Heirloom Survived Hitler and Stalin Only To Be Ripped Away from Family at Airport Customs


Eva Porges, a Holocaust survivor, left behind an heirloom her family treasured for decades — only to have it vanish in airport customs.

A gold pendant, handcrafted to display Porges’ first name, went missing after it arrived in London Heathrow on April 3, and its whereabouts are still unknown, the Daily Mail reported.

The pendant was crafted by her uncle, Vilém Werner, a goldsmith who lost his life during the Holocaust in Latvia. She wore the gold pendant in honor of him, and the treasure endured a flight from communism, the Holocaust and lost time away from Porges while she was in Auschwitz.

Porges’ husband, Jan Rocek, sent the pendant from America to Oxford, where it was supposed to be gifted to Eva Saxl, Porges’ cousin thrice removed, who was named in her honor in 2016.

“Jan had decided that he wanted to give this pendant to my younger daughter since she’s named after Eva, so it could be worn in her memory and her memory would live on,” Miriam Saxl, Eva’s mother, said, according to the Daily Mail. “The mistake that he feels he made was he sent them registered delivery and declared their value, so it was a small package with a high value. So our guess is that it went into a pocket at some point.”

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Both Rocek and Saxl attempted to find answers about the location of the package, but none were ever received. The U.K. courier service ParcelForce and the U.S. Postel Service were unable to locate the parcel.

“When I contacted USPS they said, ‘Contact ParcelForce, they’re the UK side.’ So then I contacted ParcelForce and they said, ‘We don’t have it. Get the sender to contact USPS,” Saxl said. “But Jan did ask USPS to find it and they looked for it, and they cannot locate it. So they have actually declared it lost.”

While the pendant is assumed to be lost forever at this point, the family is holding out hope that it will reappear. The heirloom was a precious piece of history for the family, intended to carry on Porges’ legacy and memory.

Porges and Rocek met in 1942 at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. While about 33,000 people died there, the couple survived.

However, they were soon separated and transported to Auschwitz.

All the while, the pendant was in safekeeping at the home of one of the family’s Christian friends. After the war, the couple were reunited with each other and the pendant.

The postwar government charged Rocek with a crime in order to force him into putting his chemistry skills to work for Stalin’s communist regime. The couple made their escape in 1960, boarding a boat that was set to sail to Denmark. They jumped out of the boat and swam to the mainland, where they then waited for three months in order to secure U.S. visas.

While waiting in England, Porges gave the pendant to a family member caring for the couple during their stay as a thank you. Eva never saw the pendant again.

“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,” Rocek said.

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Fifty-five years later, in 2015, Porges died at 88 years old, and her pendant was sent back to her husband.

“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,” Rocek said, according to the Daily Mail.

While there is not much to be done for this family who lost an irreplaceable treasure, ParcelForce is attempting to right the wrong.

“We will continue our efforts to trace the parcel,” a company representative said, according to the Daily Mail. “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 loss, we are arranging for the family to receive a payment in compensation for this item and the distress caused. We will also match this by paying the same amount of money to a Holocaust memorial charity of the family’s choosing.”

Miriam Saxl has also created a website,, in the hope that the family heirloom will be found. There is also a financial award for its return.

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Samantha Burton graduated from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s in English. She was a news editor for the university’s paper, The Branding Iron.
Samantha Burton graduated from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s in English. She was a news editor for the university’s paper, The Branding Iron.