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13 Unexpected Historical Acts Of Kindness

May 13, 2020 28.3k votes 3.7k voters 66.1k views13 items

List RulesVote 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

    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.

    • 2

      When A US Pilot Dropped Candy For German Children

      From Redditor /u/AyoJenny:

      The candy bomber story post-WWII makes me cry every time...

      The US airlifted tons and tons of supplies daily to West Berlin when [the city was] blocked... by the Soviet Union. One pilot dropped tiny parachutes of candy for the German kids after an encounter with a group of them [where] they asked him what he was chewing. It was gum; they’d never seen [it]. He gave [some gum] to them, and one kid split [it] into many tiny pieces and [shared] with all the kids. They said, “Someday we’ll have enough to eat, but if we lose our freedom, we’ll never get it back.”

      After that [the pilot] secretly started to gather candy, chocolates, and gum for them and told them to watch out for his plane... [He broke] the rules by doing that and... [thought] he would get in trouble, but he was encouraged instead. It was really heartwarming. The kids are now grown and they celebrate him every year and invite him to Germany all the time.

      It was the sweetest [story]. I love it so much. Wars or times of crisis really bring out the worst or best in people. Eventually humanity always wins.

      • 3

        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

          When A Misinterpreted Gift Was Sincerely Reciprocated

          From Redditor /u/AbstractBettaFish:

          [There's] a story from Gallipoli where an Australian sergeant was trying to show his men proper grenade-throwing techniques, and he threw a can of beef toward the Ottoman line to demonstrate. Then a few minutes later a tin full of [tobacco] was thrown back with a note in rough French (the lingua franca of the time) thanking them for the gift of beef and offering the [tobacco] in return.