in the garden

 

Jun 2005 Journal

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Monument to Frank Foley unveiled

The AJR, which generously supported the project to commemorate Frank Foley, 'the spy who saved 10,000 Jews', witnessed the unveiling of a monument to him in Highbridge, Somerset, where Foley was born and educated.

The date was 8 May, chosen well before the publicity machine for celebrating the 60th anniversary of VE Day went into action. It was selected by the Highbridge Frank Foley Committee as the anniversary of his death in 1958 at the age of 73.

The Portland stone white monument, set on the green outside the community hall in the small market town, shows a bespectacled Foley stamping a visa for a father whose little daughter stands next to him. Symbols abound, including a train, which signifies transport to the camps or away to freedom as well as the days when trains ran to Highbridge. A boat is linked to escape and Highbridge's maritime connections. A clock symbolises the urgency of the situation. A bridge refers to Highbridge and somewhere is an apple, the symbol of Somerset.

Sculptor Jonathan Sells of Corfe Castle, Dorset, explained that the stone bar linking the two men's heads showed the bond of sympathy. 'We don't want hatred but one world,' he said.

Guests at the event included David Rothenberg, the AJR's Vice-Chairman, and John Curtis, an active supporter of the project since chancing upon it three years ago while on a visit to Somerset.

'My father could leave after Kristallnacht as he was the director of a British subsidiary of a German textile firm, but I have often wondered how he managed to get his elderly parents out. I suspect Foley helped,' Mr Curtis ruminated. 'He saved so many people. Many did not realise he was instrumental, while those who did know have mostly gone.'

Most beneficiaries finished up in Israel, as Foley issued visas for Palestine. After Foley's death they planted a grove for him. But his story was unknown in Britain until the publication of his biography by Daily Telegraph defence correspondent Michael Smith in 1999 - which also led to his being declared a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem.

Now Frank Foley's moral stand and 'tearing up of the rule book' is lauded by government ministers, as represented by Des Browne at the ceremony and by the plaque placed in the British embassy in Berlin last November. But at the time it was a different story - when he was considered a nuisance to British interests but too valuable a spy (officially a passport control officer) to be ditched.

In addition to Highbridge committee members and clerics - Foley was a devout Catholic - the ceremony was addressed by Baroness Rabbi Dr Julia Neuberger, Jonathan Lewis from the Board of Deputies, and Malcolm Weisman, representing the Chief Rabbi.

A choir of pupils from Clifton College's Jewish house, Polack's House, came from Bristol to give a flavour of Jewish song, adding to the inter-cultural atmosphere with Adon Olam sung to the tune of The Yellow Submarine.
Ruth Rotherberg

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