A BRITISH archivist is campaigning for an Australian mariner who is said to have saved Greek Jews during the Holocaust to be considered for recognition by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations.
Born in Hobart, Tasman Millington enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in 1915 and saw action on the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Western Front. After World War I, he joined the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission and supervised the development of 36 cemeteries for fallen soldiers.
But it is reports of his daring during World War II that Martin Sugarman, archivist at Britain’s Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX), wants Yad Vashem to examine.
Sugarman has contacted Yad Vashem with documents including a 2003 letter from Mark Quinlan, a British Ministry of Defence official, who wrote to AJEX about Millington’s extracurricular activities in Turkey while at the war graves commission.
Quinlan had been researching a book on Millington and was seeking to verify a claim in an earlier Australian book, Millington’s Mission, that the former Digger, who passed away in 1963 and is buried in the UK, had saved many Athens Jews from transportation to the death camps, evacuating them by sea.
The Jewish population of Greece was nearly eradicated during the war, with only 11-12,000 surviving from a prewar population of 75-77,000. It is known some 1200 Jews from Athens were given false identity cards by an archbishop and a local police chief.
“If this book is to be believed, then there is one hell of a story here and probably a movie,” wrote Quinlan. As well as the claim he helped evacuate members of the Jewish community, Millington’s Mission also detailed how its eponymous hero had ferried Allied spies and rescued Allied soldiers from Crete, sunk Axis ships and blown up German planes. There was even an unconfirmed claim he had assassinated Gestapo chief Heinrich Mueller who had been disguised as a Catholic priest in Istanbul in June 1945. However, Mueller’s whereabouts have never been confirmed.
Reflecting on Millington’s reported role in the rescue of Greek Jews, Quinlan wrote in 2003: “If this story does check out, then I would suggest that Millington should be brought to the attention of Yad Vashem as a suitable candidate for commemoration.”
Fifteen years on, after being contacted by Sugarman, Yad Vashem last month advised that it has no records on Millington.
A member of the Righteous Among the Nations department wrote, “We would be happy to receive more information about him and look into this matter, but I would also advise that the challenge would be to prove the risk Mr Millington was running, in addition to finding testimonies from survivors who could give an account of his actions.”
Sugarman, who hailed “this astonishing story of an uncommemorated Righteous Among the Nations”, in an email to The AJN, told Yad Vashem, “There is no doubt Millington would have been killed if caught by the Nazis, saving Jews; as for witnesses, only the Greek Jews would know who was where and if they knew of an Australian who shipped them out by boat.”
Approached by The AJN, the Greek Consulate in Melbourne has contacted the Jewish community of Athens which is now investigating the claims.
Anyone with any information on Tasman Millington’s reported rescue of Greek Jews
should contact Yad Vashem at [email protected]