Britain honors eight Holocaust 'heroes' for saving Jewish lives

"The moral conviction and bravery of the British heroes of the Holocaust should fill us with pride."

January 24, 2018 21:07
2 minute read.
Britain honors eight Holocaust 'heroes' for saving Jewish lives

Holocaust survivor Gena Turgel MBE lights a candle at the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office's Holocaust Memorial Day event, 23 January 2018.. (photo credit: FOREIGN & COMMONWEALTH OFFICE)


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The British government honored eight "British heroes" on Tuesday for saving thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

The eight British citizens were celebrated at a ceremony marking Holocaust Memorial Day, hosted by the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Israeli Embassy in London.

The "British Heroes of the Holocaust" medal is awarded to British citizens who performed extraordinary acts of courage and self-sacrifice to help Jewish people and others during the Holocaust. Descendants and representatives of the eight individuals attended the ceremony.

Recipients of the award included British diplomats John Carvell and Sir Thomas Preston who issued almost 1,500 German and Lithuanian Jews certificates enabling them to escape persecution. Many of the refugees escaped to Palestine and Sweden.

Margaret Reid, who worked in the Passport Control Office of the Berlin Embassy and issued visas allowing thousands of persecuted Jews to emigrate, also received the award. Another recipient was Sir George Ogilvie-Forbes, the Chargé d'Affaires at the British Embassy in Berlin from 1937-1939, who deliberately turned a blind eye to the issuing of the visas.

Dorothea Webber was recognized for sheltering a Jewish friend, Hedwig Bercu, following the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands. She later married a German soldier, Kurt Ruemmele, who assisted in hiding her friend.

Two further recipients were Doreen Warriner and Trevor Chadwick, two academics who worked closely with Sir Nicholas Winton, dubbed the "British Schindler" by the British press, to evacuate nearly 700 children from Czechoslovakia to Britain before the outbreak of the Second World War.

A representative of Doreen Warriner, recognized for extraordinary acts during the Holocaust, collects an award, January 23, 2018 (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The final recipient of the award was Otto Schiff, a founder of the Jewish Refugees Committee, which arranged to bring or financially assisted many of the 60,000 Jews who fled from Germany and Austria to Britain after 1933.

The ceremony was also attended by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, other dignitaries and Holocaust survivors.

"The moral conviction and bravery of the British heroes of the Holocaust should fill us with pride," said Johnson.

"These exceptional individuals saved hundreds of lives and went above and beyond the call of duty in the most difficult circumstances to do the right thing," he added.

"As a government, we are committed to ensuring that society learns the lessons of the Holocaust so that bigotry and prejudice are given no place to take root."

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson speaks at an event commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day, January 23, 2018 (Foreign & Commonwealth Office)

£50m ($71m) of public money has been committed to the construction of a British Holocaust memorial to be built next to Westminster's Houses of Parliament. The memorial and education center is due to be completed by 2021.

“This unique and immersive memorial is not just for Londoners, but for the whole UK,” said Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

“It will ensure the horrors of the Holocaust are never forgotten and will stand as a powerful reminder to future generations about the fragility of peace.”

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