On a cold afternoon in December 1960, WPC Tegwen Curl received a call to proceed to West Heath Court flats in Golders Green. When she arrived, she was greeted by an unlikely scene — a group of middle-aged, mostly Jewish neighbours crowded around an abandoned baby no more than four days old, lying on the floor.
The baby was not crying, and although very cold he had been recently fed and was healthy. The social worker assigned to the case reported that the child had probably not been delivered by a midwife — there were no records of him being born in hospital.
Fast forward 49 years and the “Rainbow Baby,” as he was dubbed by WPC Curl after the colourful blankets that swaddled him, is about to get a little closer to finding out how he came to be in that block of flats. David Stevenson is today awaiting results of a DNA test that will prove, he hopes, that he is Jewish.
Adopted by a loving, non-Jewish Edgware family and with scant information about his true parentage, what he does know was that for years he has felt an affinity with Jewish people. “All my life people have asked me, ‘are you Jewish?’ and I say, ‘I don’t know’. If I discovered I wasn’t Jewish, I would be disappointed.” Many of his friends are Jewish and so, too, is his former wife, with whom he has three sons. It is partly to give his sons a sense of their heritage that he has stepped up efforts to discover the truth about his background. “I’d like to know the story for my children — this is about their grandparents, after all.”
Stevenson’s quest has already yielded some fascinating results. He has built up detailed pictures of some of the people living on that second-floor corridor — many of them first- and second-generation Jewish immigrants.
Rudi Cross (born Rudolf Krausz), was living at number 36 West Heath Court at the time. He was an Austrian immigrant who fled the Nazis in the 1939 and worked as a toy salesman. DNA tests on a relative ruled out Cross as Stevenson’s father, but further inquiries reveal that he did have extra-marital affairs. Cross’s wife Edith (born in Berlin and a ex- nanny) was in her 40s in 1960 and known to be keen to have a child. Stevenson suspects she took him in while Cross was away working and cared for him hours or even days before the police call. And while the police report says he was left outside the door of number 39 — whose occupant was an elderly widow who was adamant the baby had nothing to do with her — days before her death in 2007, Edith told a neighbour the baby was originally left outside her own door.
WPC Curl herself suspected that the baby had been moved — his blankets looked disturbed. Also, the neighbour who made the call to the police and greeted the WPC, Ralph Webber, was acting so suspiciously that he was almost arrested, according to the policewoman, whom Stevenson tracked down earlier this year. Stevenson theorises that Webber was put up to making the call by the Crosses. “I’m inclined to think Edith wasn’t entirely innocent,” he says. “She’s emerged as a manipulative woman. I can’t help but feel she has some part in the story.”
As a result of his researches, Stevenson is now in possession of Rudi Cross’s naturalisation dossier, the birth, marriage and death certificates of Edith and her parents, and a Nazi-stamped report signed by Edith’s grandfather weeks before he was killed during Kristallnacht. “This is partly a story of the Holocaust and the experiences the people living in those flats had gone through,” he says.
He is philosophical about the reasons why his parents abandoned him. “I’ve been driven forward by the desire to uncover nuggets of information that will tell me how I came to be. Most people take details about their parents for granted. People who were abandoned, like me, can’t. It leaves a gap in your identity.”