KAUNAS — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a museum last week 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 WW 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.
“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 Jan. 13.
“Sugihara’s courageous humanitarian acts are highly rated around the world. As Japanese, I’m very proud of him.”
In April, 2015, Abe visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, where he met with three survivors who had been helped by Sugihara. In January, 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.