Midlands heroes of the Holocaust who saved lives during the Second World War should be honoured posthumously for their bravery, MPs have said.
They launched a campaign to recognise the achievements of Stourbridge man Frank Foley, who saved thousands of German Jews, and Elsie June Ravenhall, a Warwickshire woman who risked her life sheltering a Jewish man in Nazi-occupied Holland.
Both have been named as among the Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem. But they did not received any British honours during their lifetimes, and civilian honours, unlike their military equivalents, cannot be awarded posthumously.
Rugby MP Jeremy Wright (Con) has backed a House of Commons motion asking for the system to be changed, so that the achievements of Frank Foley and June Ravenhall can be recognised formally by the UK. He said: “The Holocaust illustrates the very worst of mankind and shows the depths of depravity that people can sink to.
"But it also shows us the best of mankind and the heights of courage they can reach. It is important that neither of these lessons are forgotten. I don’t know exactly what type of honour is most suitable. This is something the government would consider and decide. But we are calling on the government to look at changing the laws governing the honours system to allow them to be granted posthumously, and to consider ways of recognising what these people achieved.”
The Commons motion names Foley, a British passport control officer working in Berlin, as one of those who could be honoured. At huge personal risk to himself and his family, he began forging visas and passport documents for Jews attempting to flee Germany and Austria, even hiding the chief rabbi of Berlin in his own house. He went into concentration camps to secure the release of Jewish prisoners and is believed to have saved about 10,000 lives.
After the war, Foley, a devout Catholic who originally wanted to be a priest, retired to Eveson Road, Norton, Stourbridge, where he enjoyed gardening. He rarely spoke about his wartime experiences and neighbours had no idea he was a hero. He was also quiet about his role as a wartime spy, and the secret head of M16 operations in Germany.
It also names Ravenhall, a Kenilworth woman who moved to The Hague, Holland, with her husband Les, from Coventry. Her name was Elsie but she was known by her middle name, June.
The couple started a business importing Coventry Eagle motorbikes but their home and business was taken when the Nazis invaded, and Les was sent to a prison camp in Poland. Despite the danger, she sheltered a young Jewish man in her home, at the request of the Dutch resistance. In 2007, 23 years after her death, three of her children received a medal and certificate on her behalf at a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy in London.
The Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations is an independent commission composed of researchers, historians and legal experts, most of whom are Holocaust survivors.