Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Foley, Francis°

FOLEY, FRANCIS° (1885–1958), British army officer and Righteous Among the Nations. British lieutenant Francis (commonly known as Frank) Foley arrived in Berlin in 1919 as an intelligence officer to check out the activities of Communist-led organizations. As a cover for his spy work, his official capacity was Chief Passport Control Officer in the British embassy, where he was given wide latitude to decide on the admission of foreigners into areas of the British Empire. With the Nazi rise to power in 1933, Foley's attention shifted to the rearmament of Germany, and he simultaneously began to be more preoccupied with helping Jews emigrate from Germany, a need which became urgent after the Nazi-staged pogrom of November 9–10, 1938, known as *Kristallnacht ("Night of the Broken Glass"). Foley utilized legal means whenever possible, or exploited loopholes in British immigration laws. British regulations at the time forbade the issuance of entry visas to persons liable to compete with professional workers in England, as well as to the very old, the sick and handicapped, and persons associated with the Communist Party. As for entry to Palestine, £1,000 in hand was required to get a "capitalist" visa. This was a sizable sum at the time, and unavailable to many Jews whose bank and other assets had been frozen by the Nazi authorities. In the case of Elisheva Lernau (born Elsbeth Kahn), who could produce only £10, Foley decided that the balance of £990 would be available to her the minute she landed in Haifa, and on the strength of this issued her a visa for Palestine. Foley similarly bent the rules very liberally in the case of Wolfgang Meyer-Michael, accepting his cousin's guarantee in writing that the sum would be available once Wolfgang had crossed the border into the Netherlands. In this work, Foley was co-opted by Hubert Pollack, a Jewish community worker who brought to Foley's attention persons in desperate need of help to leave the country. In the case of Gunter Powitzer, jailed in Sachsenhausen for violation of the Nuremberg laws and having intimate relations with a non-Jewish girl, which produced a child, Foley personally went to Sachsenhausen to hand him an exit visa for Palestine, which included Gunter's semi-Jewish son, and both left Germany in February 1939. In the matter of a 20-year-old woman imprisoned because of her membership in the outlawed Community Party, Foley ruled that since she was 18 years old at the time of her arrest, her membership in the Party was to be viewed simply as "youthful fervor" and he granted her a visa. Others who gave accounts of being helped by Foley include Zeev Estrecher, Willi Preis, Heinz Romberg, Adele Wertheimer, and David Arian's aged mother. After the war, Pollack testified that "the number of Jews who were saved in Germany would have been ten thousand times – yes, ten thousand – less, if a 'competent official' had occupied that post instead of Captain Foley." Benno Cohn, head of the Zionist Federation in Germany, testified at the Eichmann trial in 1960 that immediately after Kristallnacht, he frantically called his superiors in Jerusalem to find ways to save the Jews of Germany, adding: "Nevertheless we succeeded in getting a sizable number of Jews to Palestine. That was thanks to a man who is to my mind to be counted among the Righteous Gentiles … Captain Foley [who] did all he could to enable Jews to immigrate to Palestine.… One may say that he saved thousands of Jews from death." Foley's wife, Katharine, also related that during the Kristallnacht pogrom period, Jews were temporarily hidden in their Berlin home. During World War II, Foley's intelligence work included the interrogation of Rudolf Hess, Hitler's close aide who landed in Scotland in May 1941 hoping to strike a deal between Germany and Britain. In 1999, Yad Vashem awarded the late Francis Foley the title of Righteous Among the Nations.


Yad Vashem Archives M31–8378; M. Smith, Foley: the Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews (1999); M. Paldiel, Saving the Jews (2000), 53–60.