British Schindler honoured in Berlin

25th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

25 November 2004 , BERLIN - Sir Peter Torry, Britain's ambassador in Berlin, has unveiled a plaque commemorating Frank Foley, a spy who enabled thousands of Jews to flee Nazi Germany before World War II while working as a passport official in the German capital. "He was a true British hero," said Sir Peter after the unveiling ceremony, adding that Foley's activities were carried out at "great personal risk, as he did not have diplomatic immunity at the time." From 1922 until 1938 Foley, a quiet unassuming

25 November 2004

BERLIN - Sir Peter Torry, Britain's ambassador in Berlin, has unveiled a plaque commemorating Frank Foley, a spy who enabled thousands of Jews to flee Nazi Germany before World War II while working as a passport official in the German capital.

"He was a true British hero," said Sir Peter after the unveiling ceremony, adding that Foley's activities were carried out at "great personal risk, as he did not have diplomatic immunity at the time."

From 1922 until 1938 Foley, a quiet unassuming man, was the British MI6 foreign intelligence station chief in Berlin. He had issued visas to thousands of Jews, although they had not always met the requirements laid down by the British authorities.

On some occasions, he had rescued Jews even after they had been hauled away to concentration camps by giving them "life-saving" visas for Palestine.

Foley's title at the pre-war British Embassy on the Wilhelmstrasse - later destroyed during wartime bombing - and more recently rebuilt on its old site, was that of a passport control officer.

In reality he was Britain's top pre-war spy in the capital, who repeatedly issued Jews with false papers. He also hid some of them, including Leo Baeck, the chairman of the Association of Jewish Rabbis, in his apartment in Berlin's Lessingstrasse.

Elizabeth Lernau, 91, one of the Jews he was able to help in Berlin in the mid-1930s, said at the British embassy, that she had accepted the invitation to attend the event in the German capital, because "Foley had been a truly courageous man."

In the early 1930s she had hoped to study medicine in Berlin, but the arrival of Hitler put paid to that dream. "I soon realised that l could not live any longer in Germany, so l called at the British Embassy enquiring about a visa.

"I never met Mr. Foley himself, but l learned a lot about him later. He rescued my life. It's as simple as that," said Lernau, who lives near Tel Aviv and still keeps active as a German legal translator.

Michael Smith, a former Daily Telegraph defence correspondent, who recently wrote a book entitled "Foley, the Spy who Saved 10,000 Jews", was present at the ceremony Wednesday.

He told a packed embassy gathering, which included relatives and friends of the late spy, that for years Foley had bent the rules to help Jews leave the country.

His actions were all the more remarkable because he was also at the time running a major intelligence operation, acquiring details of Germany's military research and development that were eventually crucial to the allied victory.

It was through his flair for recruiting agents that the allies had obtained details of Hitler's secret rocket programme and the progress of its atomic research, he said.

Foley himself left Berlin shortly before the outbreak of World War II, and for years his heroic acts in rescuing Jews went largely unnoticed in his homeland. The hitherto "unsung hero" died of a heart attack in Birmingham, England in 1958.

DPA

Subject: German news

 

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