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 honouring Major Frank Foley has been placed at the entrance to Hoop Lane cemetery in Golders Green, in the hope that his story will be remembered by the Jewish community in the years to come.
In the late 1930s, Major Foley worked as a passport officer at the British Embassy in Berlin. But the job was a cover; he 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 and so risking his own life and the safety of his family, he sheltered Jews at his personal home as the city became increasingly dangerous in the aftermath of Kristallnacht.
He also went directly 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.
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 a funeral we do so with sadness, but for people who died a normal death in the normal order of things.
“There is nowhere near enough recognition for someone who did what Frank Foley did.”
Commenting that the spy’s life was “like something out of a John Buchan novel”, Home Office Minister Lord Henley praised Major Foley as “a genuine British hero” who was driven by his convictions.
The ceremony was also attended by Nachum Stechler and Inge Gershfield who, without Major Foley’s efforts, may not have survived the Holocaust.
“He got me a Polish passport because I was in a camp on the border of Poland,” said Mr Stechler. “Because of that I was able to come to London.”