At the start of World War II, Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland sent thousands of Jewish refugees into neighboring Lithuania hoping to escape Hitler’s onslaught and find a way out of Europe. Chiune Sugihara, at the time the Japanese consul in Lithuania, defied the strict orders of his own government and worked himself to exhaustion to help these desperate women, children and men.

Over several weeks in the summer of 1940, Sugihara handwrote more than 3,000 transit visas that provided the refugees safe passage across the Soviet Union to Japan, then on to other countries. Such was his dedication that even after the consulate was shuttered and he and his family were recalled home, Sugihara continued to drop visas from the train window as he departed. It is estimated that his efforts saved the lives of thousands of Jews.

In tribute, on May 18, the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music will present “Righteousness and Bravery: A Concert for Sugihara,” at Royce Hall.

The concert will feature both Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony and the West Coast premiere of Lera Auerbach’s Symphony No. 6, “Vessels of Light,” a large-scale work for solo violoncello, choir and orchestra written to honor Sugihara’s memory. Japanese American violoncellist Kristina Reiko Cooper, whose husband’s father, Irving Rosen, was rescued thanks to the lifesaving visas granted by Chiune Sugihara, arranged for the commissioning of the work.

The event, organized in partnership with Israel’s Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Memorial, is the second in the center’s “Music and Justice” series, which launched in February with a three-day program featuring social justice­–oriented works by six contemporary composers and a performance of jazz icon Dave Brubeck’s cantata “Gates of Justice,” composed in the wake of the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Yad Vashem,” said Mark Kligman, director of the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience. “Our center has a global scope, and this concert is a tremendous opportunity to tell stories that remind us all how the acts of courageous individuals can have a ripple effect around the world.”

Read the full news release on the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music website.