2020 marks 80 years since Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara saved thousands of Jews from Nazi persecution by issuing transit visas in Lithuania. As this year coincides with his 120th birthday, the Lithuanian parliament designated 2020 as the year of Chiune Sugihara, and the country and Japan are anticipating events commemorating his bravery, according to the Lithuanian Embassy in Tokyo.
From 1939 to 1940, Sugihara was acting consul in the then-Lithuanian capital of Kaunas. After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Jewish refugees streamed into Lithuania and Sugihara sought permission from the Japanese foreign ministry to issue visas to fleeing Jews. Despite being rejected, Sugihara issued some 6,000 transit visas to Jews, resulting in a forced resignation when he returned to Japan. Records show most of the visas were issued in July and August 1940, according to the embassy.
To remember him, annual events including Sugihara Week in Kaunas and Lithuania Now in Gifu Prefecture, Sugihara’s birthplace, are scheduled for October and November. The public is invited to learn about and reflect the life of the courageous diplomat, the embassy said.