Foreign office memorial 'omits key names'

By Simon Rocker, September 26, 2008

The Association of Jewish Refugees has decided not to sponsor a Foreign Office memorial to diplomats who saved people from the Nazis - because there is no mention of Jews.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, is due to unveil the plaque at the Foreign Office in a ceremony in November. It will read: "To commemorate those British diplomats who by their personal endeavours helped to rescue victims of Nazi oppression."

But after seeing the wording, AJR trustees ruled out making a donation to the project, the cost of which is understood to be around £15,000. The idea was first proposed by the interfaith activist Sir Sigmund Sternberg.

Michael Newman, head of public relations at the AJR, said: "The trustees felt there were two issues. Firstly, the plaque doesn't mention Jews. Secondly, it doesn't refer to the extra actions taken by the diplomats to go against policy and break the rules to try to save people.

"The word ‘endeavour' doesn't portray the lengths to which some of the diplomats like Frank Foley went, in order to issue visas. It fails to recognise the efforts of individual officials in the Foreign Office. We don't want this to mean the whole Foreign Office."

Mr Foley, who worked covertly for the Secret Service while with the British embassy in pre-war Berlin, saved thousands of Jews by issuing them with visas. His heroism was recognised only long after his death in 1958.

Sir Sigmund said he was "saddened that the Association of Jewish Refugees has decided not to be associated with the dedication of the plaque commemorating the bravery of British diplomats who helped to save the lives of Jews and others during the Nazi period".

On Monday, the Holocaust Educational Trust's Labour Party conference fringe event was dedicated to its campaign to secure posthumous honours for British rescuers during the war. For the last two months, HET has been running a campaign specifically to secure a posthumous honour for Mr Foley.

HET chief executive Karen Pollock said: "Our campaign has highlighted the brave actions of a small number of people who made a huge difference, saving thousands of lives, and we are delighted that the Foreign Office recognises the important role these rescuers played during the Second World War.

"We hope this is the first step towards formal recognition by the government for these British heroes."

Last updated: 2:17pm, September 25 2008