Honour for rabbi who saved hundreds of children from Nazis
An Orthodox rabbi who rescued hundreds of children from Nazi Europe is to be posthumously honoured as one of the British heroes of the Holocaust.
Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld will be one of those recognised at a ceremony at the Department for Communities on Monday.
The awards were established in 2009 to commemorate extraordinary humanitarian efforts. Past recipients have included Sir Nicholas Winton and Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice.
Rabbi Schonfeld, the founder of the Hasmonean schools, who died aged 72 in 1984, was one of the leading lights in what became the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations. After the Anschluss — the Nazi takeover of Austria — in 1938, he went on several missions to bring around 300 Jewish children out of Europe to Britain.
“Before the war, he risked his life going to Germany and Austria even though the Foreign Office told him not to go,” his son, Dr Jeremy Schonfeld, recalled.
Rabbi Schonfeld also arranged for more than 1,000 other Jews to find refuge, including yeshivah students and rabbis.
During the war, as head of the Chief Rabbi’s Religious Emergency Council, he secured visas for Hungarian Jews to get to Mauritius. But another plan to help beleaguered European Jews reach safety in British dominion territories foundered.
“It was scotched by the Zionist Federation and Board of Deputies because my father didn’t include Palestine,” Dr Schonfeld said.
Monday’s ceremony will be “the first official recognition of my father’s work,” he added.
“He felt he had done what any decent person would do.”