13 Unexpected Historical Acts Of Kindness

List Rules
Vote up the acts of kindness that give you hope in humanity.

During some of the toughest conflicts in history, enemies have dissolved their negative feelings to show compassion. Some are famous feats of military goodwill; others were done by people you'd least expect to do good deeds; and still others are lesser-known or surprising historical acts of kindness, as shared by history lovers on Reddit.

But no matter the notoriety these acts have received, kindness in the darkest of times sheds a new light on what military personnel, public leaders, and the people they serve are willing to do even for sworn enemies. 


  • 1
    2,431 VOTES

    When A German Soldier Saved Thousands Of Chinese Nationals

    From a Redditor:

    That reminds me of the "good Nazi," John Rabe.

    He was the local [German] party representative in Nanking in the run-up to the Japanese attack. He used his status... to establish a safety zone. It's estimated he saved the lives of some 200,000 Chinese nationals...

    [H]e moved back to Germany, and after the war his party membership got him in trouble... [H]e and his family lived in poverty for a number of years.

    When the citizens of Nanking learned of this they raised $2,000 for him and [would send him]... food packages.

    • 2
      3,472 VOTES

      When A Japanese Diplomat Helped Jews Flee The Holocaust

      From Redditor /u/Kiyohara:

      Japanese diplomat in Lithuania during WWII. He was giving free travel passes to anyone who asked, especially Jews fleeing the [H]olocaust. He was ordered by his government to stop, [but] refused. As his embassy was being closed down, he [was] signing documents and handing them out to all refugees all the way to the train station...

      He saved 6,000 to 10,000 lives by his actions and was later named among "the Righteous [Among The] Nations," and had his name and story entered into a museum in Israel to be forever remembered.

      • 3
        2,856 VOTES

        When A Pilot Escorted His Enemy From Danger

        From Redditor /u/StarLycan:

        The Stigler-Brown Incident is my favorite. A German ace fighter pilot ([Franz] Stigler) spared and escorted a heavily damaged (not able to defend itself) B-17 ([flown by Charlie] Brown) out of German-occupied airspace to the English Channel in December of 1943. Both men survived... and in their old age became close friends... There is a video I found on YouTube from a newscast. I'll admit I shed tear[s].

        And Redditor /u/arvhult:

        During [WWII], American bombers were [taking out] Bremen, and [one] was severely damaged by German fighters. Fighter pilot Franz Stigler, recently rearmed and refueled, caught up with the retreating [plane] in his BF109, and could see... the injured crew. Instead of finishing it off, he stayed close to the [plane] so that German [anti-aircraft] would not target them. He tried to mouth and gesture for them to fly to Sweden to get aid, but pilot Charlie Brown and crew didn't understand. [Stigler] then maintained the escort until they were over open water.

        [Stigler] did this because he considered finishing a damaged plane with injured crew the same as [taking out] parachuting pilots, which was (and is) a war crime.

        Charlie Brown 50 years later managed to find [Stigler] and they became friends until [Stigler's] death.

        • 4
          2,254 VOTES

          When Boston Sent Ships To Aid Canada

          From Redditor /u/AnCrannog:

          During WWI, the Canadian city of Halifax experienced a catastrophic explosion in December when a supply vessel carrying explosives and ammunition collided with another ship [that] detonated its cargo. At the time, it was the largest [human-]made explosion. This [wiped out] a large portion of the city, caused a tsunami, and killed/blinded a lot of citizens who were watching from their windows. Shortly after, a blizzard hit the area...

          Boston sent relief aid and supplies. Every year, even 100 years later, Nova Scotia sends a large fir tree for Christmas as a token of gratitude.