chiune. This dissertation couples extensive primary sources from the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with data from American government and international organization files. It also uses interviews with former Japanese diplomats, former refugees, and friends and family of Sugihara to enliven the narrative. By following the daily cable traffic between Japanese diplomats overseas and the ministry headquarters in Tokyo, it reveals the reluctance to welcome refugees. But it also shows that, in comparison to the behavior of other countries, Japanese diplomats were more discreet in rejecting refugees, and the ministry was more intent on maintaining the credibility of its visas--even when they were suspect, as in the case of those issued by Sugihara.
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