Sempo Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania who issued thousands of transit visas to Jewish refugees of the Holocaust.  Though he did not have authority from the Japanese government to do so, Sugihara is said to have saved approximately 7,000 Jewish refugees though his efforts.

Sugihara was posted in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1939.  At the time, the Japanese government required that transit visas only be granted to those who had sufficient funds, and who had also procured an exit visa from Japan.

Seeing the desperate condition of the men and women who came to his office, Sugihara, a low-level bureaucrat, disobeyed orders dispatched from the Japanese Foreign Ministry and issued visas anyway.

From August to September, 1941, Sugihara worked 18-20 hours per day, creating the same volume of visas each day that would have ordinarily been issued over the course of a month.  Even as his office was shut down and he was leaving Kaunas, he threw visas to refugees waiting on the train platform.

After the war, Sugihara was asked to resign from his post by the Japanese Foreign Office.  It is unclear whether this was a punitive action, but nonetheless Sugihara spent the rest of his life working menial jobs, and settled in the Soviet Union for many years.  He was eventually recognized for his efforts in 1985, and named "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem. Chiune Sugihara died in 1986, largely unknown in his native Japan. 

When asked why he risked his career to save other people, he cited an old samurai proverb: "Even the hunter cannot kill a bird which flies to him for refuge."