The recent death of 82-year-old former Japanese Imperial Army Lieutenant General Kichiro Higuchi in Tokyo was an event of little world attention, except in the Jewish press, Parade Magazine reported yesterday in its copyrighted Intelligence Report. In one of the strangest quirks in modern history and a military secret for decades, it was revealed that the Japanese General personally saved the lives of 20,000 Jews fleeing the Nazi persecutions of Hitler Germany. The event took place in February, 1938 when 20,000 Jewish refugees gathered in Otpor on the Siberian-Manchurian border seeking entry into Siberia, or Manchuria, then under Japanese control. Refused by Stalin, the refugees were turned down by Japan who did not want to offend Nazi Germany. The Jewish Club of Harbin, Manchuria, then appealed to Lieut. Gen, Higuchi of the Kwantung army. The General, who had served as a military attache in Poland, was fully aware of what would happen to the 20,000 refugees if they were returned to Germany. He dispatched a fleet of 12 trains to Otpor, had the refugees transported to Harbin where he provided them with food and temporary housing in the Harbin military barracks. About 5,000 of the Jews remained in Harbin, the others going on to Shanghai and elsewhere. General Higuchi, before his death, was appointed a trustee of Japan’s Israel Association, a fitting honor for this unheralded hero in the Jewish peoples’ fight for survival, Parade reported.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.