Diplomat Chiune Sugihara gave visas to thousands of Jewish refugees after Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was "really very proud of him."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Japan's former consulate in Lithuania on Sunday to honor Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who defied orders and helped save an estimated 6,000 Jewish refugees during the Second World War.
"The courageous humanitarian act of Mr. Sugihara is highly appreciated by the whole world," Abe said in Kaunas, Lithuania's former capital. "I am really very proud of him."
The head of Lithuania's Jewish community, Faina Kukliansky, told AFP news agency, "Sugihara needed a lot of courage to do what he did, especially when we know that it was dangerous for him to defy the government's orders."
Sugihara, who died in 1986 at the age of 86, worked tirelessly to give thousands of visas to Jewish refugees arriving from Poland shortly after the country was invaded by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in September 1939.
The visas, which Sugihara issued against the wishes of the Japanese government, allowed many Jews to travel via Russia to Japan despite Tokyo's alliance with Germany.
Most of the refugees who arrived in Japan were later interned in the Shanghai Ghetto until the end of the war.
German forces occupied Lithuania in June 1941 and killed some 200,000 Jews — the majority of Lithuania's pre-war Jewish population — before the end of the war in 1945.