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Wilfrid Israel: The Elusive Saviour
Friday, 11 January 2013 from 13:00 to 14:00 (GMT)
London, United Kingdom
This lecture is part of a series related to The Wiener Library’s current exhibition, ‘Rescues of the Holocaust: Remembering Raoul Wallenberg and Lives Saved’.
Wilfrid Israel, who saved thousands of Jews from Nazi persecution from the 1930s until his death in l943, was a member of the European Jewish elite, a man of wide culture and exquisite manners. He was heir to a famous Berlin business dynasty on his father's side and was related to the Chief Rabbi of Britain on his mother's side. Yet he was a reluctant businessman and knew little of Jewish culture. His involvement in the Jewish community began when he sponsored the emigration of Eastern European adolescents to a youth village in Palestine in the 1920s, but came to its full flowering after the Nazis seized power in Germany.
In this lunchtime lecture, Naomi Shepherd will relate how Israel used his personal wealth and the Israel firm he directed to protect and save not only his Jewish employees but also to ransom Jews in the concentration camps and help them emigrate. His connections in the UK also helped him organise the flight of thousands of Jews to Britain, most notably through the Kindertransport. After the outbreak of World War II, Israel helped German Jewish refugees interned by Britain as 'enemy aliens', provided the British Foreign Office with in-depth analyses of the German economic and political scene, and provided the British Refugee Department with further information on refugees throughout Europe. He was killed while returning from a mission to help Jewish Refugees in Spain and Portugal when his plane was shot down by a Luftwaffe squadron.
Naomi Shepherd is the author of several books including a biography of Wilfrid Israel, Wilfrid Israel: German Jewry's Secret Ambassador. Her other published works cover such topics as the history of Israel and Palestine, Jewish women radicals and rebels, an account of the Russian immigrants in Israel post-1989 and a collection of short stories set in Israel.