The 'British Schindler' finally gets the recognition he deserves

The phrase ‘unsung hero’ is an overused one.

But, occasionally, you come across the story of someone about whom you knew very little but someone who risked their own life to help many, many others.

I had such an experience on Tuesday, in the West Midlands town of Stourbridge.

In the corner of a park, sat the statue of Major Frank Foley – freshly unveiled just moments before by the Duke of Cambridge.

Stephen Higgs, Frank Foley's great-nephew. Credit: ITV News

Prince William had come here to honour Foley – a British spy before the Second World War who saved more Jews from the Nazis than more famous heroes of history such as such as Oscar Schindler, largely due to the film ‘Schindler’s List’.

In fact, Schindler, who saved as many as 1,200 Jewish lives, rescued many fewer than Foley.

Working undercover at the passport office at the British Consulate in Berlin in those dark and increasingly dangerous days in 1930s Nazi Germany, Foley handed visas to as many as 10,000 Jews. He even hid some of them at his home.

Without Foley, they all faced certain persecution and, in all likelihood, death during the Holocaust.

Foley never sought recognition for what he did – even though he and his wife were always scared that their actions would be discovered.

Michael Mamelok, left, speaks to Prince William. Credit: PA

Their great-nephew, Stephen Higgs - who was at the unveiling - told me his great-uncle and great-aunt lived in constant fear of a knock at the door and a search of their home by the Nazis.

Sitting next to Foley’s statue was Michael Mamelok – who was two years old when his family escaped Germany.

If it were not for Foley, he told us, he and his mother would have been sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He knows he would have been lucky to come out of there alive.

Prince William chats with those in attendance. Credit: PA

Last year in Poland, Prince William and Kate visited a similar Nazi camp at Stutthof. They saw the gas chambers, the piles of shoes taken from those who were murdered here. A visit they described afterwards as “shattering”.

Fittingly, William unveiled the memorial by pulling a Union flag which had been draped over Foley.

He revealed the statue of a man, sitting on a bench feeding bread to a bird.This was the unassuming way Major Foley lived his retirement in Stourbridge until his death in 1956. He told very few people about what he did.

The Holocaust Educational Trust is now trying to ensure that the bravery of Foley is recognised by his country.

Foley is often referred to as the 'British Schindler' but, as his great-nephew points out: “Perhaps Schindler should be referred to as the ‘German Foley’."