British honor diplomats who helped Jews flee Nazis

Miliband: 'He who saves just one life is considered as if he has saved an entire world.'

Miliband speaks to AP 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Miliband speaks to AP 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
British diplomats who helped Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution were honored at the Foreign Office in Whitehall on Thursday evening with the unveiling of a plaque in their memory. Between 1933 and 1936, British diplomats living in Germany, Austria and other European countries gave nearly 30,000 Jews visas to Britain, as well as granting them entry to Mandatory Palestine. Frank Foley, who was an MI6 agent based at the British Embassy in Berlin during the 1930s, played an integral part in helping thousands of Jews escape from Nazi Germany. Working as a passport control officer as a cover for his intelligence work, he used his position to provide papers for Jews. Foley also helped forge passports and even sheltered people in his own home at grave personal risk. At a reception in the Locarno Suite at the Foreign Office, attended by British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks and representatives of the major Jewish organizations, Foreign Minister David Miliband paid tribute to Foley and the many other diplomats who helped Jews and other victims of the Nazis. "The plaque honors those British diplomats who helped Jews and other victims of Nazi persecution during one of Europe's darkest hours," Miliband said. "Some of these individuals are well known to us: Frank Foley visited concentration camps to get Jews out and hid others in his home; Robert Smallbones, our consul-general in Frankfurt, worked 18-hour days issuing visas on his own authority in the aftermath of Kristallnacht. Others who also helped may have escaped history's limelight, but all their efforts deserve to be remembered." Unveiling the plaque the foreign minister said, "We are here today to pay tribute to the men and women who understood more than most the depths of the Talmudic phrase 'he who saves just one life is considered as if he has saved an entire world.' It seems so simple but in the 20th century, it was sometimes deemed impossible." The bronze plaque bears the inscription, "To commemorate those British diplomats who by their personal endeavours helped to rescue victims of Nazi oppression." Present at the unveiling were a number of Jews who had been the recipients of this help. Klaus Neuberg's father, Max Neuberg, was sent to Sachsenhausen during Kristallnacht along with three of his nephews. Sir George Ogilvie-Forbes, counsellor and charge d'affaires at the British Embassy in Berlin, ensured that all of them, together with their wives and children, got immigration visas for New Zealand. Also present was John Cooke, whose grandparents were given visas by Smallbones in November 1938 and who settled in Dublin. Ruth Weyl's father was offered shelter by Foley in Berlin, when he tried to escape imprisonment by the Nazis. She herself received a student visa that helped her flee. Other attendees included George Weidenfeld, co-founder of publishers Weidenfeld and Nicolson, who, at 18, was issued a visa to enter Britain by Thomas Kendrick, passport control officer in Vienna; and Alec Shapiro, whose father-in-law was helped to emigrate to the UK with his wife and two children by British Vice-Consul in Munich Frank Fulham. Philanthropist and businessman Sir Sigmund Sternberg, who was integral to the commemoration initiative, said: "The brave British diplomats, known and unknown, who displayed their concern for the suffering of Jews and other victims of Nazism, are properly entitled to the recognition and appreciation which we accord them with the unveiling of this plaque. "I am grateful for the understanding and support offered by the Foreign Office, led by the foreign secretary, in bringing this commemorative project to fruition. It will forever be a reminder of the fact that, even in the most terrible of circumstances, individuals of good conscience can make a contribution to the safeguarding of humanity." Foreign Office historians worked with the renowned Holocaust historian Sir Martin Gilbert to bring the project to fruition. "When the Holocaust is finally beyond living memory, the desire will remain to remember and to honor those who extended a helping hand," Gilbert said. "It is important to recognize individual bravery. It is also important to provide a reminder that human beings can, in situations where civilized values are being undermined, find the strength of character and purpose to resist the evil impulses of the age, and to rescue the victims of barbarity."