In September 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union annexed Poland and about 12 000 Polish Jews found themselves in still-independent Lithuania. Two months later, on November 23rd, Ch. Sugihara was appointed as vice-consul in a newly opened Japanese Consulate in Kaunas, which during the Second World War became the gateway to new life for thousands of war refugees. Refugees in Lithuania tried to obtain visas to foreign countries. Unfortunetaly, in June 1940, the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania and Nazi Germany occupied the major part of Europe. Reaching Japan via the Soviet Union was almost the only way for the war refugees to survive. Hundreds contacted Ch. Sugihara with requests to issue them transit visas to Japan. The Vice-consul answered their plight.

After invading Lithuania, the Soviet Union ordered the closing of all foreign embassies in Kaunas immediately. During such a crisis, Ch. Sugihara was trying to issue as many visas as possible. During this crisis, Chiune Sugihara issued as many visas as possible. According to witnesses, Sugihara filled in visas even while on the train from Kaunas to Berlin. Just before leaving to Germany, he threw the signed visas through the train window. It is thought that approximately 6000 people, mostly Polish Jews, used these means to escape.