Heirloom that survived Hitler and Stalin is lost in lockdown

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Heirloom that survived Hitler and Stalin is lost in lockdown

It survived its brushes with history but the cherished gold pendant bearing Holocaust survivor Eva Rocek’s name went missing during the pandemic

Top left, Miriam Saxl, with her elder daughter Maya, Eva and Jan Rocek, on the right, Miriam's daughter Eva, and bottom left, the gold pendant necklace
Top left, Miriam Saxl, with her elder daughter Maya, Eva and Jan Rocek, on the right, Miriam's daughter Eva, and bottom left, the gold pendant necklace

It remained unscathed through Nazi occupation and communist rule — but the cherished gold pendant bearing Eva Rocek’s name couldn’t survive the coronavirus pandemic. 

Eva, who passed away in 2015 aged 88, used to wear it on a gold chain around her neck in homage to her uncle, a goldsmith who wrought it and perished in the Shoah.

During the Second World War, the round ornament with Eva’s name carved in the centre was left with a family friend, a Christian who kept it safe after its owner’s deportation to Theresienstadt in July 1942. There Eva met her husband Jan Rocek, now 96 and based in Delaware.

Eva, who also survived Auschwitz-Birkenau, Kurzbach concentration camp and a death march, was reunited with Jan after the war.

The item had “a very special meaning” for Eva, her husband told Jewish News. She would almost never wear any jewellery save the pendant, he said.

But in 1960 Eva left the beloved item with Jan’s relatives in England to thank them for their financial support following the couple’s escape from communist Czechoslovakia before emigrating to the United States, where they pursued careers as chemists.

The pendant was returned to Jan 55 years later after Eva’s death.

Fast-forward to March 2020 and Jan, intent on preserving his late wife’s memory, hoped to pass the heirloom on to Miriam Saxl, 39, a relative living in Oxford whose three year-old daughter was named after Eva.

“It was of course also the only piece of jewellery she had on during our escape from communist Czechoslovakia in 1960,” Jan said last week.

“To part with it and give it to the daughter of one of my two cousins who supported us in the weeks after our escape was certainly a most generous gesture,” he said.

“It is because of that history that the pendant had a very special meaning to me and I therefore wanted it to be worn by my little cousin born a year after Eva’s passing who carries her name,” he added. 

Large family group for Jan Rocek’s 90th birthday

Unable to travel during the lockdown to deliver it in person, the 96-year-old widower attempted to deliver it through the post. 

But it was lost during what should’ve been its most routine journey.

The package, last seen at Heathrow Airport on 3 April, also contained a replica for the intended recipient’s sister Maya, who is nine. 

Miriam, a mum-of-two and Jan’s first cousin twice removed, remains hopeful for a miracle, something she said would “just be wonderful.” 

But were she to track down the necklace, which survived its other brushes with history, she would not store it away under lock and key. 

“Jan has been very clear that he wants both my daughters to wear their necklaces in memory. There’s no idea of kind of putting it away for safekeeping,” she said. 

 “It’s something to be worn, a living thing rather than something to be stored away,” she said. 

“My daughter’s only three at the moment, so she’s not going to be wearing it much yet. It will be something that goes with a story,” she added.

A Parcelforce Worldwide spokesperson said on Wednesday: “We sincerely apologise that, on this occasion, we were not able to provide the service usually expected from Parcelforce Worldwide, which resulted in the subsequent loss of this very sentimental item.

“We will continue our efforts to trace the parcel. Every item we handle is important to us and we always strive to provide the best possible service to all of our customers. While we can fully appreciate that there is no amount of money that compensates for this, we are arranging for the customer to receive a gesture of goodwill, to compensate for the loss of this item and distress caused.”

Can you help trace the lost item? If so, visit the webpage www.evaspendant.com/contact.html

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