From ........... Associated Press

August 26, 1994

TOKYO (AP) -- As many as 8,000 Jews fleeing the Nazis reached safety because of a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania, according to a U.S. researcher cited Friday by Japanese officials.

The diplomat, Chiune Sugihara, issued transit visas in 1940 to Jewish refugees that allowed them to travel through the Soviet Union to Japan and other points.

Previously, the number of Jews helped by Sugihara's visas had been estimated at 6,000.

The new figure was arrived at by Hillel Levine, director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University.

In the archives at Japan's Foreign Ministry, Levine unearthed a 31-page document listing 1,944 names of Jews who were issued visas.

Shinji Miura, an official of the ministry's diplomatic record office, said Levine calculated that since each visa was used for an entire family, the number of Jews involved might have been as high as 8,000.

Levine, who spent the summer researching Sugihara, left Japan earlier this week. Foreign Ministry officials declined to discuss further details of his research.

After the war, Sugihara was dismissed from the foreign service, apparently due to his actions in Lithuania. He died in 1986.

His actions received greater recognition after release of the Oscar-winning film "Schindler's List," about a German industrialist who saved thousands of Jews during the war.

Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 and occupied by Nazi Germany the following year. Lithuanians fought alongside the Germans during the war and the considerable Jewish minority was largely exterminated.