Germany and Sugihara Chiune: Japanese-Polish intelligence cooperation and counter-intelligence

Gerhard Krebs


Instructed to engage in intelligence against the Soviet Union, Japanese diplomat Sugihara Chiune was stationed in Helsinki in 1937‒1939 and in Kaunas in 1939‒1940. He became known to the world for issuing thousands of transit visas to Polish-Jewish refugees to help them escape from Soviet and Nazi persecution. Much less is known about his spy activities. Following their country’s occupation by the German army, Sugihara provided Polish secret agents with Japanese or Manchurian passports and employed their services for his clandestine undertakings. The Germans, although greatly displeased with his activities as the same agents were working against them for the Polish government-in-exile and the British government, were indifferent to Sugihara’s attempts to rescue the Jews. Despite that German authorities were successful in arresting some of Sugihara’s spies, these measures were ineffective as in most cases the agents’ Japanese or Manchurian passports bestowed them with diplomatic immunity. After the end of Lithuanian independence Sugihara was forced to leave the country and was transferred to Prague ‒ clearly not an ideal place to observe the USSR. Therefore, he took over the newly established consulate-general in Königsberg, modern day Kaliningrad, to gain intelligence on Germany’s preparation for war against the Soviet Union in 1941. Sugihara was ultimately transferred to the legation in Romania after the consulate-general was closed under German pressure.


Japanese intelligence; Polish spies; Japanese-German relations; German-Soviet War

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ISSN 1392-0588 (Print)

ISSN 2335-8769 (Online)