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Tuesday, 29th September 2015
In General Japan News,

Japan nominates diplomat for UNESCO's Memory of the World Register

Authorities in Japan have put forward the name of a diplomat who helped rescue 6,000 Jews from the Holocaust for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO's) Memory of the World Register.

Chiune Sugihara was working as an acting consul in 1940 in Lithuania when he helped thousands of Jews to avoid being persecuted by the Nazis.

His actions, which included issuing visas for humanitarian reasons, went against the orders of the then government in Japan.

The modern administration has now filed an application for Sugihara to be added to the Memory of the World Register in honour of his heroic work.

In March the application will be finalised and the UNESCO advisory board will decide whether to add the diplomat's name in the summer of 2017.

Documents recording Sugihara's work have been kept in his hometown of Yaotsu in Gifu Prefecture, central Japan up until now, but have been selected to help boost the application.

They include a visa he issued during World War II and a copy of his communications with the Japanese Foreign Ministry at the time.

Yaotsu mayor, Shingo Akatsuka, said: "We feel very happy. We want to convey the cruelty of war and the value of life to future generations through Sugihara's humanitarian act."

Sugihara has been compared to Germany's Oskar Schindler, who saved 1,200 Jews during the conflict and was the subject of a critically acclaimed film.

There is a commemorative plaque at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo that was erected to honour Sugihara's work on what would have been his 100th birthday in the year 2000.

UNESCO allows each country to nominate two candidates for the Memory of the World Register biannually and Japan had 16 people to choose from.

If Sugihara is added to the register, his name will join three other contributions from Japan - paintings and diaries by Sakubei Yamamoto, which record the country's coal mining industry; materials relating to the Keicho-era mission to Europe in the early 17th century; and a diary of Fujiwara no Michinaga, who worked as a politician from the late 10th to early 11th century.