British spy Frank Foley who saved German Jews honoured

A "true British hero" of the Holocaust who risked his life to save 10,000 German Jews has had his bravery marked at a Jewish cemetery.

The plaque honoring Major Frank Foley has been placed at the entrance to Hoop Lane cemetery in Golders Green..

In the late 1930s, Major Foley worked as a passport officer at the British Embassy in Berlin. But the job was a cover; Foley was an MI5 agent and he did everything he could to help Jews escape Nazi Germany by providing them with visas, passports and other means of exit.

Despite having no diplomatic immunity, he sheltered Jews at his personal home as the city became increasingly dangerous in the aftermath of Kristellnacht. He also went into the concentration camps and saved Jews from there.

But he retired in England and died in obscurity in 1958, only recognised as a "righteous among the nations" by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in 1999.

The campaign to make Major Foley a household name has been supported by his biographer, Michael Smith, and John Curtis, chairman of the joint burial committee of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation and West London Synagogue

Speaking to an audience that included Lord Janner, the mayor of Barnet, and Andrew Burns, the government's first envoy for post-Holocaust issues, as well as Home Office minister of state Lord Henley, West London Synagogue rabbi Baroness Neuberger said highlighting Major Foley's bravery at a Jewish burial ground was fitting.

"It's hugely important to have this memorial here," she said. "When we come in for funeral we do so with sadness, but for people who died a normal death in the normal order of things.

Commenting that the spy's life was "like something out of a John Buchan novel", Lord Henley – filling in for Home Secretary Theresa May at the last minute – praised Major Foley as "a genuine British hero" who was driven by his convictions.

"It's right that we remember his bravery and selflessness. He was an inspiration to us all."

Last updated: 3:06pm, July 12 2012