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An Irish doctor at Bergen-Belsen

Updated: 5 days ago

To mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp on the 15th of April, Historyeye charts the life and family tree of a little-known Irish doctor who was one of the first medics on the scene, Doctor P.J. Fox. There were at least three Irish doctors working on the ground after Bergen-Belsen’s liberation in April 1945. All were serving members of the Royal Army Medical Corps. The three were Frank Waldron (Galway), Arthur Oram,(Cork) and Patrick J. Fox (Dublin). Patrick or P.J. Fox was one of the few medics to be caught on camera in Richard Dimbleby’s first BBC reports at Belsen. His brief interview ( between 4.20-5.38 minutes on the newsreel) gives the slight impression that either he disliked public speaking or was understandably anxious to get back to work. Patrick Joseph Fox was born at Holles Street Hospital, Dublin, on October 24th, 1910. He was the eldest child of Mary Fox (née Enright) who had once worked as a nurse, and John Fox, a postmaster stationed in Longford and then Mayo. The family moved to Dublin in the early 1920s due to John Fox’s bad health. They opened a private hotel at No. 14 Lower Leeson Street, just off St. Stephen's Green. The hotel was also the family residence. After John Fox’s death in 1932, Mary Fox continued to run the hotel. She was aided particularly by one of her twin daughters, Florence (Florrie) until the 1960s. The writer Mary Lavin, a friend of Florrie’s, was a frequent visitor to the hotel. Other siblings of P.J. Fox included Florrie’s twin, Mary B. Fox, who in 1932 married Michael Boland, a brother of Frederick Boland. P.J. Fox also had a younger brother, John Bernard Fox, who graduated as a doctor in about 1938-9. John Fox specialized as a radiologist and spent much of his career in Sligo. After secondary school, probably at Catholic University Schools which was just across the road from the family hotel, P.J. Fox went on to study medicine at University College Dublin and graduated there in 1934. Sometime after World War Two broke out, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.

By 1942 he had been appointed Captain and later Major of the RAMC’S 30th Field Hygiene Section. As it’s name suggests, this section was concerned largely with hygiene and sanitation. It was in this capacity that P.J. Fox entered Bergen-Belsen on the 15th of April 1945, one of the first doctors to face the overwhelming challenges well known to historians of the Holocaust. After the war in 1946 , P.J. Fox retired from the army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1967 he married Elizabeth Minnie Taylor (née Norland ),a British divorcée of Jewish heritage. For the rest of his life, Doctor P. J. Fox lived quietly in Liskeard,Cornwall, a world away from the horrors which brought him briefly into the press spotlight in 1945. He died there on the 25th of February 1992.

Historyeye |14 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin. Former site of Fox's Hotel from the 1920s and home of P.J. Fox.

Historyeye | Family tree of Dr. P.J.Fox of Belsen