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'We would have died if it wasn't for him': Family's debt to war hero Frank Foley

By Pete Madeley | Stourbridge | News | Published:

“If it wasn’t for these visas we all certainly would have died.”

The words of Lion ‘Bob’ Rubin, who along with his family was saved from Hitler's murderous Nazi regime thanks to the bravery of Black Country war hero Major Frank Foley.

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

Among them was Mr Rubin, then aged two, and his Polish-born parents, Samson and Ettel, who Major Foley issued with papers that helped them to flee Germany for England just 25 days before the start of the Second World War.

Now the long lost papers showing how Mr Foley engineered their escape have seen the light of day for the first time in decades.

Samson and Ettel's British passport [credit Yad Vashem Archives]

A suitcase containing the documents – including letters, birth certificates, memoirs and official papers – has been donated to the The World Holocaust Remembrance Center (Yad Vashem), in Jerusalem, Israel.

It had belonged to Mr Rubin's then 12-year-old sister Daisy, who left for England a short time before the rest of the family via a train laid on through the Kindertransport rescue effort.

In a letter she explained how her parents and brother had escaped in the nick of time – all thanks to the efforts of Mr Foley.

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"My family tried to emigrate to anywhere after the Austrian Anschluss [Nazi-occupation] in March 1938," she wrote.

A letter confirming a home in England for Daisy. [credit Yad Vashem Archives]

"We were Austrian citizens, but could only get an American affidavit to enter the USA in four years time [1942].

"The firm that had bought the patent in Britain [from her father's company] was headed by Lord Lister. This man came to the Berlin office in May 1939 and my father approached him if he could possibly get a visa to go to England. In the middle of June 1939 a six month visitors visa was received by my father, only for him and not for my mother and two year old brother.

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"He lined up for hours at the British Consulate and when his turn came and he presented his passport and visa certificate the clerk asked him if he had family. 'Yes'; my dad [Samson] replied 'a wife and son, my daughter left for England last week on the Kindertransport.' 'Do you have your wife's passport on you?' The clerk asked.

Mr Rubin looks through the artefacts in his sister's suitcase. [credit Yad Vashem Archives]

"Dad handed over my mother's passport. Both passports were taken away and after some time returned to my father. It was only after he got back home that he realized that both passports had been issued with visas.

"They all arrived in England on the August 9, 1939. The war broke out on September 3. I have never forgotten this story and am happy to know the name of the person who saved the lives of my mother and brother 60 years ago."

Daisy – who died in 2011 – stayed in Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld's hostel for Jewish refugee girls in Sunderland before reuniting with her family in London.

Mr Rubin, a former black cab driver who has lived in London since escaping Germany, said: "I can't know how hard it must have been for my parents to send their daughter away on the Kindertransport – not knowing if they will ever see her again.

"But we were the lucky ones. None of the other girls [from the hostel] ever saw their parents again." The suitcase and the items were presented by Daisy's daughter, Susan Herold.

British spy Mr Foley's bravery would later see him become known as 'the British Schindler'.

Daisy and her parents before the war. [credit Yad Vashem Archives]

Originally from Somerset, he retired to Stourbridge, where he lived at Eveson Road until his death in 1958 at the age of 73.

Last year Prince William unveiled a statue of him in Stourbridge's Mary Stevens Park. Dudley North MP Ian Austin, who campaigned for the statue, said the Rubin family's story showed that Mr Foley's heroism had not been forgotten.

“This is truly remarkable and shows the long lasting legacy of Major Frank Foley," he said.

“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.

“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.

Ian Austin and Prince William at the unveiling of the Frank Foley statue in Stourbridge

“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.”

The collection includes the family’s German passports and identity cards from 1939, which are stamped with Nazi insignia and marked with a ‘J’ to identify them as Jews.

The middle name ‘Israel’ was added to Samson’s name and both his wife and Daisy have the middle name ‘Sarah,’ part of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 designed to separate and identify Jews.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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