A garden honouring the late MI6 agent who helped thousands of Jews to flee Nazi Germany was opened at Finchley’s Sternberg Centre on Sunday in the presence of Cherie Blair.
Frank Foley worked as a passport control officer at the British Embassy in Berlin as a cover for his spying activities. As well as favourably interpreting the rules on visas, he helped to forge passports and even sheltered Jews in his own home.
Mrs Blair said she became aware of Foley’s unassuming heroism through her legal work, when unsuccessfully petitioning the Foreign Office to release classified files about his exploits.
“This memorial helps us to remember the past so that Holocaust deniers cannot spread their ideas. Despite what happened, there are also people who think that the Holocaust was justified. I am hoping the younger generations will learn not to make the mistakes of their forebears.”
With this week’s European elections in mind, Foley’s biographer Michael Smith noted the threat of the BNP. He further said that “with the mainstream parties also drawing on spurious links between unemployment and immigration, I am reminded of the situation in Britain during the war, when the British Medical Association lobbied the government to stop Jewish doctors coming over here and taking their jobs”.
Reform movement head Rabbi Tony Bayfield reflected that “although we have many enemies, we should also remember we have also had great friends such as Frank Foley”.
Among the 60-plus guests was Foley’s great-niece Patricia Dunston, who recalled spending “a great deal of time with Frank. Although we did not know the full story, we knew he did some amazing things during the war.”
Also present was film producer Timothy Haas, son of one of the Jews Foley assisted. He is making a film he hopes will give Foley greater, albeit posthumous, acknowledgement. “My mother was one of those saved by Foley in 1934 and he even helped my family settle in Hampstead,” Mr Haas explained. “I am hoping this film will help him to become recognised as the hero he was.”
A scarf of Foley’s was presented to Holocaust Educational Trust chairman Lord Janner by John Curtis, one of the event organisers.