GIFU – A museum in Gifu Prefecture on Tuesday granted public access to a recording of an interview with the late Chiune Sugihara, the diplomat who came to be known as “Japan’s Schindler.”
Sugihara rescued thousands of Jews from the Holocaust by issuing them transit visas when he served as consul general from 1938 to 1940 in Kaunas, then the capital of Lithuania.
The museum, built in his hometown of Yaotsu in July 2000, displays a reproduction of his office he was using at the time.
In the interview, which can be heard using headphones, Sugihara explains why he decided to issue visas in defiance of Japanese government policy.
“It was a humanitarian issue. Jews were trying to flee because they were about to be taken to Auschwitz,” he said on the recording. “Thousands of them, saying they have no place to go and requesting visas, flocked to the window of where I was staying.”
The recording of the interview, conducted in Moscow in August 1977 when Sugihara was 77, was donated to the museum by a former Moscow bureau chief of the Fuji Television Network.
The tape is significant because there are few recordings of Sugihara’s voice, according to Yaotsu officials.
Sugihara returned to Tokyo in 1947 and was asked to resign for defying government policy. He died at the age of 86 in July 1986 in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Like Oskar Schindler, a German factory owner in Poland who provided Jews with safe havens during World War II, Sugihara was awarded Israel’s Yad Vashem award for the “Righteous Among the Nations.”
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