Fri, Nov 26, 2004 - Page 6 News List

British `Schindler' honored for helping Jews escape Nazis


The man billed as Britain's answer to Oskar Schindler was finally honored by Britain on Wednesday, 60 years after he helped up to 10,000 Jews escape from Nazi Germany.

Frank Foley worked as an intelligence chief in the 1920s and 1930s at the British embassy in Berlin, where the current ambassador, Peter Torry, unveiled a plaque in his honor.

Publicly, Foley headed the embassy's visa section and had no diplomatic immunity. But secretly he was station chief in Germany for the forerunner of what is now British intelligence (MI6), gathering information on the Soviet Union and later Hitler's Nazi regime in the run-up to the second world war.

Once the pogroms against the Jews began in the early 1930s he "tore up the rule book", said Michael Smith, author of a book on Foley. He ignored strict regulations and issued thousands of visas to Jews trying to escape persecution. Smith says that the German authorities clearly knew who he was, "and it is a miracle that he still got away with as much as he did."

Ida Weiss, a 33-year-old Jewish woman, lived in Vienna but was refused a visa by the British embassy there. She traveled to Berlin after hearing a rumor that it was possible to get visas "under the counter."

"When she arrived in Berlin the queue of people waiting for visas completely encircled the Tiergarten office twice round," said her son Peter Weiss, a guest of honor at the unveiling ceremony.

Ida Weiss was penniless but Foley hid her in his home for three days while he got the paperwork, and bought her train ticket out.

"On the day she left for Belgium, Foley took her to the station to wave her off. The last thing he said to her was `God speed.' She never saw him again," Peter Weiss said.

After Foley's death in 1958. a grove of pine trees, each bought by a survivor, was dedicated to his memory in Israel, and in 1999 Israel awarded him the title "righteous amongst the gentiles," its highest honor for non-Jews.

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