09 March 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has decorated Britons who saved Jews and others from the Nazi onslaught during World War II with the new ‘Hero of the Holocaust’ medal. Brown had announced the creation of the award last year during a visit to the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz. The medal bears the inscription “in the service of humanity” and, on the backside, recognizes that the recipient’s “selfless actions preserved life in the face of persecution.”
Two surviving heroes, Sir Nicholas Winton (pictured), 100, and Denis Avey, 91, received their medals in person at the prime minister’s official residence in 10 Downing Street, while another 25 Britons will be recognized posthumously. Brown said all were “true British heroes and a source of national pride for all of us. They were shining beacons of hope in the midst of terrible evil because they were prepared to take a stand against prejudice, hatred and intolerance. We pay tribute to them for the inspiration they provide now and for future generations to come.”
Nicholas Winton organized the rescue of 669 mainly Jewish children by train from Prague in 1939. Denis Avey (pictured below with Gordon Brown) exchanged places with a Jewish inmate at Auschwitz while he was a prisoner of war, helping an inmate survive by sharing supplies.
The Holocaust Education Trust (HEU), which had campaigned for the creation of such an award, welcomed the move. HEU Chief Executive Karen Pollock said: “We are delighted that our initiative received widespread support and that the British Government has given these brave people the recognition they have long deserved. They provide a template of courage for today's young people - and clearly highlight the difference that can be made by standing up against injustice, hatred and prejudice.”
Those being honored posthumously with the award are:
Sister Agnes Walsh, who sheltered a family in her convent in France;
Albert Bedane, a physiotherapist who hid people in his cellar while he treated Nazi soldiers in his clinic above;
Ida and Louise Cook, two sisters from London who smuggled British visas to Jews while attending opera recitals in Europe before the war and brought their valuables back to the UK;
Charles Coward from Edmonton, who used his position as the Red Cross liaison for British PoWs at Auschwitz to smuggle food and contraband to Jewish inmates and to smuggle himself in to witness conditions;
Frank Foley, who saved up to 10,000 people at great personal risk by issuing false visas to Jews while working as a spy in the British Embassy in Berlin;
Jane Haining from Scotland, who despite the outbreak of war returned to the Jewish orphanage in Budapest where she worked and was arrested in 1944 and murdered in Auschwitz;
June Ravenhall, a housewife and mother of three who sheltered a young Jew in her home in the Netherlands despite her husband being taken to a prison camp;
Sofka Skipwith, a Russian aristocrat who lived her later years in Cornwall, she helped Polish Jews escape and saved the life of a newborn baby by smuggling him to the Red Cross;
Princess Alice of Greece, the mother of Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, who organized shelters for orphans and sheltered three Jewish women when Greece was occupied;
Bertha Bracey, a Quaker who lobbied tirelessly about the plight of the Jews in Germany and was instrumental in setting up the ‘Kindertransport’ which brought 10,000 children to England;
The siblings Louisa Gould, Ivy Forester and Harold le Druillenec, who sheltered Russian prisoners of war and taught them English;
Henk Huffener who as a Dutch citizen during the war smuggled Jews out of the Netherlands to Switzerland and Spain. He moved to England in 1950;
Stan Wells, Alan Edwards, George Hammond, Roger Letchford, Tommy Noble, John Buckley, Bill Scruton, Bert Hambling, Bill Keeble and Willy Fisher, who as British prisoners of war saved the life of 15-year-old Jewish girl Hannah Sara Rigler by helping her to escape a death march in which her mother and sister perished.
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