GIFU – A memorial hall for a Japanese diplomat who saved some 6,000 Jews from Nazi persecution during World War II was completed Tuesday in his hometown of Yaotsu, Gifu Prefecture, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his birth.
The hall for Chiune Sugihara re-creates the interior of the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania where he worked at the time, and exhibits various items, including photos of Sugihara, articles he left behind and replicas of the “visas for life” — transit visas issued to Jews fleeing Poland into Lithuania.
It is scheduled to open July 30.
Sugihara, who died in 1986, is remembered for the courage he showed as a vice consul at the Japanese mission in Kaunas, Lithuania, in ignoring orders from Tokyo and issuing thousands of transit visas for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany to pass through Japan.
Between July and August 1940, he issued about 2,100 transit passes and is credited with saving an estimated 40,000 people, including the descendants of the original survivors.
The hall was built with donations from collected across Japan by a foundation set up in 1991 by residents of the town.
This year has also seen the unveiling of a monument to Sugihara in Boston, the holding of a special exhibition by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the presentation of a documentary film at the Simon Wiesenthal Center made in his honor.
Sugihara has been likened to German businessman Oskar Schindler, who saved over 1,000 Jews from the Holocaust and was immortalized in the movie “Schindler’s List.”