The year was 1940, and the Nazis were about to invade Lithuania. Chiune Sugihara, an employee at the local Japanese consul, found himself swamped by a desperate crowd of Jewish refugees. They needed transit visas so that the Soviets, then in power, would let them leave the country. Although Japan was technically a Nazi ally at the time, Sugihara decided “screw it” and started on a renegade visa-issuing rampage, working up to 20 hours a day to create thousands of life-saving permits. It’s estimated 40,000 people are alive today because of what Sugihara did.
Japan didn’t take kindly to this, and quickly ended Sugihara’s public service career, sending his family into poverty. Sugihara could have spent the rest of his life complaining. He didn’t, and also continually shrugged off any attention given to his heroics. Sugihara’s quote was his response to the question about why he’d chosen to help the refugees. He didn’t save lives in order to gain anything, or to impress anyone. He did it because it was right.