A FASCINATING link to Oscar Schindler via a Thirsk family of Quakers is being celebrated in the North Yorkshire town.

Thirsk Quaker Jed Hall is the focus of displays in Thirsk Museum and St Mary’s Church which detail the role he played in saving countless lives after the First World War.

Initial estimates suggested that two million civilians starved to death in the seven months between the signing of the Armistice and the Peace of Versailles.

An article in The Manchester Guardian of May 17 1919 reported a British soldier of occupation saying; “I did not fight for five years in order to watch German children dying of hunger six months after the war ended.”

Special permission was given to British Quakers to send food and clothing to infants and nursing mothers in February 1919.

At its height in 1922, the British Quaker-led Cologne feeding programme provided meals for 29,556 people per day.

B Smiths of Thirsk, the Quaker store owned by the Hall family since 1584, used to clear their shelves of food and send regular lorry-loads to Vienna, where Jed Hall stayed for several months.

Mr Hall carried out humanitarian work and helped distribute the food, leading to him being honoured with a medal by the League of Nations.

Even more food was sent by American Quakers under the leadership of Herbert Hoover, providing daily meals for 60,0000 starving Berliners for five years.

The Germans labelled this massive effort, Quakerspeisungen: “Quaker Feedings.”

It saved thousands of lives, including those of the family of Oscar Schindler who famously went on to help 700 Jews to escape the gas chambers at Auschwitz in the Second World War.

Schindler’s sisters spent six months recuperating with the Hall family and one even attended Thirsk Grammar School for a term.

During the Second World War, although Gestapo agents maintained an intimidating presence at Quaker meetings, Quakers were allowed to organise a ‘Kindertransport’ for 11,000 Jewish children.

The Hall family of Thirsk again played their part, with Jed Hall’s sisters, Isabel and Winifred taking in two German Jewish children.