December 27, 2004

On His Majesty’s Secret Service

Frank Foley, a British Intelligence Officer, helped, at least,10.000 Jews to escape from Germany to Great Britain and its colonies before the Second World War started.

He was a Captain of the British Intelligence Service but officially he was in charge of the Passport Control Office at the British embassy in Berlin. In spite of the fact that he did not have diplomatic immunity, he sheltered many refugees in his own apartment. He was born in 1884 and was a veteran of the First World War. He spoke fluently German and French.

By the end of the Second World War, Foley had convinced members of the German Secret Service to turn into double agents. He had also organized actions that saved Norway’s gold reserves from Nazi plunder, as well as persuaded German scientific leaders not to pass essential information on the Nazi atomic project to the Reich government.

Moreover, he was one of the most important interrogators of Rudolph Hess when he fled to Great Britain to negotiate, on his own, a peace agreement.

Likewise, Foley persuaded a Russian spy to to share information with British intelligence. Several years after the war, this spy kept on giving the Britons information of the Soviet plans against the West.

His amazing story is narrated in the book ”Foley; the spy who saved 10.000 Jews” written by journalist Michael Smith, an expert in security and intelligence issues of the London newspaper Daily Telegraph.

He helped Jews to escape from the country ignoring all rules and regulations and, sometimes, even demanding to enter the concentration camps in order to save them. He also hid them in his own home and used all his skills to obtain forged papers and passports”, Smith wrote.

Leo Baeck, leader of the Association of German Rabbis, was one of the refugees hidden in Foley’s apartment. He took advantage of this situation and informed foreign journalists about the persecution of the Jews in Germany, which was escalating day by day.

”At that moment, when it was a question of life or death for thousands of Jews, Captain Foley showed all his humanity”, said Benno Cohen, former President of the German Zionist Organization and, years later, member of the Israeli Parliament.

Cohen and his colleagues from the Zionist movement could not understand why Foley had decided to save Jews despite the tremendous personal risks involved in pursuing that task.

”He told us that, as a Christian, he wanted to make us know what kind of ”Christians” were running Germany. He hated the Nazis and considered their political system as Satan’s mandate on earth”.

Smith tells us that Foley’s work in Berlin was ”a marvelous act of humanity that allowed thousands of desperate Jews to reach his small office in Tiergartenstrasse”.

According to Margaret Reid, a graduate from Cambridge University and member of the British Intelligence Service assigned to Foley’s office in 1938, the staff assigned to the Passport Control Office doubled in number in only two years of work.

A few days after ”Kristallnacht”, on November 1938, Margaret wrote to his mother describing his impressions of her first day at the office.

”When I arrived at nine o’clock in the morning there was a long queue waiting to go inside. I think that some of them were there since 4 a.m.”

Kay, Foley’s wife, remembered that Frank worked fifteen hours a day, personally taking care of all the issues he could manage; helping the staff or giving advice to those that were waiting their applications to be prosecuted.

Kay said that ”The line of people waiting in the street was more than a kilometer long. Some were hysterical. Many cried. All of them were desperate.”

Along with them, cables and letters from other parts of the country flooded the office, all of them asking for visas and begging for help”.

When the conditions for Jews in Berlin worsened, Foley took on greater risks allowing some of them to live in his house in Lessingstrasse 56.

”They rang the bell in the late hours of the night asking for help. Frank always let them in. They knew that if they spent the night in their own houses they ran the risk of being arrested by the Gestapo. I don’t know what the Nazis would have done to us had they discovered that we were hiding jews”, Kay remembered

”If an official bureaucrat had occupied Foley’s place at the Passport Office, the number of Jews saved in Germany would have been at least ten thousand less”, said Hubert Pollack, a secret agent who enabled Jews to escape to Palestine between 1933 amd 1939,

Even on August 25, 1939, the day he shut down his office definitely, Foley continued to help Jews to escape.

Sabine Comberti, one of the thousands saved by the British agent, joined the campaign for Foley’s recognition as ”Righteous” by the Israel Holocaust Museum, a distinction which he finally received in 1999.

According to Michael Smith, Foley’s association with the British Intelligence, inhibited the discussions on his activities while he was in service. ”He was not authorized to talk about his task when he returned to Great Britain. His deeds in Germany had to be kept secret”, said Smith.

When Frank Foley died in 1958 in Stourbridge, thousands of trees were planted on a hillside in Jerusalem.

On November 24, 2004, sixty years after his feat, Foley received a tribute of the British Embassy in Berlin. Ambassador Peter Torry unveiled a commemorarite plaque.

”He was a real British heroe”,Torry said speaking of Foley who was presented as an example of humanity during Adolf Eichmann´s trial, in 1961.