Zwartendijk was a Dutch honorary consul and representative of Philips in Kaunas in 1940. He issued 2,400 Curacao visas to Lithuanian and Polish Jews, thus saving their lives.
Zwartendijk was put on the list of Righteous Among the Nations and received a Lithuanian Life Saving Cross posthumously. His memory will be honoured with a symbolic light installation in central Kaunas.
Giny Vos, a renowned Dutch artist had created the installation, which is going to contain more than 2000 light pillars, it will be three meters high and almost seven meters wide. The author met a group of journalists from the Baltic States outside of Amsterdam. The installation was being packed into the boxes after a brief display as Giny Vos was speaking to the journalists ‘This Dutchman gave a hope of life to every person he saved. I am working with the light, which also symbolises hope. That means that every saved person is like a source of the light. Of course, as J. Zwartendijk himself. Therefore, I decided that the best monument should be a light instillation with some 2000 light pillars joined together.’
The artist came to Kaunas in 2016 and visited the Chiune Sugihara museum. He was a Japanese government official who served as vice consul for the Japanese Empire in Lithuania. During the Second World War, Sugihara helped some six thousand Jews flee Europe by issuing transit visas to them so that they could travel through Japanese territory, risking his job and his family's lives. Mr Sugihara worked with Mr Zwartendijk to save more than 2000 lives. Giny Vos heard about this Dutchmen for the first time then and this left an extremely deep impression.
The Dutch Ambassador to Lithuania Bert van der Lingen got in touch with the artist and suggested an idea of monument to the Dutch diplomat Jan Zwartendijk. Giny Vos came to Kaunas to choose a place for the instillation on the main street of Kaunas, close to the place where the diplomat lived.‘ It is the shape of the spiral because it is all about continuation: more than 2000 who were saved have spread around the world. They got children, and grandchildren. ‘Hence, we can only assume that there are more than 10.000 who were saved by Zwartendijk,’ Giny Vos explained.
The diplomat's children and a person saved by Zwartendijk will attend the unveiling ceremony on Friday afternoon.