Oral History

Lucille Szepsenwol Camhi describes obtaining Japanese transit visas from Chiune Sugihara in Kovno

Lucille's father died three months before she was born. Lucille's mother decided to immigrate to the United States with Lucille and her sister, Fejga. They completed all the paperwork, but were unable to get their final papers because of the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Volozhin was in the Soviet-occupied zone of Poland. Lucille and her sister feared arrest by the Soviets because they were members of a Jewish Zionist youth group. The girls fled to Vilna, where their mother later joined them. Their American immigration papers were forwarded to the consulate in Kovno. Lucille and her sister traveled to Kovno for those papers and also succeeded in obtaining Japanese transit visas. They left Vilna, traveling by the Trans-Siberian Express, and arrived in Japan in September 1940. In November 1940, they arrived in the United States. Their mother joined them a year later.


My sister and I pushed ourselves into the room with, uh, Mr. Sugihara. He was...he asked us our name. He asked us where our parents were. We told him. My father was not living. My mother has no papers. And he looked very sympathetic at us and he just stamped, gave us the visa right there on the spot. INTERVIEWER: And how did you react? LUCILLE: We got very hysterical. My sister and I got hysterical, started to cry and started to say, "Thank you, thank you," in Polish. And he just raised his hand like saying, it's okay. And that's it. And we went out of the room.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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