Mystery of family documents solved

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Mystery of family documents solved

After an assistant manager of a charity shop bought paperwork belonging to a woman called Cissi Rosenfelder, she began a mission to find family members living in the UK

Alex Galbinski is a Jewish News journalist

Nicola Stow, Doris Rau, Ruth and Daniel Rosenfelder, with Michael Newman of AJR (second left)
Nicola Stow, Doris Rau, Ruth and Daniel Rosenfelder, with Michael Newman of AJR (second left)

When Nicola Stow bought some German documents dating from the 1920s in a charity shop a few years ago, she had no idea she would later forge a connection with relatives of the woman they belonged to and hand them the paperwork.

The assistant manager of a charity shop, of Ware, Hertfordshire, bought the paperwork belonging to a woman called Cissi Rosenfelder for about £50 in her local St Elizabeth’s store.

It included Cissi’s passport, her marriage certificate to Max, dated 21 December 1921 in Frankfurt, school reports for her daughter, Carmel, from a school in Cologne, and postcards from her father, who worked in London, in Westminster, addressed to her at an address in Wales.

“There are a variety of documents, but the passport caught my eye,” says Stow.

Papers belonging to Cissi Rosenfelder

“Having been born in London, Cissi seems to have travelled quite extensively. Her passport is stamped quite a few times, and she married in Amsterdam. There are letters from Carmel written in German from Germany and Switzerland in 1931 and 1932. There is one particular letter from her brother Fred regarding the death of their rabbi, who obviously meant a lot to the family.”

Stow, whose sister-in-law is from Cologne, wanted to return the documents to Cissi’s family, so took out a membership of the Ancestry website and sent messages to people on Facebook who shared the same family names. But she drew a blank and resigned them to a cupboard – until this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

She contacted Jewish News and, with the help of the Association of Jewish Refugees, the connection was made with a family member, Nicola Rosenfelder; Cissi was the “favourite aunt” of her father, Daniel. Stow was finally able to meet with Nicola and her mother, Ruth, in London in early May after the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Papers belonging to Cissi Rosenfelder

Stow said: “It was a bit of a wrench handing over the documents, but they need to be with the people they should be with. I bought them because I could see the enormity of the documents. I’ve done my good deed.”

Daniel says: “Cissi was very active in running the Tylers Green hostel for refugee children during the war and the Jews’ Temporary Shelter for many years after it.”

It is unclear how the documents ended up in the charity shop, but Daniel believes that Cissi’s daughter-in-law or one of her grandchildren may have donated them after a clearout. He is delighted to be able to offer them to Cissi’s niece, Doris, to whom she was very close.

Stow and the Rosenfelders have since met up again at a dinner hosted on Sunday night by Doris.

Doris said: “It’s a total mystery as to why they ended up in a charity shop in Hertfordshire. This is an extraordinary story and I’m extremely happy to be the recipient of the documents.”



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