Mercantile Exchange Chief Rescued by ‘Japanese Schindler’
To this day, Leo Melamed recalls vividly the first thing his mother did when his family walked off the boat at the small Japanese port city of Tsuruga.
“She told me that she can now let go of my hand,” Melamed recalled. “She held my hand for two years straight.”
It was the first safe land the Jewish family had stepped on since fleeing their home in Nazi-occupied Poland two years earlier.
“This is the first time I can take a deep breath without being afraid that it might be my last,” his mother told her husband and her 7-year-old son when they stepped off the boat.
Back then, the young refugee was still called Leibel Melamdovich. But it was as Leo Melamed that he would later become one of the world’s best-known financial innovators, father of the futures market and of currency trading exchanges that have revolutionized stock markets worldwide.
As he spoke with the Forward in late June, Melamed was preparing to travel back to Tsuruga, the port of his boyhood refuge, to help memorialize the experiences he and 2,000 other Jews had there. They were a fortunate cohort saved by the intervention of the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara — sometimes known as the Japanese Raul Wallenberg or Oskar Schindler — even as his government prepared to ally itself with Nazi Germany.