The Seimas opens the exhibition commemorating Chiune Sugihara’s 120th birthday anniversary and the 80th anniversary of Sugihara’s “visas for life” in the Gallery of the Defenders of Freedom, Building 1 of the Seimas, on Thursday 20 February 2020, at 1.00 p.m., the Seimas’ press office announced.
The exhibition features documents and photographs from the archive of the family of Chiune Sugihara’s son Nobuki, material from the book Chiune Sugihara by Nobuki’s wife Esin Ayirtman-Sugihara, and photographs by Džoja Gunda Barysaitė and Auksė Dransard.
Chiune Sugihara’s son Nobuki and his wife Esin will join the opening of the exhibition. Ambassadors of Israel, Japan, Greece, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Ukraine and other countries are also going to attend the event.
Viktoras Pranckietis will open the exhibition, Speaker of the Seimas, followed by welcome address by the initiators of the exhibition: Irena Šiaulienė, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas, and Emanuelis Zingeris, Head of the Seimas Group for Inter-Parliamentary Relations with the State of Israel and Signatory to the Act of Independence of Lithuania.
The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania declared 2020 as the Year of Chiune Sugihara. The decision was adopted in the light of the fact that 2020 marks the 80th anniversary of Sugihara’s mission in Kaunas, where he served as the Consul of Japan in 1939–1940 and issued Japanese transit visas to the people of Jewish origin, thus rescuing over 6,000 lives. In addition, Chiune Sugihara’s 120th birthday anniversary is also celebrated in 2020.
Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese military official and a diplomat in the early twentieth century. In 1993–1940, he served as a Consul of Japan in Kaunas, Lithuania’s interim capital. As a result of Poland’s occupations by Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union, many Polish refugees, including Jews, fled to Kaunas at the time. Consul Sugihara applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan multiple times for permission to issue Japanese visas to the refugees. Following a series of negative replies, he issued, under his own discretion, several thousand transit visas for travel to third countries via Japan, thus saving thousands of people’s lives.
After the war, Sugihara was forced to resign from the diplomatic service and subsequently worked in various trade companies. However, his deed was not forgotten. In 1968, Yehoshua Nishri, one of the Sugihara survivors, who became a commercial attaché of Israel in Tokyo, found Chiune Sugihara. This was the starting point for the universal recognition of the former Consul’s merits.
Chiune Sugihara died on 31 July 1986 at the age of 86.