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5.0 out of 5 stars George Smiley's model?, 15 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Foley: The Spy Who Saved 10,000 Jews (Paperback)
In the Spring of 1918, one-time student Frank Foley copped a bullet. His brigade took the brunt of a German attack sweeping over some small villages in the Somme. He survived to be sent home to England to recover. By the time he was ready to return to active service, the great August offensive had bled Germany's military strength. The Armistice left Foley at loose ends, except some alert soul had reviewed his file. There, it was revealed that the wounded officer had not only studied in Germany before The Great War, but to avoid internment, he had virtually walked out of the country undetected. From this revelation, Frank Foley embarked on an intelligence career that would keep him occupied for the remainder of his life. In this lively and informative biography, Michael White depicts a man many thousands called "hero" and "saviour". For Frank Foley became instrumental in saving thousands of Jews from Hitler's Germany.

To a generation steeped in various incarnations of "James Bond" type spies, the image of Frank Foley seems entirely anomalous. Alec Guiness as "George Smiley" bears a striking resemblance to the photos of Foley in this book. A short, stocky, bespectacled man who looked as if he should be out pottering about with his roses, instead took up station in post-war Berlin to keep watch on Bolsheviks. The rise of Hitler's thugs found Foley shifting roles. Using his cover as Passport Control Officer, he began easing the path for emigres fleeing Germany. As this was the height of the world Depression of the 1930s, many nations took advantage of economic stress to close their doors to Jewish immigrants. Foley sent as many as possible to Britain, but the other option was Palestine, then under Britain's "mandate". When Arab residents objected to the sharp rise in immigrant numbers, a new force came into being. Mossad, now Israel's infamous spy agency, at that time was instrumental in smuggling Jewish refugees into Palestine. A final choice, bizarre as it reads today, was Shanghai, China. No objection was raised at the influx of Jews entering the territory and thousands transported there.

As an intelligence officer based in Berlin, Foley was well placed to discern the onset of World War II in Europe. He and his family duplicated his earlier feat, leaving Germany by circuitous routes. Placed in new sites, Foley was chased across Europe by advancing Nazi forces. He smuggled a wireless set into his station in Norway, which allowed General Otto Ruge to appeal for aid from Britain. The aid, unfortunately, was an invasion force that landed almost a thousand kilometres from the Wehrmacht forces. Driven from Norway, Foley became part of the "Twenty Club". This organisation was actually the XX Committee established to deal with German spies in Britain and misleading Axis intelligence. Its main thrust was to "turn" German agents, feeding them false or insufficient data to confuse the Abwehr. The group was so effective that one of its senior officers claimed every German agent in Britain was actually employed by the British. Stranger still are the accounts of "agents" who set themselves up in Lisbon, neutral Portugal's capital, feeding stories of conditions in the UK to the Abwehr for cash. One of the better known of these, "Garbo", had never set foot in Britain. Using tourist guidebooks and other easily acquired publications, he acted as a "free-lance double-cross operation in miniature". He was effective enough to remain undetected throughout the war.

The invasion of Europe and overrunning of Nazi Germany didn't bring about Frank Foley's retirement. Instead, his experience made his return to Berlin an essential element in the "Denazification" programme. Although the victorious Allies had declared that all aspects of the Nazi party were to be eradicated, this was easier to promise than to implement. Since Party membership had become essential for any employment of consequence, including all levels of government, total curtailment of anybody suspected of being a Party member in the restoration of German society would have made rebuilding impossible. Foley concentrated on finding former SS officers. Some of these had coalesced into the Deutsche Revolution, a body aimed at restoration of the Nazi regime.

Foley's services were but mildly recognised by the British government. When the Norwegians had wanted to honour him with a medal, the Foreign Office hindered the award. He was "gonged" later, at a ceremony shifted from the normal location due to bomb damage. To Smith, the first real reward for Foley's efforts, was the grove of trees planted in his honour by a former colleague. That this came about after Foley's death is a source of regret to Smith. Even more regrettable was that Frank Foley's name had been put forward as a "Righteous Person Among Nations", Israel's highest award for non-Jews. It was granted Foley just after the book was published. Read Smith's account to understand why. The "why" of the delay in granting it has never been explained. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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