Francis Foley worked as a passport control officer in Berlin as cover for his intelligence work. He saved the lives of thousands of Jews
The head of MI6 has paid a rare public tribute to a spy who saved more than 10,000 Jews from Nazi Germany.
Alex Younger, who has been Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service since 2014, told the Holocaust Educational Trust and the family of spy Frank Foley that he had been ‘a consummately effective intelligence officer’.
Mr Foley, who died 60 years ago, was attached to the British Embassy in Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s. He worked as a passport control officer as cover for his intelligence work, and used his position to provide visas for those desperate to flee the rise of anti-Semitism.
He repeatedly flouted Nazi laws, at great personal danger, to enable Jews in Germany to escape to Britain and Palestine. He also helped to forge passports, secured their release from concentration camps, and in the late 1930s he even hid Jewish fugitives in his own home.
Despite this, his tireless work was never acknowledged during his lifetime. In 2004 a plaque was placed outside the British Embassy in Berlin to pay tribute to his remarkable courage – the first time that the British government officially recognised his work.
Mr Younger, speaking at at the MI6 headquarters in London yesterday, said: ‘There is a mantra that surrounds MI6’s history that reads ‘Our successes are private, our failures are public’.
Alex Younger (pictured) Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service since 2014, told the family of Mr Foley that he had been ‘a consummately effective intelligence officer’
‘The need for secrecy has sometimes helped create a pretty distorted and inaccurate narrative of the organisation’s achievements since its foundation in 1909.
‘It’s a wonderful thing for MI6 that one of its most distinguished members’ successes are no longer private.
‘Frank’s dignity, compassion and bravery are in no doubt. As a consummately effective intelligence officer he witnessed at first hand the Nazi seizure of power, and the horrors and depravity of the regime. While many condemned and criticised the Nazis’ discriminative laws, Frank took action.
‘With little regard for his personal safety he took a stance against evil. Despite exposing himself to significant personal risk, Frank made a decision to help.
‘He knew the dire consequences were he to get caught. Frank’s tenacity and passion saved the lives of many thousands of European Jews, using his position as a passport control officer, he ensured that they could travel safely out of the clutches of Hitler’s killers.’
Journalist Michael Smith, who first uncovered Mr Foley’s incredible story after being tipped-off by a MI6 contacts, previously said: ‘He was very moralistic. He’d been brought up a Catholic by his mother and studied to be a priest.
‘To him the whole Hitler regime was anathema – he said it was the rule of the devil on earth’.
WHO WAS BRITISH SPY FRANK FOLEY WHO SAVED THOUSANDS OF JEWS FROM NAZI GERMANY?
Major Francis Edward Foley CMG (1884-1955) worked for the Foreign Office and became Head of the British Passport Control Office in Germany.
Despite appearing to be nothing more than a mild mannered bureaucrat, he was in fact Britain’s most senior spy in Berlin.
During his time in the city, Foley is known to have saved an estimated 10,000 German Jews after Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933.
During his time in Berlin, Foley is known to have saved an estimated 10,000 German Jews after Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933
He used his role in the Passport Office as a cover for his real job as an Intelligence Officer working for the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), later called MI6.
This made his efforts on behalf of the Jews even more dangerous.
If he had been arrested, Foley would have had no diplomatic immunity as he was working as a spy, but for years he broke Nazi laws to help Jews leave the country.
He made no money from his rescue efforts but repeatedly risked his own life to save many others. He never sought recognition or praise for his acts of rescue.
Foley first moved to Berlin in 1920. He was therefore able to observe and report back on the political and social changes that took place in Germany as a result of the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazi Party.
Foley was also able to see the impact of the many anti-Semitic measures introduced by the Nazis and the effect these had on the every day lives of Jews.
He entered concentration camps such as Sachsenhausen and presented visas to the camp authorities so that Jews could be freed to travel.
Foley also hid Jews in his home and used his secret service skills to help them obtain false papers, forged passports and visas. By issuing these visas, Foley was also breaking British laws.
During his lifetime, Foley received no recognition for his actions in the UK.
However, in 1999, Foley’s actions resulted in his being recognised as ‘Righteous Amongst the Nations’ at Yad Vashem in Israel.
On 24 November 2004, the 120th anniversary of Foley’s birth, a plaque was unveiled in his honour at the British Embassy in Berlin.
In Highbridge, Somerset, a plaque has been placed on the house where Foley was born and in May 2005 a statue dedicated to him was also unveiled.
Source: Holocaust Memorial Day UK
GREAT-GRANDFATHER AND HIS FAMILY ESCAPED NAZI GERMANY BECAUSE OF FRANK FOLEY’S BRAVE EFFORTS
Now 91, Werner Lachs has lived in Britain since 1939 when, at the age of 12, he was able to escape Germany with his family.
Out of the blue, the family had received a letter from the British Passport Office in Berlin, telling them their visas had been granted.
Not having the money to pay for the documents, they were baffled as to how it had come about.
Ruth and Werner Lachs pictured at home. In the 1990s Mr Lachs was contacted by a journalist, who informed him that his family’s visa to the UK had been granted by MI6 spy Frank Foley
For years, Mr Lachs was consumed by the idea that another family might have missed out on a visa in order to allow his family to escape.
But after more than 50 years, he finally discovered the truth.
In the 1990s, he was contacted by a journalist, who informed him that his family’s visa had been granted by MI6 spy Frank Foley.
Mr Foley, who worked in the passport office as his cover, was so moved by the atrocities inflicted upon the Jews that he rubber-stamped thousands of visa requests and forged passports, enabling Jews to escape to Britain and Palestine.
Ruth and Werner Lachs, who live in Prestwich and have just celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary, have three children, nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren
Mr Lachs said: ‘I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. Frank Foley is a saintly person who saved my life, and thousands of others, and I owe my life to him. By rescuing us, he strengthened my faith and my Jewish beliefs that someone is watching over me.’
Now Mr Lachs and his wife Ruth, herself a survivor of the Nazi regime, live in Prestwich and have just celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary, have three children, nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Despite the enormous loss and upheaval they suffered as children, they both consider themselves to be ‘the lucky ones’, with most of their extended families murdered in the holocaust.