As Japan’s consul to Lithuania during World War II, Chiune Sugihara risked everything, defying his government by writing visas to Japan for over 6,000 Jewish refugees desperate to escape the Nazis. The story of this remarkable man and those he saved will be remembered with a talk by ‘Sugihara survivor’ Masha Leon at the Holocaust Memorial program at the Central Queens YM & YWHA in Forest Hills. This year’s commemoration, which takes place on Thursday, May 1, at 1:30 p.m., at 67-09 108 Street in Forest Hills, is open to the general public with a suggested contribution of $4.

Fleeing occupied Warsaw during World War II with her mother, Masha Leon was among the lucky 2,129 Sugihara visa recipients. She and her mother were able to leave Vilna on the last train out before the Germans moved in. Leon will talk about her experiences before leaving, about their time in Japan, and will also discuss Sugihara’s story, and the question of why the Japanese eventually permitted Jewish refugees, once arrived, to seek refuge in Japan. Masha Leon’s father was a noted journalist and political activist in pre-war Poland who was arrested by the NKVD and in 1940-41 shared a prison cell with Menachem Begin. He spent the war years in Siberia. Masha Leon has been a weekly colunist in the English and Yiddish newspaper, The Forward, since 1979. Several books, in English and in Japanese, have highlighted her experiences, as part of the Sugihara story.

Masha Leon’s talk is one in a series of Spring Author Events sponsored by the Rabbi Simon Hevesi Library of the Central Queens YM & YWHA. All events are open to the general public, with a $4 donation requested. For more information, call 718-268-5011, ext. 151, or email pkurtz@cqyjcc.org