Abe visits museum honoring wartime diplomat Chiune Sugihara in Lithuania

JIJI, Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday visited a museum commemorating Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who saved thousands of Jewish people from Nazi persecution during World War II.

“Sugihara’s courageous humanitarian acts are highly rated around the world. As Japanese, I’m very proud of him,” Abe told reporters after visiting the Sugihara House in Kaunas in central Lithuania.

Sugihara, who was Japan’s vice consul in Lithuania, issued transit visas, now known as “visas for life,” to Jews who were fleeing Nazi Germany, going against the Japanese government’s policy at the time. About 6,000 people were saved.

“He saved a lot of Jewish people with his strong belief and will in a difficult situation,” Abe said.

Abe and his wife, Akie, visited the Sugihara House, converted from the former Japanese Consulate where Sugihara worked. The facility opened in 2000. During his visit, the prime minister was shown a picture panel with images of Sugihara signing transit visas for Jewish refugees, among other items.

Abe said a Jewish lawmaker in Lithuania talked to him during a dinner party hosted by Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis on Saturday.

The lawmaker expressed respect for Sugihara’s courage and efforts, although the lawmaker’s mother ended up being sent to a Nazi prison camp without obtaining a visa from Sugihara.

Abe and his wife were welcomed by some 100 local children bearing Japanese flags and paper cranes.