Nun back on Shoah hero list

By Simon Caldwell, May 14, 2009
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A Catholic nun who saved a family of French Jews from the Nazis has been added to a list of British heroes proposed for an honour by the government after initially being forgotten.

Sister Agnes Walsh is one of just 13 Britons already honoured as Righteous Among Nations by Yad Vashem.

But she was left out of a list of the rescuers, put together by the Holocaust Education Trust, who may be posthumously honoured by the government for their actions in saving Jewish lives.

David Gifford, chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews, said: “If she is already a Righteous Gentile, and she is British, why was she left out?

When first contacted by the JC, the HET said it did not have enough information about the nun to add her to the list. But after being handed biographical information about Sister Agnes and her acts of heroism, it said she would be added.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the HET, said: “The process for the awards is yet to be set up and we welcome information on anyone who ought to be considered, including Sister Agnes, a woman who has been recognised as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel and whose acts of extraordinary heroism during that dark time should undoubtedly be recognised in Britain as well.”

The initiative to honour the rescuers of the Holocaust was announced in Parliament the day after the Prime Minister returned from his first visit to Auschwitz earlier this month.

Born Clare Walsh in Hull, Sister Agnes was in a convent in France when the Nazis invaded.

During manhunts for Jews in December 1943, Pierre Cremieux asked the nuns to hide his wife, seven-year-old son and four-month-old twins.

Sister Agnes, in spite of risks to herself, pleaded with her superior to shelter the family until liberation.

The family stayed in touch with the nun after the war and their testimony led to her recognition by Yad Vashem in 1990, aged 94. She died three years later.

Stephen Smith, director of the Holocaust Centre in Nottingham, added: “Yad Vashem is the final arbiter on this and they have always done their job with due diligence. If they say she is worthy of Righteous Among Nations, then she certainly is.”

    Last updated: 11:00am, May 14 2009