Anatole Ponve (born Anatole Ponevejsky) was born on January 7, 1900 in the Siberian city of Irkutsk. In the 1920s, he and his brothers David and Leo moved to Harbin, Manchuria, where they began a business of importing woolens from Japan. There he married Gita Preisman whose family had also come to Manchuria from Irkutsk. In 1935, Ponevejsky went to Japan to run the exports side of the business. He first settled in Yokohama where his daughter Tamara was born in 1935, and later moved to Kobe where his younger daughter Irene was born in 1940. He organized the Ashkenazi Jewish community of 25 families, renting a building on Yamamoto-Dori Street that housed a synagogue and community center. In 1940 and 1941, over two thousand Polish Jewish refugees arrived in Kobe. The entire Kobe Jewish community, spearheaded by Ponevejsky, his brother-in-law, Moise Moiseeff and Leo Hanin, coordinated a massive refugee relief effort and successfully persuaded Japanese authorities to issue permits to extend the stay of refugees in Kobe. The communal organization, now know by its telegraphic acronym JEWCOM, also sent money for ship fares for refugees who were stranded in Vladivostok. When their funds ran low, they appealed to the JDC in New York for added money so that they could continue their relief efforts unabated. Ponevejsky left Kobe for the United States in April 1941 to attend to medical problems. Gita and the two girls planned to follow Anatole shortly thereafter. While living with his cousin Gregory Toper in New York, Ponevejsky continued trying to find visas for the Polish refugees still in Japan, and worked with the JDC to continue funding for the relief efforts. In the meantime, Gita and her two daughters left for the United States in November 1941, but became stranded in Manila following the American entry into World War II. Unable to leave the Philippines, they remained there for the duration of the war and only came to the United States in June 1945. After the war, Ponevejsky commuted between the United States and Japan where he operated a store in Tokyo where Chiune Sugihara briefly worked. He became president of the Tokyo Jewish Communal Association and established the Tokyo Jewish Community Center.