Page last updated at 20:21 GMT, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Medal honours UK's Holocaust 'heroes'

Sir Nicholas Winton
Sir Nicholas was one of 28 people honoured at the ceremony

A medal honouring ordinary Britons who helped Jews and other persecuted groups escape the Nazis has been presented to two men by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Sir Nicholas Winton helped saved nearly 700 Jewish children while Denis Avey came to the aid of prisoners at Auschwitz when he was a POW nearby.

The Hero of the Holocaust medal was also posthumously awarded to 26 others.

The new award is a silver medallion, inscribed with the words "In the Service of Humanity".

On the reverse, it says "in recognition of... whose selfless actions preserved life in the face of persecution".

Sir Nicholas, who is now 100 and lives in Maidenhead, rescued 669 young Jews by organising trains to ferry them out of Czechoslovakia as the Nazis invaded.

Denis Avey, 91, from Bradwell in Derbyshire, exchanged places with a Jewish inmate at Auschwitz to gather information about conditions and helped an inmate survive by sharing supplies.

He told the BBC: "I've always poked my nose in… I've always done something, it gets you into a lot of trouble, but by Jove you sleep at nights, I tell you."

Others honoured at the ceremony included British spy Frank Foley who helped at least 10,000 Jews to safety while working as a passport officer in Berlin.

It was the extraordinary acts of ordinary people that sustained those suffering the greatest evil our generation has known
Gordon Brown

Phyllis Le Druillenec, now 100, travelled from Jersey to represent her husband Harold. During the German occupation of the Channel Islands Mr le Druillenec and his two sisters help to hide a young Russian prisoner of war.

All three were arrested. Mr le Druillenec survived imprisonment in Belsen. One of his sisters died in the gas chambers of Ravensbruck.

Mrs Le Druillenec said: "She'd lost her son, the ship he was on was torpedoed, and so she thought, when she saw this young Russian, she thought she would help another mother's son."

During the ceremony at Downing Street, the prime minister paid tribute to the "selfless humanity" displayed by the recipients.

Mr Brown said: "It was the extraordinary acts of ordinary people that sustained those suffering the greatest evil our generation has known.

"Those individual acts of bravery - undertaken knowing that, if discovered, the highest price would be paid - are not dimmed by the passing of the years."

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