How a Chichester councillor learnt exactly who saved her parents' lives

Chichester city and district councillor Clare Apel now knows the name of the man who rescued her parents from near certain death in pre-war Austria more than 83 years ago.

Frederick (who changed his name to Stephen after coming to England) and Margery Eisinger
Frederick (who changed his name to Stephen after coming to England) and Margery Eisinger

A new book has revealed that Clare’s parents – Frederick (who changed his name to Stephen after coming to England) and Margery Eisinger – were the first to receive false papers in Vienna from the remarkable Thomas Kendrick, a British spy who rescued more than 10,000 Jews.

“The fact is that none of us would be here but for him, literally none of us,” Clare said.

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“My brothers would have been put in the gas chambers no doubt and my father would have been killed and I would not have been born.”

Clare is now hoping that full recognition might now be accorded to an extraordinary man.

“I feel that as an amazing humanitarian, he should be recognised for what he did for the Austrian Jews getting to freedom and especially my parents. Without him none of my family and extended family would exist.

“He should be recognised as Righteous Among Gentiles in the Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the repository where all the Jews killed in the Holocaust are commemorated and the places where they were killed.

“My mother was British and went out to Vienna to study to be an opera singer. She met my father at the Vienna Opera. She met Thomas Kendrick and his family as she was quite involved in the British ex-pat community.

“Thomas Kendrick was ostensibly working for the passport office. He was actually the head of the British spy ring.

“The Nazis marched into Austria and Vienna on March 12 1938 and from then on Thomas’s office was inundated with Austrian Jews desperate to flee from Austria. He gave more than 10,000 Austrian Jews false papers. My parents were the first to receive false papers.

“My mother escaped with her false papers on March 14 with my two brothers Anthony, aged ten months, and Peter, aged three years.

“I knew my parents escaped from Vienna literally a day or two after the Anschluss, and I knew my mother and my two brothers had the most horrendous escape. Daddy was Jewish and was editor of two papers one of which was anti-Nazi. He was on Hitler’s wanted list. He managed to get to Prague and eventually managed to get back to the UK.

“I had always understood my mother had got the false papers from somebody in the British passport department in Vienna and I just accepted that that was how she had got out but a few months ago my brother Anthony Eisinger, who was one of the pioneers of kidney transplantation in this country, said that there was this doctor of history (Helen Fry) who was writing a book about Thomas Kendrick and was asking after him. Kendrick was a great friend of mum and dad’s and was in Vienna with them, and that’s all I knew.

“Then we saw an article in the Jewish Chronicle saying that Thomas Kendrick should be recognised because he had rescued more than 10,000 Jews.

And now Helen Fry’s book Spymaster: The Man Who Saved MI6 has been published, “And on page 95 it says that my parents were the first people to get false papers from him.

“I absolutely didn’t know this. It is all absolutely unbelievable. Nobody knew. He kept everything he knew absolutely silent. He did the most amazing things during the war.

“I knew he was a great friend of my parents. I remember as a child going to see his daughter who lived in Surrey but I just didn’t know any more than that.

“You think about Schindler who is recognised for saving about 1,200 Jews and yet you have got this man who saved probably 10,000 Jews.

“I just feel that he should get massive recognition.

“He had a very charismatic personality but behind this wonderful joyous exterior was a man of steel who knew what was right and what was wrong.

“ You rescued people and then you defended your country to the nth.

“And I have no doubt that but for him, I just would not be here.