The Great Shanghai Escape Part IV



The summer of 1940 brought a measure of desperation in the search for visas in order to escape the clutches of the Soviet Union. Two Dutch citizens stranded in Lithuania independently contacted the Dutch consul in Riga LPJ de Decker, in order to seek his assistance in exiting the country. With Holland itself occupied by the Nazis since the previous May, it was thought to travel to the Dutch held island of Curacao.
Ambassador de Decker informed Peppy Sternheim Lewin and Nathan Gutwirth that no visa was required for entry to Curacao, it was up to the discretion of the local governor to permit entry. De Decker was asked if the passport could be stamped with the words ‘no visa required for Curacao’ while leaving out the stipulation that the governor’s permission was required. De Decker authorized the honorary Dutch consul in Kovno, Jan Zwartendijk, to stamp passports in this fashion, and he even acquiesced a further request that this Curacao ‘visa’ even be issued for non-Dutch citizens. When rescue activist Zorach Warhaftig heard about the Curacao ‘visas’ he immediately spread the word among the refugee community, and thousands of Polish refugees lined up to receive the Curacao visas from Zwartendijk. With their end visa in hand, refugees proceeded to the Japanese consul in Kovno, where Chiune Sugihara issued the vital Japanese visas.
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