Politi­cian saved dozens of lives — but had no idea

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY DANIEL SUGARMAN

THE GRAND­SON of a for­mer se­nior Labour politi­cian is look­ing for rel­a­tives of 40 Ger­man Jews he be­lieves his grand­fa­ther helped save prior to the Se­cond World War.

Hast­ings Ber­trand LeesSmith ini­tially served as a Lib­eral MP be­fore join­ing the Labour Party in 1919.

He went on to serve as Post­mas­ter Gen­eral and Pres­i­dent of the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.

“The fam­ily story is that in 1938 he ac­tu­ally man­aged to get 40 Bri­tish pass­ports and sup­ply them to Jews in Frank­furt,” ex­plained his grand­son, Alistair Lees-Smith.

“I have no proof of this, but when I was a young boy 60 years ago, my grand­mother lived in Hamp­stead, and we used to go around and see th­ese peo­ple.

Hast­ings Ber­trand Lees-Smith “I’ve for­got­ten who they are, but they cer­tainly thought they owed their ex­is­tence in Bri­tain to my grand­fa­ther. “I was only seven or eight. I didn’t think any­thing of it at the time.” Mr Lees-Smith has pub­lished a book, The Chest of Sur­prises, loosely based on what he be­lieves his grand­fa­ther did.

The MP was not part of Win­ston Churchill’s wartime cab­i­net, but oc­cu­pied a cu­ri­ous role from May 1940 un­til his death 19 months later. De­spite po­lit­i­cal par­ties join­ing to­gether in a na­tional coali­tion, the Par­lia­men­tary of­fice of Leader of the Op­po­si­tion still needed filling. With Cle­ment At­tlee, Labour’s leader, serv­ing in the cab­i­net, it was felt un­suit­able for him to hold the role. The Daily Her­ald re­ported the Par­lia­men­tary Labour Party (PLP) unan­i­mously elected Dr HB Lees-Smith as Act­ing Chair­man of the PLP, and the of­fi­cial Leader of the Op­po­si­tion.

“I’m very proud of my grand­fa­ther,” said Mr Lees-Smith.

“Hav­ing reached 67, I re­alised how dif­fi­cult it is to ac­tu­ally do any­thing of any sort of note.”

He said he was ea­ger to meet sur­vivors — or their rel­a­tives — who had ben­e­fited

from the pass­ports. Be­fore the war, you would have had no idea what might hap­pen. You could see things weren’t go­ing well, but that’s not the same at all.

“He died in 1941, and he would have had no idea of what he had done.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.