Stories of courage and sacrifice inspire children, and adults, to become courageous and sacrificial themselves. Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki is one such story.
Mochizuki tells the story of Hiroki Sugihara, the son of the Japanese ambassador to Lithuania in the 1940’s. If you remember your history, you’ll remember that the 1940’s is when Hitler was fully in control of Germany, and had embarked on his conquest of Europe. 1940 was the year Hitler invaded Poland and refugees flooded into Lithuania ahead of the German troops.
Sugihara’s father looked at the refugees crowded around the gates of the Japanese embassy. He looked at his family. Together, they decided to help the refugees.
And help they did. For months, Sugihara’s father spent his time writing visas for Jews. Even as the Soviets forced the Sugihara’s family to leave Lithuania and the family left on the train, Sugihara’s father was signing visas and throwing them out the train window.
What makes this book remarkable is that it forces readers to realize that the enemy (the Japanese in this story) is comprised of real people who have families, feelings and convictions. While it’s easy to demonize an entire people group for the evil deeds of some of its members, books like Passage to Freedom forces us to rethink that assumption.
Students and parents alike will enjoy Passage to Freedom. Recommended for ages 8 and up.