Wilfrid Berthold Jacob Israel 11 July 1899 – 1 June 1943
Holocaust Rescuer who saved tens of thousands of Jews
Wilfrid Berthold Jacob Israel was born into a liberal Jewish family of extreme wealth. His mother, Amy, the granddaughter of the Chief Rabbi of the U.K., Herman Adler, insisted he be born in London. Wilfrid, however, grew up in Berlin, Germany, where his father, Berthold, was the owner and manager of N. Israel, the largest department store in Germany.
Following WWI, traveling the world collecting Oriental/Indian art, Wilfrid was deeply affected by the economic and social human suffering he encountered. Associating with British Quakers, he joined with them to help. The associations he established with the British Quakers would prove critical to the rescue of Jews and his establishment of the Kindertransport.
When the Nazis took control of Germany in 1933, Wilfrid decided to use his fortune to try and get Jews to safety. By 1938, Wilfrid was running the “Hilfsverein,” the main German Jewish
of Jews using his own funds when Kristallnacht occurred. Wilfrid recognized the changed danger and knew the West would not save Jews, but they might save children. Using his contacts with the British Quakers, working round the clock, building a network or support politically, and socially using his own fortune, the British establishment relented and agreed to take in 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children to England. Wilfrid escaped Germany, returning to London in the summer 1939 only after he saw that the last Kindertransport was safely on its way.
For the next number of years, British intelligence relied upon Wilfrid for insights and connections into Germany. In 1943, Wilfrid flew to Spain with 1500 lifesaving visas to Palestine for trapped Jews. June 1, 1943, returning over the Bay of Biscay, his plane was shot down by Nazi fighters. His body was never located.
Much of Wilfrid’s rescue work, his support for Jews, Israel and humanity were never publicized. Only very recently is it becoming known. His friend, Jewish philosopher Martin Buber described him as "a man of great moral stature, dedicated to the service of others". Albert Einstein, another friend, wrote about Wilfrid after he learned of his death, “Never in my life have I come in contact with a being so noble, so strong and as selfless as he was – in very truth a living work of art. In these times of mass-misfortune, which so few are able to stand up to – one feels the presence of this "chosen one" as a Liberator from despair for mankind.”
Wilfrid Israel, the philanthropist, the humanitarian, the socialist, and the supporter of Zionist enterprises, saved more Jews than any single person had during the Holocaust.
in deep respect - The Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation
Erected 2023 by Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.