Holocaust heroism honoured

Shahid Malik meets Linda Clarke, daughter of Charles Coward, and Mrs Clarke’s husband Barry

Shahid Malik meets Linda Clarke, daughter of Charles Coward, and Mrs Clarke’s husband Barry

The daughter of a British sergeant said to have saved 400 Jewish lives during the war was among relatives of Holocaust heroes who met Communities Minister Shahid Malik in Westminster.

Linda Clarke’s father Charles Coward was captured near Calais and sent to the Monowitz PoW camp (known as Auschwitz III) in 1943. As well as helping the Jewish prisoners, he managed to send coded messages to the British authorities about the number of Jewish transports.

On one occasion, he swapped clothes with an inmate to spend a night in the Jewish camp to experience the appalling conditions at first-hand. He has been recognised as a Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Holocaust memorial authority Yad Vashem and there is a blue plaque outside the Edmonton home where he lived from 1945 until his death.

Following a Holocaust Educational Trust campaign, Gordon Brown in April announced the creation of an award recognising Britons who helped Jews and other groups escape Nazi persecution.

Mrs Clarke said: “I feel very honoured by the prospect of receiving this award from the government on behalf of my father. His legacy will be passed on through generations to come.”

The minister additionally met relatives of Albert Bedane, who hid a Dutch Jew in his home in occupied Jersey, and of June Ravenhall, a British woman who gave shelter to a Jewish child in Holland.

Also present was the son of Sofka Skipwith, who passed on smuggled Red Cross parcels to Polish Jews in an internment camp in Vittel, France.

Mr Malik said: “It’s a privilege for the department to be involved in this incredibly powerful project — and it is humbling to read the accounts of what these heroes did. Britain needs to know about these heroes as they serve as such a great example for young people today.”

Beyond acknowledging selfless and courageous acts, the awards would serve as “a constant reminder of the depths of depravity to which man can fall.

“The truth is that by protecting and defending an individual, we are protecting and defending ourselves — and that is the job of all decent Britons.”

    Last updated: 1:31pm, July 29 2009