At the height of the Second World War, the Nazi regime murdered millions of Jews, in Germany, as well as in the countries under German occupation. Non-Jews witnessed atrocities against their neighbours and colleagues. Hiding or helping Jews, in any way, was penalised. Depending on the country this could result in physical violence, imprisonment, and in many cases, a death sentence. Many watched passively or even took advantage of the desperate situation of the Jews, but some selflessly helped. Among them were people of all social classes: factory workers and doctors, seamstresses and aristocrats, peasants and artists. They used whatever means they could, and sometimes risked their own lives, to help those in need.
One of them was Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese vice-consul in Kaunas, Lithuania. In the six weeks preceding the closure of the Japanese consulate, in September 1940, Sugihara supplied thousands of Jews with transit visas to Japan — despite the fact that his country was an ally of Nazi Germany. He might have saved up to 6,000 Jews, although the exact number is unknown. After stepping down from his position in 1947 Sugihara led a modest life and never talked about his activities. They were made public in 1968 by one of those whom he had saved. As a result, in 1984, he was recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by the World Holocaust Remembrance Center Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. He is the only Japanese to hold this honorary title.
The exhibition ‘Between Life and Death’ recalls the courageous acts of Sugihara and many others on the tour around Japan. It has already visited the Osaka International Peace Center, the Kanagawa Plaza for Global Citizenship (Earth Plaza) in Yokohama, and Tsuruga Port of Humanity. Now, ‘Between Life and Death’ will come to Chiune Sugihara’s birthplace – the Gifu prefecture. The exhibition’s fourth and last destination in Japan will be Chiune Sugihara’s Hall Memorial in Yaotsu.
The exhibition is presented in Japanese. Catalogues in English, German and Japanese languages are available on-line.
Venue: Chiune Sugihara Memorial Hall