Frank Foley (1884-1958) was a British Secret Intelligence Service officer who served as passport control officer at the British embassy in Berlin in the 1930s.
Between Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938 and the outbreak of the Second World War on September 3, 1939, Foley was instrumental in helping thousands of Jewish families escape from Nazi Germany. For his actions in saving Jewish lives, Foley was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations in 1999.
At a ceremony held in Ottawa on November 27 at Earnscliffe, the residence of the British high commissioner, Foley’s service medals were donated to the United Kingdom by Canadian members of Foley’s family.
“Frank Foley exhibited the physical bravery of a ‘Bond’ in both world wars and displayed the intellectual dexterity of a ‘Smiley’ in running agents in pre-war Nazi Germany,” said Mark Seaman, a U.K. cabinet historian and expert on British military intelligence, who spoke at the ceremony.
As head of the British passport control office, Foley issued thousand of visas to German Jews from all backgrounds and walks of life – even though many did not meet eligibility requirements.
“Frank’s openness, tolerance and self-sacrifice were astonishing and overwhelming,” said British High Commissioner Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque at the ceremony.
Following the deaths of both Foley and his daughter, his medals were passed on to his nephew, Dennis Foley, of Toronto. It was Dennis, and his sons, Terence and Michael, who decided to return the medals to the United Kingdom.
“It was a very easy decision,” Terence Foley told the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin.
The idea began during a family visit to the British embassy in Berlin where they saw a plaque honouring Frank Foley.
“We took a photo next to it, and only then began to realize how incredibly proud Britain is of him,” said Terence.
“Before that,” added Michael Foley, “nobody really noticed the medals in our house or was aware of their significance to Britain,” although they did know of his role in saving thousands of Jews.
“Giving the medals back to Britain, where people really care and are aware of his story, is simply the best way to honour Frank,” said Michael.