The man who saved thousands of lives - Festival of Chichester

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. His story will be told in a very special event for the Festival of Chichester.

Kendrick
Kendrick

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 book’s author is historian and biographer Helen Fry who will offer Discovering Spymaster on Friday, June 17 at 6pm at The Council House, North St, Chichester..

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As the Second World War loomed Thomas Kendrick, ostensibly a passport officer in Vienna, was running British spy networks across Europe. Crucially he also used his position to help Austrian Jews flee to freedom.

Helen tells his story in her book. Inevitably the secrecy which still surrounds Kendrick means that she hasn't been able to tell absolutely the full story. But the fact that there is perhaps a great deal more to be discovered simply adds to the excitement of it all, she says,

Clare makes the point: “The fact is that none of us would be here but for him, literally none of us. 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.”

Helen is delighted to be securing recognition at last for Kendrick's crucial dual war contribution, the rescue of thousands of Austrian Jews but also his vital role in intelligence: “Without him we could have lost the intelligence war as late as February 1945.

“I first came across him about 25 years ago and it has taken more than 20 years to write his biography. He lived in the shadows. I came across him in a book about one of his colleagues Frank Foley who was the passport control officer in Berlin and a close friend of Kendrick's. In that biography there was a short reference to Kendrick who obviously had a parallel story and I just wanted to find out more.

"He died aged 91 in 1972 but I interviewed his grandchildren and also surviving veterans and they all spoke of a man who was incredibly jolly but even the grandchildren didn't know what he had done. It was probably the funeral when they first got a glimpse when there were all these men in trench coats and trilby hats turning up who then disappeared. They were secret services.”

Helen’s researches revealed a man who naturally gifted with people: “He was fantastic with human intelligence and what he had been doing in the 20s and 30s was running spy networks across Europe. He was supposed to be concentrating on intelligence but there was something within him that made him embark on getting Jews and communists out of Austria.”

Tickets £10 from the Festival of Chichester.