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LONDON - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown Tuesday honored Britons who saved the lives of Jews and other persecuted groups during the Holocaust by giving them a new award at a reception at Downing Street.

Brown announced the award last year on a visit to Auschwitz. This is the first recognition Britain has bestowed on civilians who risked their lives to help Jews and others during the Holocaust.

"These individuals are true British heroes and a source of national pride for all of us," Brown said in a statement. "We pay tribute to them for the inspiration they provide now and for future generations to come."

The award, a silver medallion inscribed with the words "In the Service of Humanity," was presented in the name of 27 individuals, many of whom are now dead. But two - Sir Nicholas Winton, 100, and Denis Avey, 91 - accepted their awards in person at Tuesday's reception.

Winton organized the rescue of 669 mainly Jewish children by train from Prague in 1939, in what became known as the Kindertransport. Avey was a former prisoner of war who helped a German Jewish inmate, Ernst Lobethall, to survive Auschwitz.

"This award is a true opportunity to continue to celebrate the values of our country through the experiences of people who at times put the lives of their family in danger and even sacrificed their own in order to help others," Minister for Cohesion and Faith Shahid Malik said on the government web site.