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Saturday, January 2, 1999 Published at 11:22 GMT

World: Europe

Author lifts the lid on British Schindler

Excerpts of the book about Frank Foley were published in the Daily Telegraph

A new book by a respected author says a British intelligence agent saved the lives of 10,000 Jews threatened by the Nazis during World War II.

Frank Foley was so modest about his achievements they would have gone entirely unreported if it were not for author Michael Smith, who has written a book about him.

Mr Smith - a journalist with the Daily Telegraph - has spent years delving into British and Israeli archives to find out about the "British Schindler".

Schindler's equal

Oskar Schindler saved thousands of German and Polish Jews and was immortalised by Liam Neeson in the Steven Spielberg film Schindler's List.

But Mr Smith says his heroic actions were dwarfed by Foley's work.

Author Michael Smith and the Holocaust Educational Trust's Stephen Ward discuss Foley's work
Foley, who died in 1958, flouted strict British immigration rules to get visas for Jews. He issued large numbers of visas to those wanting to escape from Germany.

Mr Smith said it was not obvious to officials in London what Foley was doing.

He told Radio 4's Today programme: "They believed that Foley was giving out the visas within the strict limits that they had laid down. They weren't aware that he was giving them out in amazing numbers."

'Righteous among nations'

Foley is now in line for an award for his efforts from the Holocaust Educational Trust. The Trust wants to honour him by making him "Righteous Among Nations", the award that Oskar Schindler also received.

Its associate director Stephen Ward said the Trust had been prompted to consider Foley for an award once it became clear from all the evidence in Smith's book that he had helped so many people.

Mr Ward told the Today programme: "He had this queue of people stretching round and round the block for miles in Berlin.

"Everybody he signed a visa for was saved. Everybody he didn't was probably going to their deaths."

Mr Smith's book - Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews - also claims:

  • He persuaded dozens of German spies to become double agents.

  • Prevented Norwegian gold reserves falling into the hands of the Nazis.

  • Coaxed several German rocket scientists to reveal the secrets of Adolf Hitler's V1 and V2 rocket programmes.

  • Interrogated Hitler's former deputy, Rudolf Hess, when he escaped to Scotland from Germany.

Age was good cover

Foley was 54 when war broke out but his unprepossessing looks - thinning grey hair, round glasses and considerable paunch - made him inconspicuous and ideal spy material.

His cover was as British Passport Control Officer in Berlin - able to issue visas to anyone wanting to go anywhere in the British Empire - but in reality he was MI6's head of station in Germany.

Foley lived life on the edge of terrible danger. He was not entitled to diplomatic immunity and would undoubtedly have been executed if his role had been uncovered.

He spent much of his time sneaking Jews out of concentration camps and allowed some to sleep at his home or office, under the nose of the Gestapo.

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