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Researcher Freddie Cohen on Albert Bedane:
"He is as great a man as Schindler"
 real 28k

Saturday, 17 June, 2000, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
Jersey's Oskar Schindler

Albert Bedane: Unassuming hero
By the BBC's Sarah Ford

Newly discovered wartime documents from the German occupied Channel Islands have revealed a story to rival that of Oskar Schindler's famous exploits in saving Jews from the Nazis.

And they have led to Israel bestowing its highest honour on a man from Jersey, Albert Bedane, who has been posthumously named Righteous Among the Nations for his bravery - just as Schindler was.

Bedane, a local physiotherapist, sheltered a Jewish woman, Mary Richardson, for over two years in his house in St Helier. She spent months living in his tiny, dark granite cellar - which measured only five feet high and eight feet wide.



Bedane died in obscurity in 1980
He also gave sanctuary to a Jerseyman who had escaped from prison, and a group of Russians who were being used for slave labour by the Nazis.

Brave Bedane even treated German officers in his clinic as the fugitives cowered in the cellar below their feet.

As Mary hid, other people who had been registered as Jews were subjected to Nazi orders designed to isolate and restrict them.

German officers spent an incredible amount of time rooting out the handful of remaining island Jews. Everything was meticulously documented.



Freddie Cohen uncovered Albert Bedane's story
These documents were discovered five years ago by Freddie Cohen, who is President of Jersey's Jewish Congregation. To him, Albert Bedane is the ultimate hero.

"There is a Talmudic expression that says 'He who saves one man it is as though he has saved the world'. Albert Bedane is the epitome of that.

The fact that he saved only one Jewish woman makes no difference. He is as great a man as Schindler".

For Mr Cohen, each page of his research about Albert Bedane and the Jewish community in the Channel Islands, drew him further into the lives of this forgotten community.

"They became real people to me, I felt that I knew them and that I had a responsibility to ensure their story wasn't forgotten."



Francis Le Sueur was sheltered by Bedane
His research also led him to Albert Bedane's only surviving secret refugee, Francis Le Sueur, who had escaped from prison.

He remembers playing cards with his fellow guests in the cellar, and testifies to Bedane's unassuming character.

"I think he did it because he had a good nature and that is the main reason," said Mr Le Sueur.

But Mr Cohen's research has caused ripples in the Channel Islands. It is particularly chilling that the persecution of Jews, which was so central to Nazi ideology, happened here on British soil.

Some people have reacted defensively - as if the ill-treatment of Jews suggested Channel Islanders were too compliant with German orders.

There are also those who feel that people who have not lived through an enemy occupation should not judge those who have.

Freddie Cohen insisted that I go and look at the original German files.



Thousands of documents have been uncovered
There was a hand-written letter from a Jersey woman whose business was to be closed down as her husband was a Jew.

She'd written to the Feldkommandant to disassociate herself from her any Jewish link, saying her husband and she were estranged, that they lived in separate rooms, he had at times assaulted her.

"I remember thinking how utterly humiliating it must have been to have to write such a letter."

Unlike Oskar Schindler, who lies in the Garden of the Righteous in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Albert Bedane died in obscurity in 1980 with no memorial to his name.

But Freddie Cohen's remarkable research will ensure that Bedane's incredible courage and humanity are at last recognised.


The story of Albert Bedane is told in Home Ground - A Dangerous Occupation to be shown on 20 June on BBC 2 at 1930 BST

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28 Jun 99 | Entertainment
Spielberg in Holocaust plea
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