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.
“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.
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.”
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.