Restoring Family Links: Connecting Susan Stevens

Story by Holly Baker, Chicago, Illinois

Hugh and Susan Stevens are on a mission to preserve part of their family history. A few years ago, the couple visited the Jewish Museum in Berlin and after reading about the people and families impacted, she felt it was time to dig further into her own untold family story.

While cleaning out some items that belonged to her late aunt, Vera Rosenthal, Susan stumbled upon two well-preserved typed letters emblazoned with the American Red Cross logo.

Dated June 14th and November 30th of 1943, the letters showed the Chicago Chapter of the American Red Cross was trying to reach Susan’s father, Hans Friedman, to deliver personal messages. These letters would show the lengths family members went to in hopes of reaching loved ones across the sea they feared had forgotten them.

Hans left the city of Berlin as well as his mother, Lotte, and his sister and her husband, Vera and Kurt Rosenthal, in 1938 to begin a new life in America. Hans did not believe Vera nor Lotte had survived the war in Germany.

It wasn’t until a few years later when the Red Cross aided Lotte and Vera in trying to locate Hans that he even knew they were still alive. Susan says her father was so happy to learn his mother and sister had survived, and amazed that the Red Cross was able to track him down.

“It gave them great hope,” said Susan Stevens. “It was very exciting for my parents to receive these letters and then obviously significant since they kept them all these years.”

About 70 years after the letters were delivered to Susan’s father, her husband Hugh noticed another personal connection to the Red Cross. Listed under the Board of Directors was Elmer T. Stevens, a relative of Hugh.

There is much more to this family’s story of survival, but the Red Cross was there to help reconnect them when their fate was uncertain.

The American Red Cross has been working to reconnect families after the chaos and confusion of war and disasters for decades. Whether it has been weeks or years, the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago can help you find and reconnect with loved ones around the world after natural disasters, armed conflict, migration or other humanitarian emergencies. The American Red Cross works with the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations to reconnect nearly 5,000 families each year through tracing, certificates of detention, migration and other forms of documentation.

To read more stories like this one, please visit the Chicago Red Cross Chapter blog