Quaker honoured among heroes of the Holocaust
Related pages: Kindertransport
Britons who saved the lives of Jews and other persecuted groups during the Holocaust are being honoured for their actions. They include Quaker Bertha Bracey who lobbied the British government about the plight of Jews in Germany. She played a key role in setting up the Kindertransport which brought 10,000 mainly Jewish children to England from mainland Europe.
This is the first time such recognition has been bestowed by the State as a tribute to those civilians who undertook extraordinary acts of courage and self sacrifice, in order to help others.
The award, a silver medallion inscribed with the words 'In the Service of Humanity' was presented in the name of 27 individuals, many of who have now died. Two – Sir Nicholas Winton, 100 and Denis Avey, 91 – accepted their award in person at the Downing Street reception.
The award is being made posthumously to Bertha Bracey, who died in 1989.
Bertha Bracey went to Germany for Quaker relief work in 1924, returning to Friends House in London in 1929. As Secretary to the Friends Committee on Refugees and Aliens she had a key role in responding to the crisis, heading a staff of 80 voluntary caseworkers, handling 14,000 case records from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, by 1938.
After Kristallnacht, Wilfrid Israel, a businessman in Nuremberg, asked Bertha Bracey to join an emergency British Quaker delegation to Berlin to report back to the British government. With Jewish delegates she lobbied the British government to relax immigration requirements, making it easier to evacuate people from Nazi Europe.
Under the Nazis, thousands of Jewish people and others faced persecution and death. Many German Quakers took personal risks to help many to emigrate, hiding Jewish families, visiting concentration camps and sitting in solidarity with Jewish families while they waited to be deported. They sewed blankets into coats to face the cold in Poland. Quakers suffered for their non-violent solidarity, some were interned in prison camps, one was in Buchenwald for two and a half years.
Remembering Bertha Bracey: before the Downing Street reception to honour the heroes of the Holocaust, with the statue in memory of Bertha Bracey in Friends House, London, are Brenda Bailey (left) and Marigold Bentley of Quaker Peace and Social Witness. Brenda Bailey, who knew Bertha well, has spoken of her parents’ experience. They were Quakers in Germany who stood up for those victimised by the Nazis. Brenda’s father , Leonhard Friedrich was interned in Buchenwald concentration camp for two and a half years. (Photo: Blake Humphries/ Quaker Communications)
Bertha Bracey was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire in December 1941.
Listen to a brief recording, made in the 1980s, of Bertha Bracey being interviewed by Judith Chandler (Redlands Local Meeting).
Notes to editor:
- Quaker Brenda Bailey, who knew Bertha Bracey, is available for interview. Contact Anne van Staveren on 020 7663 1048 or 07958 009 703.
- Photos of Bertha Bracey are here www.quaker.org.uk/holocaust and stories recording the experiences of those who came on the Kindertransport can be read here www.quaker.org.uk/kinder
- The operation known as the Kindertransport saved nearly 10,000 children, from the first train on 1 December 1938 until the last on the eve of war in September 1939. Many never saw their families again. Of the six million who died in concentration camps, a million and a half were children.
- Approximately 25,000 people attend Quaker Meetings for Worship in Great Britain, and there are more than 475 Meetings.
- Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends.
Anne van Staveren
0207 663 1048