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I owe Major Frank Foley my life, I only wish that I’d been able to thank him

5:22 am, 18th September 2018

The MI6 officer used his role in the British passport control office in Berlin to help an estimated 10,000 Jews flee Nazi Germany.

Foley bent the rules to give Jews permission to leave the country when it might not have otherwise been granted.

One of those he saved is Werner Lachs, who arrived in the UK months before the Second World War broke out.

Here the 91-year-old gives a touching account of how Foley saved him and his family from almost certain death.

We lived a reasonably comfortably life in Germany in the years before the war.

But as the conflict approached we soon felt we had to leave Germany.

I lived in Cologne and Cologne was not the worst place as far as the Nazis were concerned, but there were still dangers.

I remember Kristallnacht on the morning of 10 November 1938.

I went to school as usual and I arrived at the gate to be greeted by the teachers.

They said “go home, don’t talk to anybody, wait until you hear from us”.

I saw all the furniture had been thrown about in the school yard.

There was also a synagogue attached to the school, Jewish things had been thrown about.

On the way back sitting in the tram I saw smoke in the distance, which I now realise was the other synagogue, the main synagogue, on fire.

That was many months before we eventually got out of the country.

We initially applied to go to America but there was a three or four year waiting list.

So what would we do?

We hoped to be able to emigrate to England in the meantime where my uncle and aunt were already living, but it was a very bad economic time in Europe and a guarantee was needed.

It was only £50, which was a lot of money in those days, and to get a guarantee was very difficult.

We applied for a visa and we couldn’t get it.

All that changed when sometime in 1938 we got a letter from the British passport office in Berlin.

It said my parents should send their passports to them for a visa to be entered for a temporary admission to England.

I remember this very well, it was on a Sunday morning because my friend was there and we jumped up for joy as you can imagine.

My father said: “What about the children?”

I think he must have made a telephone call and he must have been told – “Yes, send their passports as well.”

We got our passports and we got out of Germany in June 1939, three months before the war started.

We had to report at a Jewish refugee committee in London, where we were told – “You don’t have a guarantee, you must go back”.

They got a dusty answer from my father about that as you can imagine.

They gave us a few shillings and said to go to Manchester.

I was 12-years-old when we arrived in Manchester penniless, but the Jewish refugee committee helped us with a few shillings.

The money was split up and we were taken into families homes.

I lived in Bolton for about four months with very nice people looking after me, but after that they couldn’t do it.

I was then sent back to Manchester and I was evacuated in Blackpool with a Jew school for the next 12 – 13 months, until I reached school-leaving age.

I then started work, I think it was for 12 shillings a week, roughly 60 pence in today’s money.

But at least I was doing something and gradually, when war came, they needed us for the war effort.

My father, who had worked as an office manager in Germany, was allowed to make garments for soldiers.

My mother was allowed to do cleaning, believe it or not, to make a few shillings.

The Jewish refugee committee helped us.

As the war progressed our services were needed and gradually we worked ourselves into a reasonable standard of life.

But all that time we wondered, how did we get our visa?

Did somebody, perhaps with the same name, not get his?

I was worried what might have happened.

There was no answer, but all that changed back in the 1990s.

I saw a letter in the magazine of the association of Jewish refugees, where a Daily Telegraph journalist called Michael Smith asked to contacted by anyone who had any connection with British passport office in Berlin, just before the war.

I replied to it, and Michael Smith did his story of Frank Foley.

This was in 1990 something, I think 99, and I was delighted.

Since then I’ve always felt that I owe my life to Frank Foley.

He must have been an incredibly brave man.

I believe he was quite religious.

I believe at one time he was thinking of entering the church but he decided to go into MI6.

I’m sure that he was a naughty boy as far as the British authorities were concerned, because he wasn’t obeying what he should.

He even went into people’s homes to bring them out, he went into camps to bring them out, the man was an absolute angel.

And I was so sorry, he died in the mid-50s I think, so I was never able to meet him.

Apparently he’s saved up to 10,000 people, I don’t know – nobody’s counted them, but it’s tremendous what he did.

I should imagine the Germans knew a little bit about what he was doing, but the British probably didn’t.

He saved me and my immediate family – he couldn’t do anything for the rest of my family who were unfortunately killed in Nazi Germany.

Knowing now what he did – he was an angel that’s all I can say.

He did what he felt was the only thing he could do.

He could not stand what was going on in Germany.

I only wish that I had know him.