Polish diplomats in Japan helped save Jews from Holocaust

Poland's WW2 ambassador in Japan, along with a large group of Polish diplomats in the country, helped save Jews from the Holocaust, an oriental studies expert told PAP on Tuesday.

Olga Barbasiewicz from Krakow’s Jagiellonian University said that between 1940 and 1941, Tadeusz Romer and his colleagues helped save over a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees in Japan, and later in Japanese-held Shanghai, by providing them with consular care and travel documents to third countries.

Barbasiewicz said that although Polish Jews were only a small group among the vast numbers of European Jews who fled the war to Japan, they were the only ones to still hold their original Polish citizenship. This, she explained, made it easier for Romer and his team to provide them with visas to other countries, notably Palestine and British colonies.

The visa operation was possible thanks to Romer's personal connections to the US and British ambassadors in Japan.

In 1941, Japanese authorities closed Romer's embassy in Tokyo owing to the approaching war with the US, but allowed it to move as a special mission to Japanese-occupied Shanghai, where Romer continued his operation.

According to Barbasiewicz, Romer and his colleagues helped in the resettlement of around 1,700 Jews, mainly from Poland.