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Living Testimony: The Bernard Salomon Story, As Told by His Son, Richard
by Anne Akabori
I have chosen to write this report for the Passport about a very special friend and supporter of our Foundation. He is Richard A. Salomon, whom I shall refer to as Rick.
Hiroki, the eldest son of Chiune Sugihara, and I first met Rick in New York in November 1995. He was attending an event at Town Hall where hundreds of people -- those who had very personal reasons for being there as well as the interested and the curious -- gathered together to meet and hear from the Sugihara family. Mrs. Yukiko Sugihara was visiting New York for the first time to meet survivors and descendants of survivors of the Holocaust because they were recipients of a Sugihara visa. For many in attendance, it was a bittersweet reunion.
Rick had every reason to be there because his father, Bernard (Boruch Szmul) Salomon, was one of those who escaped the net of Nazi Germany's dastardly intent to rid Europe of all Jews. Rick was there with a cousin. Rick was a very nice looking, amiable young man who expressed his interest and desire to find out more about Sugihara as well as what we were doing. I remembered Rick well because he was such a sincere person, but did not expect to see him again in the near future.
About a year later, Hiroki and I had established Visas for Life Foundation and we were in Chicago to give several presentations in that area. We were surprised and delighted to see that Rick had turned up again.
In the course of the past eight years, Rick's periodic appearances have been extraordinarily timely. When Hiroki became ill with terminal cancer, he came through then to help us to defray Hiroki's medical expenses.
Recently, the Board agreed that, in order to perpetuate the legacy of Chiune Sugihara, we needed the support and input of survivors and their descendants because they are the living testimony of Sugihara's deed. Rick received one of our letters soliciting support and it didn't take long to get a response. He understood that it was the hope of the Foundation to find as many of the survivors and their descendants so that we can be the center or the keeper of a data base where survivors, families, and friends can find each other.
We know that there are many survivors who do not even realize they are Sugihara survivors. There are survivors that are still seeking friends and relatives. We hope that through our Web site we might bring information, family, and friends together. We are presently working to create a database to illustrate dramatically, with stories from survivors, the truth of the Jewish proverb: If you save a life, you save the world entire.
Rick willingly and helpfully submitted his father's story of escape. It is hoped that, out of stories such as this, it will be the catalyst to bring to us more amazing stories and support for our work. We hope to create more involvement among those who truly understand that unselfish deeds like Chiune Sugihara undertook should never be forgotten.
Here is Rick's father's story:
Bernard Salomon was born in Mlava, Poland on July 22, 1908. He was the eldest son of a family that operated a soap factory. In 1939, at the age of 31, he was working in a bank in Warsaw as an accountant. That same year he returned to Mlava to help his family escape the Nazi drive to persecute innocent victims that began to escalate in Poland.
As borders closed around them, Bernard with his brother and cousins were able to cross the borders, cutting through barbed wire fences. Border guards were bribed so that they could continue their escape from Poland. They continued on their perilous journey and arrived in Vilna, Lithuania in November 1939.
After a period of about 6 months, Bernard had the foresight and determination to escape. He became a recipient of a Sugihara visa on July 30, 1940, acquiring visa #25. This indicates that he was one of the first who recognized that there was hope and a chance to escape. According to Rick, his uncle Abram, visa #27, was one of the members of the delegation of five who participated in the meeting with Sugihara in his Consulate office.
After getting their visa, it took about one month of further negotiations and gathering the necessary documents before they could continue their escape. Finally in September 1940, they headed for Moscow and arrived in Vladivostock in October. By November 1940, they were safely in Japan. Like hundreds of other refugees in Kobe, Japan, Bernard was sent to Shanghai, then a territory of Japan.
The story continues and is a testimony to Rick's father's tenacity. From Shanghai, Bernard was industrious enough to acquire at least four other visas in his attempts to get out of harm's way. From Shanghai, he somehow got to Calcutta. In Calcutta, he had visas to go to Bolivia, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic. Even while he was in Japan in 1941, he got a British visa in Kobe to go to Palestine and in Tokyo, he got an Egyptian visa and a British transit visa to go through India and Ceylon.
Bernard's plan to go on to Palestine had to be altered because, due to the war, the Suez Canal was closed. Instead, he remained in Calcutta for six years. In Calcutta, he got a job as an accountant for a tanning company and also wrote articles for a Jewish periodical. It was inevitable that he would finally get to the United States, get married, and have his first born son, Rick.
It is no wonder that Rick has the same determination, energy, and focus that his father must have had. His father would be proud if he were alive today and knew that, along with his father's industrious characteristics, Rick has shown that he is a caring and responsible person. He is a credit to his family and to his community. Besides running a successful business, Rick gives back to his country and community by participating in many worthwhile organizations and speaking about honoring heroes such as Sugihara.
Rick represents what the Foundation is seeking, a living testimony, fine and good individuals that are alive today because one precious life was saved many years ago.
© 2003-2013 Anne Akabori
|Anne Akabori, Chair · 1349 Gagle
Way, Sacramento, CA 95831
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