The government is to meet the costs of a statue to Stourbridge hero Frank Foley, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne pledged yesterday.
The Chancellor made the announcement at a celebration of Major Foley’s life organised by Dudley MP Ian Austin who has been campaigning for a statue to commemorate his heroism in saving thousands of Jews from the Holocaust, together with the Holocaust Educational Trust.
Major Foley was a British spy working undercover as Passport Control Officer in pre-war Nazi Berlin where he provided thousands of Jews with the documents they needed to escape Germany by bending the rules when stamping passports or issuing visas. He also hid Jews in his own home and even went into Sachsenhausen concentration camp with visas to enable prisoners to leave. He settled in Stourbridge when he retired and lived at Eveson Road until his death in 1958.
Yesterday’s event was organised to coincide with the publication of a new edition of "Frank Foley: The Spy Who Saved Ten Thousand Jews" by Michael Smith. The audience included descendants of people Foley saved, members of his family, Sturbridge MP Margot James, the Mayor and Mayoress of Dudley Councillor Steve Waltho and his wife Jayne and the Holocaust Educational Trust who helped organise it.
Austin, Margot James, Council Leader Pete Lowe and the Mayor will now be working with residents to decide on the statue’s precise location. It is estimated to cost £40,000.
Mr Osborne said: "Ten thousand people – and all their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren – owe their lives to Major Frank Foley. His story reminds us that even in the darkest times for humanity there are points of light.
"So I am pleased to say the Government will work with Ian Austin and Margot James to fund the statue to commemorate his extraordinary life and actions. We will use fines paid by bankers. It's right that we use penalties imposed on those who demonstrated the worst of British values to commemorate someone who demonstrated the best.
"I want to thank Ian for bringing this campaign to my attention - and also for being a steadfast and articulate advocate for the cause of Holocaust commemoration."
Ian Austin said:
“I am absolutely delighted the Chancellor has agreed to fund a statue to Stourbridge hero Frank Foley so people can learn about him and our country’s role in fighting for freedom, democracy and tolerance against Nazi Germany.
“Frank Foley refused to stand by when people were being persecuted because of their race and religion and his heroism helped saved ten thousand people from the Holocaust.
“When other European countries were sending Jews to concentration camps, Britain provided a safe haven for tens of thousands of refugees. I think this period defines what it means to be British – our unique response to the Holocaust and role in the War gives us the right to claim a particular attachment to the values of democracy, equality, freedom, fairness and tolerance.”
Margot James MP said:
“Frank Foley was a great British hero who saved thousands of lives from the horrors of the Holocaust. He represented the best of British values and I am delighted that the Chancellor has announced funding for a statue in his honour to be placed in Stourbridge, where he spent his last years.
“I am very grateful to Ian Austin for leading this campaign, and look forward to working with him and Stourbridge residents to decide the best place for the statue to be built.”
The leader of Dudley Council, Councillor Pete Lowe said:
“It is such welcome news that Frank Foley is being recognised for all the work he did to challenge the Nazis. Stourbridge will be proud to celebrate one of our own who saved the lives of thousands”.
The Mayor of Dudley, Councillor Steve Waltho, who represented the Borough at the celebration of Foley’s life, said:
“It was a real privilege to take part in the event and an appropriate way to celebrate Major Foley, one of Dudley Borough’s greatest heroes.
“I’m delighted with the announcement that the great man will be remembered with a new local statue.”
The campaign was supported by the Holocaust Educational Trust who helped organise the event. Chief executive, Karen Pollock MBE, said:
“Frank Foley was a true British hero. We value the incredible announcement of new funding thank the chancellor for his continued commitment.
"The story of the Holocaust is one of loss and destruction - it is remarkable individuals such as Frank Foley who show that there were glimmers of light in the most desperate of times."
Michael Smith, author of "Frank Foley: The Spy Who Saved Ten Thousand Jews", said:
"It's wonderful news that the Chancellor has agreed to fund a statue of Foley in Stourbridge and a testament to all the hard work Ian Austin and his team have put in.
“I hope this will lead to many more people learning who Foley was. His work saving tens of thousands of Jews marks him out as a truly great man, someone of whom we as a nation should be very, very proud. Foley embodied the very best of British values and the fact that an incalculable number of people are alive today as a direct result of what he did is a very vivid demonstration that truth and good really can overcome evil."