Higuchi, Kiichiro, born on 20-08-1888, in what is now part of Minamiawaji city on Awaji Island, Hyōgo Prefecture,
as the eldest of nine children. When he was eleven year old, his parents divorced and he was raised by his mother’s family. He was a graduate of the 21st
class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy
, and the 30th
class of the Army Staff College. As a junior officer, he was sent as military attaché to Poland. Due to his fluency in the Russian language, Higuchi was later posted to Manchuria with the Kwantung Army. Higuchi was a close confidant of General Kanji Ishiwara and Korechika Anami. From 1933-1935, he was commander of the IJA 41st
Infantry Regiment, and from 1935-1937 served as Chief of staff of the IJA 3rd
Division. He was sent to Germany as part of a military delegation in 1937 and met Adolf Hitler
(did you know
). As a Major General and the commander of the Harbin Special Branchin 1938, he allowed 20.000 ? Jewish refugees who had fled Nazi Germany to cross the border from the Soviet Union to Manchukuo. A few of his subordinates, were responsible for feeding the refugees, settling them in Harbin or Shanghai, or arranging for exit visas.
As it was more and more necessary for the Jewish population to flee the persecution, he was in touch with Dr. Abraham Josevich Kaufman
Russian doctor and exponent of the Zionist community of Harbin, which helped protect the dozens of thousands Jews seeking shelter in that part of Eastern Asia. In Harbin, on 26-12-1937 the first of the three Zionist Conferences of the Jewish Communities of the Far East was held, to which Kaufman invited General Higuchi as a speaker. His speech forcefully condemned the crime that was being perpetrated against the Jews: “You are no lesser than any other ethnic group”, he said “either in the scientific field or in the industry or any other field. Being witness to this is a duty of mine as a human being, and as such, I am deeply sorry for what is happening. It is a humanitarian emergency. Expelling somebody without designating for him any destination is a treatment, which amounts to mass murder”. At the end of his speech, over 1,000 Jewish guests applauded. Dr. Abraham Josevich Kaufman, after Kaufman’s release from the Gulag system in 1956, he moved to Karaganda, Kazakhstan, and on 25-3-1961, emigrated to Israel. He was joined by his son Theodore (Teddy) Kaufman, who would later hold a high position in the Israeli government. Dr. Kaufman spent the remainder of his life practicing medicine, specializing in pediatrics under the Histadrut in Israel, and was buried there after he died in Tel Aviv on 25-03-1971, age 85.
Recalled to Japan in late 1938, Higuchi served briefly on the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff before being assigned as commanding officer of the IJA 9th
Division was formed on 01-10-1898, as a reserve division after the First Sino Japanese War in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. It consisted of troops primarily from the Hokurku region of Japan, mostly from the prefectures of Ishikawa, Toyama and Fukaii
. The 9th
Division was at the Battle of Nanjing, and has been accused of participation in the subsequent Nanjing massacre
. In 1942, Higuchi was promoted to Lieutenant General and assigned to the Sapporo-based Japanese Fifth Area Army. He participated in the invasion of the Aleutian islands, including the disastrous campaigns on Attu Island and Kiska Island. Afterwards, as commander of the Northern District Army he organized the defenses of northern Japan against invasion by Allied forces, fortifying Shumshu island in the northern Kurile Islands chain, and Karafuto. After the surrender of Japan, Josef Stalin
Death and burial ground of Higuchi, Kiichiro.
“My dream is to plant a tree to honor my grandfather in Yad Vashem,” said Prof Ryoichi Higuchi,
the grandson of general Higuchi, who is now visiting Israel and holding interviews with Jewish families who reside in Israel and were established by Holocaust survivors his grandfather, he strongly believes, saved.