Madoka Sugihara, 51, never had a chance to hear directly from her grandfather Chiune Sugihara about his heroic efforts as a Japanese diplomat during World War II to issue visas to help thousands of Jews escape from Nazi persecution.

But through the stories of the offspring of the survivors who were offered the "Visas for Life" to flee from Europe, Madoka Sugihara feels the continuing significance of what the diplomat did in defiance of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's policy at that time.

"In an age when conflicts show no end, I want to speak out about the value of human life and the importance of having the courage to take actions," she said, adding that her mission is to pass on the stories about her grandfather, often dubbed Japan's Oskar Schindler, a German who provided Jews with a safe haven during World War II.

In September last year, she was in Australia to meet Susan Hearst, 70, whose mother was among the so-called Sugihara visa survivors. Hearst said in tears that she would "not be here" had her mother not received the visa.

"Thank you for the gift of life," Hearst was quoted as telling Madoka Sugihara, who is vice chair of a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization seeking to publicize Chiune Sugihara's activities.

Originally from Poland, Susan's mother Maria Kamm, 97, fled to neighboring Lithuania as many other Jews did following the German invasion of their country in September 1939.

Chiune Sugihara was at that time a Japanese acting consul in the then Lithuanian capital Kaunas. Jewish refugees, desperately seeking a way out of Europe as persecution of Jews escalated, approached the Japanese Consulate in Kaunas to seek transit visas to pass through Japan and go to another country.

The diplomat sought permission from the Japanese Foreign Ministry to issue the transit visas but it was denied. He then started writing thousands of visas himself, risking his own career, for about a month until the last minute of his departure from Lithuania in 1940, according to the website of the Chiune Sugihara Memorial Hall.

With the transit visa, Kamm traveled through the Soviet Union, Japan, and China, and eventually arrived in Australia.

Hearst said it is now difficult for her mother to recount exactly what happened, but that she is always grateful to Sugihara. "My mother spoke of Sugihara as a hero to whom we owe our very existence."

Seeing Kamm smiling peacefully with her family members, Madoka Sugihara said she too could feel her grandfather's footprint there.

Madoka Sugihara has also met Daniel Grynberg, 48, whose grandparents left Poland and temporarily stayed in Kobe before arriving in Australia.

His relatives in Poland were all killed by the Nazis. Touching on Judaism, which teaches that whoever saves a single life saves the entire world, Grynberg told Madoka Sugihara that he appreciates the "gift of life."

Up to 6,000 lives are believed to have been saved through the Sugihara visas, according to the NPO Chiune Sugihara Visas for Life.

Chiune Sugihara, who was a Christian, later wrote in his memoirs about how he struggled to reach his decision to issue the visas.

"I deliberated all night long until I could not think any longer...Finally, after soul-searching, I concluded that humanity and generosity are above all things and, fearing nothing, I issued the visas risking my career. I still believe I was right," he wrote in his memoirs, according to the English website of the memorial hall.

He has also said to have told his wife that he would "betray God" if he did not save the people.

But the incident put him in a difficult position in the Foreign Ministry and he was forced into retirement in 1947. The story in Lithuania was seen as a "taboo topic" for the family and Chiune Sugihara never talked about it to his granddaughter.

It was only after he died in 1986 at the age of 86 that the Foreign Ministry apologized to the family for its discourtesy to Chiune Sugihara and he became officially recognized as a courageous diplomat who had acted as a humanitarian.