Kaunas to commemorate Japanese diplomat Sugihara

Chiune Sugihara

Two memorial plaques will be unveiled in Kaunas, one on the Metropolis Hotel and one at the Kaunas railway station where Sugihara issued the last visas.

A photograph exhibition will also be opened at the station, dedicated to the diplomats who issued the so-called Life Visas, i.e., Sugihara and Jan Zwartendijk. Three documentaries about the diplomat will later be played at the station later on Friday.

The Friday’s events were initiated by Japan‘s former ambassador Kazuko Shiraishi.

Historian Egidijus Aleksandravičius, co-founder of the Sugihara Foundation, says the events dedicated to Sugihara are highly significant for Lithuania due to large-scale annihilation of Jews in the country and complicity of Lithuanians in the events.

“Therefore, Lithuania is stigmatized in the eyes of the world, and Sugihara’s actions is so important for our country. The Sugihara Foundation aims to influence our public feelings and educate people. Speaking about the rescuers is also the most gentle way of speaking about the murderers,” said the professor.

Sugihara, Japan’s then vice-consul in Kaunas, issued a large number of transit visas to Japan in 1940, allowing Jewish nationals escape the threat of Fascism. Even after the consulate was closed down, Sugihara continued signing the so-called Life Visas at the Metropolis Hotel and kept on working until his train left the Kaunas railway station. The last visas were thrown out the window of a moving train.

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