Teruyo Shimazu Researches Involvement of Japanese Ambassador in WWII

With the help of a Kenan Grant, Teruyo Shimazu, Instructor in Japanese, traveled to Europe to research Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese ambassador to Poland and Lithuania during World War II. Sugihara issued transit visas to Jews trying to escape the Axis forces. Shimazu said, “Lithuania was the last point in Europe before it became the Soviet Union. The Soviets said that they did not want Nazis or Jews in their country, so this was a very important post.” “[Sugihara] was very honorable, however he is not widely recognized. He saved about 6,000 Jews from the Holocaust. Part of my project was to shed light on his achievements so that others could learn about him,” Shimazu continued. “Some of these survivors were able to escape to South America, The Caribbean, The United States, and China,” she added. Shimazu traveled to Lithuania and visited the Chiune Sugihara Museum, a museum dedicated solely to Sugihara. Shimazu said, “The most helpful person that I talked to was the director of the Lithuanian Museum.” “Through our research, we were able to locate three people who escaped using the Japanese visas that were still alive and living in the U.S,” Shimazu continued. Though Shimazu made plans to meet with each of the survivors, the meetings were delayed due to illness. However, Shimazu has plans to reschedule the meetings in the future. On her trip, Shimazu also traveled to Warsaw, Poland. “I wanted to take the same path as the Jews as they escaped. I wanted to feel what it is like to walk like them, to feel connected to them,” she said. Before Shimazu went on her trip, she researched her topic by reading articles and visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. Shimazu has always been intrigued by the connections between the Japanese Empire and Europe during World War II, and she applied for the Kenan Grant last winter to fund her research. Shimazu was also able to interact with many native World War II enthusiasts while on her trip, so that she would be able “To understand what their interests and knowledge were on the subject.” Throughout her entire trip, Shimazu was fascinated with the motives behind the Holocaust. She said,“I can’t comprehend why people would want such unbelievable things to happen to others. I like to think that I am speaking up for the dead.” Shimazu said that her research was mostly for personal and student enrichment. “But I would be happy to give a presentation on my works and travelse.” “Fun is different from person to person. For me, it was fun to travel to Europe and discover just how much I don’t know,” said Shimazu. “Being a good teacher is a lot like being a good student. You always need to be learning,” Shimazu said. “This trip allowed me to be humble. I was made aware of how much I don’t know.” Kenan Grants will not be awarded to faculty members for the summer of 2010. “[I am] really grateful that the Kenan Grant allows me to do this kind of scholastic work,” said Shimazu. “Traveling allowed me to keep my eyes open to the world and expand my frame of mind.” Several faculty developmental grants are still available to faculty members pursuing advanced degrees related to their academic field. “It is important to pursue these degrees, but it is also important that we don’t narrow ourselves down to one discipline,” said Shimazu. “While the Kenan grants may not be directly related to the teacher’s particular discipline, both the faculty and the students in the school would benefit hugely from the grants.” “I can’t settle with one idea or focus. I always ask myself: what are my fears? My fear is not being able to do anything new,” said Shimazu.