Japanese prime minister honors Chiune Sugihara, who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust


(JTA) — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a museum in Lithuania commemorating Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Abe visited Sugihara House, the former Japanese consulate in Kaunas, which was the capital of Lithuania at the time of World War II. He toured the site and sat behind what had been Sugihara’s desk, according to reports.

As Japan’s imperial consul in Lithuania, Sugihara defied orders from his superiors in order to issue at least 2,000 visas, and as many as 6,000 according to some reports, to Jews between 1939 and 1940. He is sometimes called the Japanese Schindler, a reference to Oskar Schindler, who saved at least 1,200 Jews by employing them in his factories in Poland.

“The courageous and humanitarian action of Mr. Sugihara provides us with guidance as to how to we should survive in this world, where rule-of-law-based international order is being challenged in various forms,” Abe said during his visit on Saturday.

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“Sugihara’s courageous humanitarian acts are highly rated around the world. As Japanese, I’m very proud of him,” the prime minister also said.

In April, 2015, Abe visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, where he met with three survivors who had been helped by Sugihara. In January of 2015 Abe visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Sugihara was named a “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem in 1985, the only Japanese person to be so honored.

Abe’s visit to Lithuania was the first by a Japanese prime minister.

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