Frank Foley was a great British hero whose courage matched his modesty

Frank Foley
Frank Foley

I want to thank His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge for unveiling the statue we have produced of Major Frank Foley – it was a huge honour for the people of Dudley and a wonderful tribute to a great British hero.

Ten thousand people – but many thousands more of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – owe their lives to this great man who‎ took huge personal risks to save Jewish people from the Holocaust.

Under cover as the British passport control officer in pre-war Berlin, Frank Foley was in fact an intelligence officer and would have been shot as a spy if the Nazis had discovered what he was up to.

He sheltered Jewish people in his own home and even rescued people from concentration camps, including a man called Ernst Ruppel who was imprisoned in Buchenwald but used papers he provided to escape to Britain with his wife and two young sons, one of whom, Ernest, was with us to see the statue unveiled. Michael Mamelock joined us as well. His father was also rescued from Buchenwald and I am so pleased that they were both able to meet His Royal Highness.

The extraordinary thing about Frank Foley is that his courage, decency and determination were matched by his modesty. He retired in complete anonymity – never boasting about his heroism – to a quiet street in Stourbridge a few hundred yards from the park which is now graced by our tribute.

I want the statue to help people learn how Frank Foley refused to stand by when people were being persecuted because of their race or religion. His life and his courage show us that we all have a responsibility to stand up against intolerance and racism.

When people are singled out or when extremists try to divide our communities on the grounds of race or religion, we should remember this great hero’s example and find it within ourselves to stand up for decency, fairness and tolerance.

It is easy to oppose racism at events or in meetings where everyone agrees with you or, for those of us in politics, when it is to criticise your opponents, but it is completely meaningless if you are not prepared to do it when it is more difficult too.

I also hope this statue will inspire people to learn the truth about the unique, incomparable evil of history’s greatest crime, the Holocaust and equip themselves with the arguments they need to challenge people who would deny or diminish the truth about history’s greatest crime.

It is so impressive and so moving to see our future monarch taking such a close interest in the Holocaust as we saw with his recent visits to Stutthof and to Yad Vashem.

I want to thank Karen Pollock MBE and her colleagues at the Holocaust Educational Trust for all their help with this statue, and for the work they do all year round to educate young people about the ugly poison of prejudice, hatred and antisemitism.

I am very grateful to everyone who has helped: the Birmingham sculpter Andy De Comyn and Steve Field, Dudley’s Borough Artist, who organised the project.

My colleague Margot James the MP for Stourbridge, members of Frank Foley’s family, local residents and Ruth Jacobs from the Jewish community in Birmingham helped with the project too and George Osborne provided the funding when he was Chancellor.

Finally, we all owe the author Michael Smith a huge debt. Without his brilliant book – the Spy Who Saved Ten Thousand Jews – none of us would know about this great man and his amazing bravery.

Frank Foley is an inspiration to us all, a great British hero and I very much hope you will read the book if you haven’t already – and please come to Stourbridge to see our tribute as well.

About the Author
Ian Austin is a Labour MP, and member of Labour Friends of Israel
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