Searching for Lotte by Roger Leivers

Roger’s presentation, ‘Searching for Lotte’, was part of his follow-up on the lives of those who survived, or are connected with, the Godmanchester Stirling bomber, which crashed near the town in 1942. Sidney ‘Jack’ Jordan was the bomb-aimer of the Stirling who, before the war, began a relationship with a young Jewish woman, who he knew as Lotte Lucy Geldova. They met at the Twickenham Lido in August 1938, but after her return home to Prostejov, Czechoslovakia, the couple kept in touch. However, following the German invasion in midMarch 1939, Lotte sent Sidney a final photograph, showing her relaxing at Plumlov Lake in July 1939. On the back she had written, ‘The last one of me, your Lotte’. Later, Sidney joined the RAF, but although he survived the Godmanchester Stirling crash, he was later killed in a bombing raid over Duisburg.

Roger’s search to discover what happened to Lotte was helped by a Czech woman, who identified her as Lotte Losegeldova. She revealed that although engaged to Frantisek Urban, a Czech military officer from Prague, Lotte was among the Jewish population of Prostejov who were taken to the ghetto at Terezin, or Theresienstadt, in 1942. Despite not being a concentration camp, conditions in the ghetto were horrendous and Roger gave examples of the suffering and brutality they experienced.

For example, on a visit by the Red Cross to check the conditions and overcrowding of the ghetto, the tree-tier dormitory bunks were reduced to two, but those occupying the top tier were removed by sending them to Auschwitz. Another example was the death of 300 people when, on 11th November 1943, at the whim of the commandant, all 36,000 ghetto residents were forced to stand in freezing conditions from 7am to 11pm. During a recent visit to the Theresienstadt museum, Roger saw the wall panels containing the names of 15,000 children who passed through the ghetto, one of them Lotte’s nephew Petr. Less than 150 of the children survived.

Lotte was saved on two occasions with the help of Suzanne Kriss, who, being responsible for loading the transports to the extermination camps, ensured she remained in the ghetto. On the third occasion, however, she could not save her, but knowing the commandant liked blond women, she suggested Lotte should go and see him. It was a visit that saved her life. After the Soviets freed Theresienstadt in April 1945, Lotte rushed to Prague where, 17 days later, she and Frantisek were married.

After posting photographs on social media, to find out what happened to Lotte after the war, Roger received a reply saying, ‘That’s my grandmother.’ Amazingly, her granddaughter lives in Bristol, and is one of three grandchildren, all of whom are now part of the Godmanchester Stirling bomber ‘family’. They revealed details of Lotte and Frantisek’s later life and how she died peacefully in 2012, aged 91.

Roland Thacker

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