Blakeney man’s eastern European memorial dream is realised
A north Norfolk man's determined quest to bring about a fitting tribute to his wife's family has ended with the unveiling of a poignant memorial in eastern Europe.
Richard Millward's single-mindedness has taken him across Europe to unearth documents and knit together the strands of some moving stories of German and Communist persecution.
Mr Millward, 65, from The Pastures, Blakeney, has done it all in memory of his late wife Patricia, who died in 2004 after battling Alzheimer's.
The detective work began in 1988, when Mrs Millward's father, Peter Furth, died in France.
In 1991, papers from Mr Furth's grandfather Emil were discovered, including his will, which stated that he wanted his ashes to be interred in one of his parents' graves.
Mr and Mrs Millward were determined to honour that wish, but faced considerable challenges to make it happen.
Having discovered that Emil's parents, Heinrich and Charlotte, were interred at the Jewish cemetery in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Mr Millward suffered the disappointment of being informed by the Jewish community that the cemetery had been destroyed by the Communists in the 1970s.
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They had the burial records to confirm that they were there, but could not pinpoint the grave's location.
A breakthrough came last year, when the Jewish community found photographs of the cemetery before its destruction. One of the pictures showed the grave of Charlotte Furth, who was buried with her daughter Helena.
Mr Millward said: 'This photograph enabled us to locate the gravestone to within one metre of its actual position.'
Having been forced to flee to France when the Nazis swept across eastern Europe, Emil died and was buried in Nice in 1943 in a pauper's grave.
Mr Millward said Emil's sons Eugen and Hans, plus Hans' wife Irena and their son Heinz were handed over by the French to the Gestapo and deported to Auschwitz in March 1944. By this time, Eugen's wife Helen and her mother Henriette had been murdered at death camps at Majdanek and Treblinka.
He said it was not possible to exhume Emil's ashes and move them to Pilsen.
But instead he has paid for a moving memorial stone, unveiled at the site on Monday, which reunites them in name, if not exactly as Emil had hoped.
The memorial stone has on the front the names Heinrich, Charlotte and Helen Furth. It also includes the names of their children and grandchildren, the members of the family who were killed during the Holocaust, and - with bitter irony in the light of what followed - a grandchild who died fighting for Austria and Germany in the first world war.
Finally, the memorial also goes back to 1632, mentioning the family's forebears who were exiled from the town of Furth - from which they took their name - during a pogrom against Jews when the town came under the control of Nuremburg.
Mr Millward said: 'This is a symbolic fulfilment of Emil Furth's wishes. The fact that we've got two members of the family who died fighting for Austria and Germany in the first world war highlights the enormity of the situation.
'Within a few years, members of the same family were being murdered for being Jews.'