A British Hero of the Holocaust.
An auction lot came to the attention of the Old Berkhamstedians in early November. Noonans Mayfair auction house were offering for sale a collection of medals; catalogued as historically important. They had been awarded to an OB, who was posthumously recognised as a British Hero of the Holocaust. The sale was to take place on the 8th November, so time was limited if we were to bid.
Mr. M. Horton was called upon to set the ball rolling and funds were gathered from the OBs, School and the ever-giving Acacia. The estimate price was exceeded, not by much but enough to make it a close-run thing. Berkhamsted’s bid secured the lot. A vote of thanks must go to Mr. S. Hammond, a member of our Estates team, for bringing the medals auction to the attention of the school community. Read on to learn about the Holocaust hero.
John Eric Maclean Carvell
J E M Carvell was born on 12th August 1894 and was educated at Berkhamsted school; Uppers 1903-1912. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant on 9th September 1914 and was posted to the 16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), London Regiment as temporary Lieutenant on 30th November 1914. He served with them during the Great War on the Western Front from 23rd January 1915 and was promoted Captain on 28th April 1917. Twice wounded (on the second occasion the bullet reputedly lodged between his heart and his lung). Rather than take a discharge he took a posting as an Instructor to the Portuguese Army from 1917-18 and then as a Staff Captain, HQ London District, 1918-19. He transferred to the Territorial Force Reserve on 30th July 1919.
A career diplomat, Carvell had various postings. Firstly, as British Consul to the Republic of Haiti, at Port au Prince in 1920. This was followed by postings to Finisterre, France, Munich, Bavaria, State of Rio Grande do Sul at Porto Alegre, Brazil and again at Munich, Bavaria in the late 1930s. He was appointed British Consul General at Algiers in 1942, Arizona in 1946, Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Quito, Equador in 1948 and Sofia, Bulgaria in 1951.
He retired from the Foreign Service in 1954. He died at Bungay in Suffolk on 29th April 1978. As Consul General in Munich, Carvell used his position to issue certificates to 300 Jewish men imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp for ‘race defilement’ (marrying or having relationships with non-Jewish German women). These certificates enabled the men to leave camp and travel to British Mandated Palestine in 1937. As a result of his and his colleagues’ efforts to aid the escape of Jews from Germany, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.
The plaque reads –
‘To commemorate those British diplomats who by their personal endeavours helped to rescue victims of Nazi oppression’.
Carvell was posthumously awarded the title ‘British Hero of the Holocaust’ in 2018, along with his counterpart in Lithuania, Sir Thomas Preston. The title is a special award given by the British Government to people who helped or rescued Jews and others facing Nazi persecution before and during the Second World War. It was created in 2009, following a campaign by the Holocaust Educational Trust to ensure that their actions were properly recognised. The first awards were given in 2010.
The story and the medals will be on display in the Exhibition room at Castle.