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JAPANESE DIPLOMAT HELPED 8,000 JEWS FLEE FROM NAZIS

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A Japanese diplomat saved the lives of up to 8,000 Jews fleeing the Nazis, a number greater than previously estimated, Japanese officials today cited a U.S. researcher as saying.

Many Jewish refugees were able to reach safety by traveling through the former Soviet Union to Japan and other points after the diplomat, Chiune Sugihara, issued Japanese transit visas to them in Lithuania in 1940.Previously, the number of Jews helped by Sugihara's visas had been estimated at 6,000.

The new figure was brought to light by Hillel Levin, director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University, Japanese officials said.

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

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

Levin, 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.