• 14:36
  • 07.07.2020
"Japanese Schindler" honoured in Lithuania
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"Japanese Schindler" honoured in Lithuania

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has honoured a Japanese diplomat credited with saving an estimated 6,000 Jews from almost certain death in 1940 during a visit to the former Japanese consulate in Lithuania.

Chiune Suhigara was serving as Japanese consul in Kaunas, then capital of Lithuania, when he disobeyed his superiors and issued Japanese visas to Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Poland despite his country being a close ally of Nazi Germany.

Abe's visit to Lithuania, the first by a Japanese prime minister, comes as Japan seeks greater cooperation with countries such as China, a former adversary in World War Two, in the face of rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.
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"The courageous and humanitarian action of Mr Sugihara provides us with guidance as to how to we should survive in this world, where rule-of-law-based international order is being challenged in various forms," Abe told reporters on Saturday.

"He worked far from Japan and in very difficult circumstances, but he had a strong belief as a Japanese diplomat and saved many Jewish people," Abe added on Sunday after he had toured the former consulate and sat at Sugihara's desk.

"I am really proud of him as Japanese."
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Japan had several of its former leaders convicted and executed by an Allied tribunal as war criminals after the end of World War Two.

Both China and South Korea have called on Japan to face up to its wartime past after Abe sent an offering to a shrine to war dead last August, the anniversary of Japan's surrender.

Sugihara was named as "Righteous among the Nations" by Israel's Yad Vashem museum among some 22,000 people honoured for helping Jews avoid death in the Nazi Holocaust.
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