Japanese PM honors late diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during Holocaust

Japan’s prime minister honored Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who used his position to save Jews fleeing the Nazis.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday visited a museum in Lithuania honoring Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

“Sugihara’s courageous humanitarian acts are highly rated around the world. As Japanese, I’m very proud of him,” Abe told reporters after visiting the Sugihara House in Kaunas, the Japanese Times reported.

“He saved a lot of Jewish people with his strong belief and will in a difficult situation,” Abe said.

The Sugihara House was converted from the former Japanese Consulate where Sugihara had worked. During the visit, the prime minister and his wife were shown a picture panel with images of Sugihara signing transit visas for Jewish refugees, among other items.

Abe shared that a Jewish lawmaker in Lithuania, with whom he spoke at a dinner party hosted by Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis on Saturday, expressed great respect for Sugihara’s courage and efforts. Tragically, the lawmaker’s mother was not among those fortunate to have obtained a visa from Sugihara and was sent to a Nazi prison camp.

In 1984, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, recognized Sugihara as Righteous Among the Nations, the only Japanese national to receive the honor.

In 2016, Israel named a street in the coastal city of Netanya after the late Japanese diplomat.

Sugihara, a low-level diplomat who worked in the Japanese embassy in Lithuania during WWII, risked his life to save thousands of strangers. He issued between 2,100 and 3,500 transit visas and saved some 6,000 Jews during World War II, papers which later came to be known as “visas for life.”

Many of those saved by Sugihara ultimately came to reside in Netanya. The street dedication marked 30 years since Sugihara’s death.

An estimated 40,000 descendants of those he rescued are alive today.