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2022.08.05 13:55

Sugihara House in Lithuania to secure state funding amid drop in tourists from Japan

BNS 2022.08.05 13:55

The house of Chiune Sugihara in Kaunas needs 150,000 euros a year after a drop in tourists from Japan. Six ambassadors in the country have urged Lithuania to provide the funds.

The ambassadors of Japan, the United States, Israel, Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands sent a letter to Lithuanian culture and education ministers earlier this week, asking to preserve the museum dedicated to the Japanese war-time diplomat, Chiune Sugihara. Together with his colleague from the Netherlands, Sugihara is credited for saving thousands of Jews from the Holocaust by issuing the so-called Visas for Life.

On Friday, The Lithuanian parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs got acquainted with the letter. It also spoke out in favour of providing state funding to the museum.

"The pandemic ruined the whole inflow of people they relied on, and they have never had any state support in the first place. They would need about 150,000 euros a year. It's a small thing, we should really support the memorial house of the most brilliant humanist, the righteous man, Chiune Sugihara," Emanuelis Zingeris, a committee member, said.

Laima Liucija Andrikienė, the committee chair, noted that around 20,000 Japanese tourists would visit the museum every year, but it now "has dropped dramatically to 1,000 a year".

The committee made a protocol decision on Friday to support the Sugihara Diplomats for Life Foundation to ensure the continuity of its activities, with the government expected to make the final decision on funding.

Dalia Tamošiūnienė, an adviser to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, told the committee that attention to Sugihara's legacy should be constant, not occasional.

"Sugihara's legacy should be given great attention, both political and financial. The Seimas declared 2020 the Sugihara year, and this should not be a one-off demonstration of political attention, but a continuous initiative," she said.

Ramūnas Janulaitis, head of the Sugihara Diplomats for Life Foundation, said the museum used to receive up to 3,000 visitors a month. Around 85 percent of them were Japanese tourists.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic and Russia's war against Ukraine, the number has dropped to a couple of hundred per month.

The Sugihara Diplomats for Life Foundation was established in 1999 to commemorate the life of Japanese diplomat Sugihara. The foundation later founded the Sugihara House-Museum at the former Japanese consulate in Kaunas, and has been naming the Person of Tolerance of the Year since 2001.

Sugihara was a Japanese military officer and diplomat who served as Japan's consul in Kaunas, Lithuania's then temporary capital, in 1939–1940.

Read more: 'I just pitied them' - quiet Japanese diplomat who saved thousands from Holocaust in Lithuania