Seventy years ago Emmy Kaufmann, then 24, entered the UK as a domestic worker. She came from Kommern, a small village near Cologne with just 12 Jewish families, and had fled Germany after Kristallnacht, in November 1938.
Last month Emmy, now Mrs Golding, who today lives in Edgware, north London, was reunited with a menorah which had been salvaged from the Kommern synagogue destroyed by the Nazis. The rescuer was an 11-year-old girl, Maria Klee, who picked out the still smouldering brass menorah from the burnt-out synagogue the day after the Nazis set fire to it.
She hid it under her dress and took it home to her mother, who hid it inside a mattress for 70 years. Mrs Golding recalled: “Her family lived opposite the shul. She used to come in to the building and help her aunt clean.”
Wolfgang Freier, a German non-Jewish teacher who lives in the area, has recently spent many months researching the family trees of the lost Jewish families of Kommern.
Thanks to his work, Maria was able to track down Emmy as one of Kommern’s previous Jewish residents. She wanted to return the menorah to a member of the Jewish community. Some months ago, Maria, now in her 80s, accompanied Wolfgang on one of his visits to London to meet Emmy Golding, and was able to hand the menorah over to her in person.
Remarkably, all of Emmy’s immediate family were able to escape Nazi Germany after Kristallnacht; she arived in May 1939 and her parents followed in late August, just days before the outbreak of war. Her only sister escaped to the States but almost all her aunts, uncles and cousins perished in the Holocaust.
The survival of her father, a farmer and cattle dealer, was in itself something of a miracle as he was, at one point, taken away to Dachau concentration camp. It was only after Emmy bravely presented his First World War medals to the Gestapo that he was released.
Last Chanucah Emmy was able to light the synagogue’s menorah for the first time in 71 years, together with her daughter, granddaughters and great-grandaughters.