National / History

Hometown of Japan diplomat who saved 6,000 Jews to seek UNESCO listing

Kyodo

The hometown of Chiune Sugihara, known as “Japan’s Schindler” for having helped about 6,000 Jews escape Nazi persecution during World War II, said Thursday it will seek to have his records added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

During World War II, Sugihara issued transit visas to Jews as an acting consul in Lithuania even though the Japanese Foreign Ministry told him not to do so, and as a result is credited with saving 6,000 Jews from the Holocaust. After returning to Japan in 1947, he was pressured to leave the ministry.

“With the passage of 70 years since the end of the war, we’re hoping to convey the tragedy of war and how valuable human life is through Mr. Sugihara’s humanitarian act,” said Shingo Akatsuka, mayor of Yaotsu in Gifu Prefecture, central Japan, where Sugihara was born in 1900. He died in 1986 at the age of 86.

Yaotsu has kept Sugihara’s records, including a visa he issued in defiance of the Japanese government and a copy of records exchanged with the Japanese Foreign Ministry. The town office plans to submit an application on Friday to the Japanese National Commission for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, with the aim of getting the records added to the UNESCO registry in 2017.

Sugihara is dubbed the Japanese Schindler after Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved about 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by hiring them to work at his factories.