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British Hero of the Holocaust is a one-off national award given by the United Kingdom government in recognition of British citizens who assisted in rescuing victims of the Holocaust. On 9 March 2010 it was awarded to 25 individuals posthumously, and to two living people, Sir Nicholas Winton aged 100, and Denis Avey aged 91. The award is a solid silver medallion, and bears the inscription "in the service of humanity" in recognition of "selfless actions" which "preserved life in the face of persecution".

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Campaign for official recognition

In 2008, a campaign to gain official posthumous recognition of British Holocaust rescuers was initiated by the Holocaust Educational Trust, a British charity founded in 1988. The campaign cited the examples of British citizens such as Frank Foley, Jane Haining and June Ravenhall who had previously been honoured by Israel as one of the British nominees to the status of Righteous among the Nations, but had received no British Honour during their lifetime.[1][2][3]

Under the official British honours system however, civilian honours unlike military ones cannot be awarded posthumously unless the individual died in an act of bravery, so the Trust's campaign sought to have the honours system changed, to allow the awarding of either an MBE or an OBE posthumously to British rescuers such as Frank Foley.[4][2][3] On 7 May 2008, the 50th anniversary of the death of Foley, the Trust filed an internet petition titled 'UK-Rescuers' on the 10 Downing Street website, to call on the Prime Minister to reconsider the laws governing the posthumous honours system.[5][4][3][3] With a deadline for signatories of 7 May 2009, the petition ultimately gathered 1,087 signatories.[5] It had stated:

...[Foley] was never formally honoured by the British nation during his lifetime for his actions. We therefore call on the Government to review the current statutes governing the honours system, so that the Honours Committee can consider awarding a posthumous knighthood to Frank Foley. We hope that this will open the way for the Honours Committee to consider recognition for other British heroes of the Holocaust, including Randolph Churchill, Sergeant Charles Coward, Jane Haining, Tommy Noble and Robert Smallbones, who risked and in some cases gave their own lives to save others...[5]

Through 2008 and 2009 the campaign attracted support from the media as well as members of parliament, both in the UK parliament and in the Scottish Parliament, citing the particular examples of Foley, Ravenhall and Haining.[2][6][7][8][9] In March 2009, the MP Russell Brown tabled the early day motion Recognition for British Heroes of the Holocaust in Westminster citing the examples of Foley, Haining and Ravenhall, securing 135 signatories.[10]

Announcement of a new award

On 29 April 2009, as the early day motion reached Parliament, the government announced that a new award would be specially created to recognise these British rescuers.[11][12][1][13][14][4] Announced just after Gordon Brown's first visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland, the Prime Minister said "We will create national awards in Britain for those British citizens who helped so many people, Jewish and other citizens, during the Holocaust period".[15]

The recognition was to take the form of some type of a new national award, outside of the Honours System, after the government ruled out reforming the posthumous honours rules, with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Minister for the Cabinet Office going on to discuss the exact form it would take with the Trust and Russell Brown MP, the families of potential recipients, as to what the precise form the award would take.[14][11][15]

British Hero of the Holocaust award

The new award was announced as the British Hero of the Holocaust award, a state recognition similar to a state honour.[16] It was presented to 27 people on 9 March 2009 - in addition to being awarded posthumously to the families of 25 recipients, the medal was also awarded to two living people, Sir Nicholas Winton, aged 100, and Denis Avey, aged 91. Both Winton and Avey, along with relatives of posthumous recipients, received the award at a reception in 10 Downing Street.[17][16] The award itself is a solid silver medallion, and bears the inscription "in the service of humanity" on the front, and on the reverse, a recognition of the recipient's "selfless actions [which] preserved life in the face of persecution".[17]

List of recipients

The 27 recipients were:[17]

  • Two sisters from London
  • Three siblings from Jersey
    • Louisa Gould
    • Ivy Forster
    • Harold Le Druillenec
  • A group of prisoners of war who saved Hannah Sara Rigler
    • Stan Wells
    • Alan Edwards
    • George Hammond
    • Roger Letchford
    • Tommy Noble
    • John Buckley
    • Bill Scruton
    • Bert Hambling
    • Bill Keeble
    • Willy Fisher

References

  1. ^ a b "Holocaust heroine honour pursued". BBC News. 2009-04-24. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6s4xlzD. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  2. ^ a b c "MPs seeking posthumous honours for war heroes". Birmingham Post. 2009-03-26. http://findarticles.com/p/news-articles/birmingham-post-england-the/mi_7996/is_2009_March_26/mps-seeking-posthumous-honours-war/ai_n38127605/. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  3. ^ a b c d Karen Pollock, chief executive Holocaust Educational Trust (2008-08-31). "Honour our brave Holocaust Scots". Letters (The Scotsman). Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6sNkmOg. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  4. ^ a b c "New award for unforgotten heroes". The Times. 2009-04-28. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6rnVjgf. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  5. ^ a b c "UK-Rescuers". petitions.number10.gov.uk. Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. undated. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6sKSGFk. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  6. ^ "MSPs support Holocaust hero campaign". The Scotsman. 2009-02-14. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6s7eZ0V. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  7. ^ "Plea for honour for woman of courage". Dumfries and Galloway Standard (Scottish & Universal). 2009-01-02. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6sCl8oP. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  8. ^ "Award call for 'Scots Schindler'". BBC News. 2008-12-29. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6sE644T. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  9. ^ "Honour appeal for 'British Schindler'". Halesowen News (Newsquest). 2008-06-25. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6sHitL1. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  10. ^ "Early Day Motion 1175". Early Day Motions. UK Parliament. 2009-03-24. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6rw5aF8. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  11. ^ a b "New award for heroes of Holocaust". BBC News. 2009-04-29. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6s0K8cE. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  12. ^ "Gordon Brown's Announcement". Holocaust Educational Trust. 2009-04-29. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6rqRrET. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  13. ^ "British Heroes of the Holocaust". Daily Hansard - Westminster Hall, Column 287WH. Hansard. 2009-0429. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6s2Cy9A. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  14. ^ a b "New award to recognise British heroes of the Holocaust". Cabinet Office Press Releases. United Kingdom Government. 2009-04-29. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6rroPdG. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  15. ^ a b "UK-Rescuers - epetition response". petitions.number10.gov.uk. Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 2009-06-26. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6sIkoal. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  16. ^ a b "British holocaust heroes recognised". www.direct.gov.uk > Newsroom (United Kingdom Government). 2010-03-09. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6rkUMdS. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  17. ^ a b c "Britons honoured for holocaust heroism". The Telegraph. 2010-03-09. Archived from the original on 2010-03-09. http://www.webcitation.org/5o6rljVNN. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 

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