BERLIN – Plaques in honor of late Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who issued transit visas to thousands of Jews in 1940 to help them escape Nazi persecution during World War II, were unveiled in Kaunas, Lithuania, on Friday.
The plaques were set up at the Metropolis Hotel and Kaunas Station.
Vice consul at the time with the Japanese consulate in Kaunas, Sugihara issued more than 2,000 visas to Jews from a humanitarian viewpoint, defying the orders from the Foreign Ministry.
Even after the consulate was closed, Sugihara issued what have come to be known as “Visas for Life” at the hotel from Aug. 28, 1940. He continued the visa issuance until he left Kaunas Station on Sept. 4.
Sugihara is said to have saved at least 6,000 Jewish lives by allowing them to travel to third countries via Japan with the visas.
The plaques are inscribed with these and other facts about him in Lithuanian, Japanese and English.
A ceremony unveiling the plaques was held on the 75th anniversary of the last visa he issued.
Participants in the ceremony included Marcel Weyland, an 88-year-old translator and resident of Australia who was saved by a Sugihara-issued visa.
Japanese Ambassador to Lithuania Toyoei Shigeeda, said at the ceremony that he held Sugihara’s courageous act in the highest respect.
After the war’s end, Sugihara was in effect dismissed by the ministry. His reputation, however, was restored in 2000 when then-Foreign Minister Yohei Kono apologized to Sugihara’s family.