Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Monday December 31 2001       11

 

FEATURES

Search for Mrs Thea Graham

Inheritance survives Nazi and Soviet eras

 

Donald Gowing, of New Jersey, in the USA: his efforts to stage a reunion of the Huddesrfield Technical College class of 1942 promidsed a breakthrough in the search.

WAR is not just evil, it's chaotic evil. Fifty-six years after the end of the Second World War people are still trying to pick up the pieces and put things right.

   One such group, the Search and Unite team, specialises in the needle in the haystack job of tracing people who have property claims in just one area of Europe dislocated by the Nazi occupation, the Czech Republic.

   Now David Lewin, of London, a member of the team is hoping Examiner readers can do what all previous research has failed to do and find Mrs Thea Graham (or her heirs) who has a right to reclaim the old family home that was stolen in long ago 1940.

   The story begins in 1939, a time that was a nightmare for anyone of Jewish descent. in the then Czechoslovakia

   For Oskar and Charlotte Lowe the last straw was the Anschluss, the annexation by Hitler's Germany of the Sudetenland, part of Czechoslovakia.

   The Lowes fled to England, where they had relatives living, taking with them their two children, Thea and Klaus, some clothes, household goods and bedding and not much more.

So far, all attempts to find traces of Thea and her husband have failed.

   Soon after arriving they demonstrated their commitment to the new start by changing the name to Low. They found shelter at 22 Cambridge Road, Huddersfield. Thea went to Greenhead High School and her father, an industrial chemist, found work.

   They got away just in time. Back in Czechoslovakia, the rest of their family, grandparents, uncles, aunts and many cousins were trapped. The new Nazi government sent them to the Terezin concentration camp (Teresienstadt) from where none returned. The family home was confiscated and became the property of the state.

   Back in Huddersfield Thea was at school with Mrs Helen Cummings, of Grimscar, Betty Thomas (née Hudson) and Anne McNair, who remembers the Low family airing their bedding in the windows - it was the first time she had ever seen a continental duvet.

   Thea went on from school to Huddersfield Technical College, where records show her enrolled on the 1941-42 register taking French, commercial French, Spanish, statistics and typing.

   Her classmates included Malcolm Lee, whose family owned Kaye's College, Colin Muscroft (who went on to Leeds University), David Pickup (possibly a midshipman on a banana boat during the

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Where there's a will there's a way! And a Czech lawyer and an organisation that reunites lost relatives hope that Examiner readers can help right a 60-year-old wrong. TONY POGSON reports on their bid to trace a former Huddersfield woman who has been left her old family home in Prague

war), Donald G Gowing, today living in New Jersey, and Neville Graham (whose family were in the quarry business) who was to marry Thea in November 1946.

   Because she could speak German, Thea volunteered to help the RAF to translate radio conversations of German pilots.

   In 1944 there was tragedy when her brother Peter Klaus committed suicide when he was 17 and was buried in the United Hebrew Congregation Jewish cemetery in Huddersfield Road, Leeds.

   The story comes up to date when a Prague lawyer contacted David Lewin. It had finally been established that Thea's grandparents, Ernestine and Arnostka Kapper, who had perished in the Holocaust, had left a will in her favour.

   The search began in August 2000 with details posted on the Search and Unite web pages at http://remember.org/unite

   So far all attempts to find traces of Thea and her husband have failed. But in October of this year David got an e-mail from Donald Gowing in New Jersey.

   He had been trying to organise a 60th year reunion of the Technical College class of 1942 that included Thea - and came across the web page while searching the net.

   Says David: "We have not come much forward from this point, and we are wondering whether any readers of the Examiner may have memories which will help with the detective work to try to trace any of these individuals."

   The best clue to date is a copy of the marriage certificate which shows Thea Leonora Ruth Low marrying George Neville Francis Graham, of Dryclough Road, Crosland Moor, at St Patrick's Church in New North Road on November 23, 1946.

   For the first time the searchers now knew the name of the bridegroom's father - George Alexander Graham - and that the witness was W F Wright.

* Anyone with information should contact David Lewin: ring 020 8446 00404 or, if you wish, you can e-mail him on davidlewin@btinternet.com