Proud Chris Hammond collects medal after uncle George saved girl from Nazis
Chris and Maria Hammond
of Herne Bay with the medal awarded postumously to his uncle
As Nazis marched hundreds of starving Jewish women and
children past George Hammond’s POW camp in Poland, little did he
know it would eventually earn him an honour in service of
The Kent soldier had seen many horrors as the SS executed Jews
who fled persecution during his time as a prisoner of war, working
on a farm at Gross Golmkau.
When he returned to his camp that night in February 1945, he
discovered his friends had found a 17-year-old Jewish girl who had
escaped. They were hiding her in a cupboard.
Nearly 70 years later, Sara Rigler is still alive, living
in a retirement home in the USA, and owes her life to the men who
kept her hidden.
Her family were murdered but she survived after they hid her in
their barn for three weeks, clothing and feeding her.
She eventually met the 10 men who saved her life, but all of
them are now thought to have passed away.
Last month in Parliament, George’s nephew Chris Hammond, from
Herne Bay, collected an award for his uncle’s humanity shown in the
face of conflict.
Only 28 individuals have ever been nominated for Righteous Among
the Nations Honored by Yad Vashem medal, making it rarer than the
So far, only five of them have been awarded.
Now Chris is searching for the families of his uncle’s friends
who helped save Sara, so they can also be given their medals.
Chris, 59, of Selsea Avenue, said: “It would be nice to draw a
matter to a close by finding the other nine.
George Hammond with Sara
Rigler, planting a tree in Israel in 1989.
Picture: Chris Hammond
“This award is rarer than a VC, it is very important that these
things are remembered.”
Born in Webster Road, Rainham in 1919, George Hammond joined the
First Battalion of the Royal West Kent as a private.
After the war he worked as a special policeman, reaching the
rank of inspector, and worked for a seating manufacturer until he
retired in 1984.
He lived with lifelong partner Rene Harpin on Coronation Road,
Sheerness, where he died in 2003.
Then in 2010, George Hammond and his nine comrades at his camp
were awarded the Righteous Among the Nations Honored by Yad Vashem
medal, shortly after Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited
George Hammond, front left, with his fellow
prisoners of war in Poland. Do you know any of the men in the
Yet none of the medals had been given out until Chris collected
his uncle’s honour from minister Eric Pickles at Westminster Hall
One of George’s friends was another Kent soldier, Roger
Letchford, who is known to have lived in Dartford.
Chris said: “George was affected by what he saw out there. It
upset him all his life. He could never talk about it.
“I think he would have been very pleased with the medal and that
things had been recognished.”
George Hamilton’s brigade was captured by Germans at
Addenarde in Belgium in 1940, during the Allies' withdrawal from
He was eventually taken to Poland to labour as a prisoner of
war, where he and nine friends saved Sara.
His campmate Willy Fisher wrote in his diary how the 10 tommies
found the girl.
He said: ”Her eyes are large as is usual with starvation, sunken
cheeks, no breasts.
“Hair has not been cut, body badly marked with sores caused by
scratching lice bites.
“I got my forefinger and thumb round the upper part of her arm
They smuggled her into the camp under the noses of the German
The men then hid the girl in a hayloft above their billet in the
camp. The temperature outside was -10C.
Despite her terrible state, she managed to tell them her name,
age and that she was registered as prisoner No. 58,384 at Stutthof
concentration camp in Poland.
They visited her with food and found her a pair of shoes and a
sweater to put over her ripped dress.
"George was affected by what he saw out there. It upset him all his life. He could never talk about it" – George Hammond's nephew Chris
The biggest danger
was that a farmer might clear the hay while they were out working
during the day as they had no choice but to leave her.
Early one morning, three weeks after finding Sara, they were
ordered off on a march and never had time to warn her.
Yet she eventually made her way to a gathering point for Jewish
refugees in Bialystock, Poland, and emigrated to America in 1948,
thanks to an arranged – and brief – marriage.
She completed college, remarried in 1952, and went on to have a
nursing career in New York.
She never lost contact with her saviours and planted a tree with
them during a get-together in Israel in 1989.
Chris said: “They were very chatty. She got on well with all the
“That one incident took over her life. You have got to bear in
mind she lost her family and there is always that feeling of ‘why
did I survive and they didn’t?’
“Whenever she couldn’t make a get together of the 10, she always
sent a telegram.”
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