Leo Melamed, former chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and recipient of Waseda University’s honorary doctorate on April 1, visited Washington DC’s Holocaust Memorial with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 27.
During World War II, Melamed was one of some 6,000 Jews who escaped Nazi persecution in Europe thanks to a life-saving visa issued by Japanese diplomat and Waseda alumnus Chiune Sugihara (1900-1986).
After transiting through Japan, Melamed settled in the United States, later becoming a leader in global finance as head of the CME.
As Japan’s vice consul in Lithuania, Sugihara is credited with saving thousands by issuing transit visas, against prevailing Ministry policy, allowing them to escape advancing Nazi oppression.
Throughout his demanding career, Melamed never forgot Sugihara, frequently paying respect for his courage and humane conduct. At a meeting with Waseda students, Melamed issued a passionate challenge: “Even one person,” he said, “can change the world. You are lucky to be at the university that produced Chiune Sugihara who stood up for what was right. Take advantage of this opportunity and walk the path of righteousness with your own views so that, at life’s critical junctures, you too can make good decisions.”
Melamed, alongside Prime Minister Abe, viewed the Holocaust Memorial’s Rescuers’ Wall, adorned with names and images of 10,000 figures including Sugihara.
“As a Japanese citizen, I feel extremely proud of Mr. Sugihara’s achievement. The courageous action by this single man saved thousands of lives,” said Prime Minister Abe.