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Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2001

MUSEUM MUSINGS

Center captures dark Holocaust days


Staff writer

An old suitcase is the only belonging left by a 13-year-old girl whose life ended in an Auschwitz gas chamber in 1944.

The suitcase, which belonged to Hanna Brady from Czechoslovakia, is one of the exhibits at the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center in Shinjuku Ward.

Visitors peruse pictures and books on Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara at the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center in Shinjuku Ward.

The center was established in 1998 to promote understanding of the history of the Holocaust among Japanese, especially children.

"I hope visitors learn not just the history of the Holocaust but also think about how to make use of the history for the future," said Fumiko Ishioka, the center's director.

The lesson of the systematic annihilation of the Jews based on racial discrimination must be learned throughout the world, Ishioka said, but children in Japan learn little about the Holocaust in the classroom.

The center exhibits mementos and pictures of the victims borrowed from the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, as well as books and videos on the theme. It also lends materials on the Holocaust to schools and other public institutions.

A special exhibition currently on display focuses on a Japanese diplomat who saved the lives of 6,000 Jews.

The exhibition is titled "A Man of Courage -- Chiune Sugihara -- Through the Voices of the Survivors." Sugihara, who was at the time acting consul at the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania, issued visas for Polish Jews in August 1940 to flee their country -- in defiance of orders from Tokyo.

In the display, a picture of a 3-month-old boy is on exhibit with a caption reading: "My son Robert was born in Kobe. -- Dora Grynberg."

Grynberg, a young Jewish woman at that time, escaped from Nazi-occupied Poland to Japan by obtaining a transit visa at the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania. After arriving in Kobe, she gave birth to her son in 1941.

Another photo shows Grynberg, now 88, living in Sydney, flanked by her son and grandson.

Sugihara's widow, Yukiko, is quoted in the exhibition describing her husband's tireless efforts:

"He continued to issue hundreds of visas every day, without having lunch. He had a blister on his finger."

For this exhibition, Ishioka and Makoto Otsuka, director of the Holocaust Education Center in Hiroshima Prefecture, visited 30 survivors who had received "Sugihara visas" now living in the United States, Canada, Australia and Israel, to collect testimony and photos.

In the process of planning the exhibition, about 30 child volunteers were involved. They considered questions for survivors and interviewed Yukiko Sugihara.

After reading letters from the survivors and watching videotaped testimony, the children decided the title of the exhibition.

"I hope that the exhibition will give children in Japan an opportunity to learn about Sugihara's courage and his will to take action in spite of great risks, like many other righteous people during the Holocaust," Ishioka said.

The special exhibition is being held through Sept. 26.

The Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center is a six-minute walk from Sendagaya Station on the JR Chuo and Sobu lines. Admission is free. The center is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and the first and third Sunday of the month. It is closed on national holidays. A guide in English is available. For more information, call (03) 5363-4808.


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The Japan Times

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