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Abe visits memorial to 'Japanese Schindler' in Lithuania

Abe visits memorial to 'Japanese Schindler' in Lithuania

Posted January. 16, 2018 07:30,   

Updated January. 16, 2018 09:15


Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who appears not to acknowledge and apologize the country’s own atrocities during the war, visited a memorial in Lithuania to “Japanese Schindler” – a reference to German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving more than 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust, and said he was “proud.”

On his tour to three Baltic states and three East European countries, Prime Minister Abe on Sunday visited a memorial to Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara in the Baltic state’s second city Kaunas. Sugihara saved about 6,000 European Jews by issuing visas for about a month while he was working in Lithuania during World War II, in defiance of the Japanese foreign ministry’s orders. Over 200,000 Jews were estimated to have been perished under the Nazi German occupation from 1941 to 1944.

“The courageous humanitarian act of Mr. Sugihara is highly appreciated by the whole world. I am really very proud of him as a Japanese,” Abe told reporters after the visit. On Seoul’s latest stance on “comfort women” issue, the sexual enslavement of Korean women before and during World War II, however, the Japanese prime minister was quoted as saying, “The agreement will not be changed by even one millimeter. The government is not at all considering issuing apology letters to former Korean comfort women.” He was being ambivalent about the war-time atrocities, committed under the Nazi German rule and under the Japanese occupation.

Besides, the fact that Sugihara was forced to resign for his deeds in saving the Jews while in Lithuania remains under the carpet. He was forced out of the foreign ministry and took several jobs, including trader and translator, to make a living. In 1969, he received “Righteous Among the Nations” title by the Israeli government, which honors persons who saved Jews during the Holocaust. It was until in October 1991, after the former diplomat died, that Japan’s foreign ministry invited his wife Yukiko to a ceremony to make an official apology and acknowledgement of his efforts.

Young-A Soh sya@donga.com