Despite decades of accounts to the contrary, the government claimed Friday the Foreign Ministry never took disciplinary action against a diplomat known as “Japan’s Schindler,” who helped about 6,000 Jews escape Nazi persecution during World War II by issuing them visas to Japan against Tokyo’s instructions.
Dismissing a widely held view, the ministry claimed that based on its documents, there is “no truth” to the notion that it punished the late Chiune Sugihara, according to a position paper by the ministry.
The paper was prepared in response to a question submitted to the government by House of Representatives lawmaker Muneo Suzuki, a convicted bribe-taker.
Suzuki was vice foreign minister when the ministry had a meeting with Sugihara’s family, including his widow, Yukiko, in October 1991.
Sugihara was dubbed “the Japanese Schindler” after Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who worked to save Jews during the war. His life was depicted in the 1993 movie “Schindler’s List.”
Sugihara disobeyed the ministry by issuing about 2,000 transit visas to Jews at the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania in 1940 while serving as vice consul there.
Upon his return to Japan in 1947, he is said to have been punished for defying orders and asked to resign.
The ministry said in the paper that Sugihara voluntarily quit on June 7, 1947, but also claimed it was “difficult to confirm” the reason for his resignation.
The ministry praised Sugihara’s conduct in the paper, calling it a “courageous and humanitarian decision.”
In October 1991, the ministry told Sugihara’s surviving kin that his resignation was part of a personnel shakeup after the end of the war. Sugihara died in 1986 at age 86.