Justice Minister visits city where 'Japanese Schindler' saved thousands of Jews

The story of the Japanese city of Tsuruga, where thousands of Jews were rescued from certain death, has been under the radar for decades.

November 13, 2017 11:35
2 minute read.
Justice Minister visits city where 'Japanese Schindler' saved thousands of Jews

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked visits Japanese city of Tsugura where thousands of Jews were saved during the Holocaust.. (photo credit: CITY OF TSUGURA)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked became on Sunday the first Israeli minister to visit Tsuruga, a city in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture where 6,000 Jews were rescued during the Holocaust by Japanese government official Chiune Sugihara.

Sugihara has since been dubbed the “Japanese Schindler.”

Shaked is on an official visit to Japan and is expected to conduct professional meetings with the heads of Japan’s justice system as well as hold lectures for Japanese students about the challenges the State of Israel faces.

The city of Tsuruga opened its gates and its heart to 6,000 Jews who escaped the reach of the Nazi regime during the Holocaust.

Shaked visited the city’s museum, which commemorates the rescue actions that were undertaken to aid the Jews in flight.

Many of them were students of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Mir Yeshiva, having arrived in Japan with visas that were made for them by then-Japanese vice consul in Lithuania, Sugihara, who acted against the stance of the Japanese government.

Sugihara was awarded the title of ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ by Yad Vashem and is the only Japanese person to have ever been honored as such.

During her visit, Shaked officially thanked the people of Tsuruga on behalf of the Israeli government and people for saving Jewish lives in their city. “We will never forget Chiune Sugihara and the generosity of the residents of Tsuruga,” Shaked said in a press conference.

“They didn’t hesitate to open their homes and their hearts to 6,000 Jewish refugees who escaped the Nazis. The city of Tsuruga and its residents are role models for the young generation in Japan, who are learning about our joint responsibility to act with determination against hatred and violence and to stand up to racism, xenophobia and persecutions of any people, whoever they may be,” she stressed.

Tsuruga’s Mayor Takanobu Fuchikami told Shaked that he is currently working to better commemorate the Holocaust and the rescue of Jews in the city.

Fuchikami said that he also intends on making Tsuruga an attractive tourism destination for Israelis, adding that Shaked’s visit will help reach those goals.

The justice minister told the mayor that she intends to ask Education Minister Naftali Bennett to emphasize the activity of righteous gentiles worldwide into the school syllabus, including the moving story of Sugihara.

The unsung heroism of Sugihara did not end with in his brave decision to issue visas to thousands of Jews at risk. He was fired from the Japanese Foreign Office for his actions and did menial labor to support his family until his death in 1986 – a year after Israel named him ‘Righteous Among the Nations.’

Gilad Kabilo, Asia director for StandWithUs, contributed to this report.

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