This blog post is written by Erica Blumenfeld, the Museum’s Interim Director of Collections and Exhibitions.
During World War II, Chiune Sugihara was Japan’s consul to Lithuania. He issued transit visas to several thousand Jews so that they could leave Lithuania. In 1984, Yad Vashem recognized Chiune Sugihara as Righteous Among the Nations.
In the town of Yaotsu, the birthplace of Sugihara, there is a Chiune Sugihara Memorial Museum. Now the community is applying to have the Chiune Sugihara Memorial Museum designated part of the UNESCO Memory of the World program and to recognize Sugihara for the brave work he did saving people from the Holocaust.
A few weeks ago, I had the honor and pleasure to meet with representatives from Yaotsu, including Sugihara’s granddaughter, Madoka Sugihara, and the mayor, Masonori Kaneko.
They were visiting museums in the United States that hold visas signed by Sugihara in their collections. Copies of these documents will be used to complete the application process for the UNESCO Memory of the World. We were able to show this delegation the nine visas in the collection of the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
While at the Museum, the group from Yaotsu met with a docent and school group that were visiting our Rescuer’s Gallery and learning first-hand about the gift of life that Chiune Sugihara gave to the people he saved by the stamp of his office. This was an unforgettable experience for both the students and the delegation from Yaotsu.