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Woman who found letter from holocaust survivor in thrift shop returns it to writer’s family

A woman who found a long-lost letter from a Holocaust survivor – who was held in solitary confinement by the Nazis for more than a year – in a New York thrift shop has miraculously returned it to the writer’s family decades later.

Chelsey Brown, 28, from New York City, discovered the handwritten note – which was crafted more than 75 years ago – in a local vintage store, and was instantly drawn to it.

In the letter, a Holocaust survivor – who had lost almost all of her family to the war and fought hard to escape from the Nazis – described the ‘unspeakably big pain’ that the she was in.

Chelsey decided to find out whatever she could about the person who wrote it – and was stunned by the author’s powerful story. She then became determined to reunite it with its rightful owners.

A woman (pictured) who found a letter from a Holocaust survivor in a New York thrift shop has miraculously returned it to the writer’s family decades later

Chelsey Brown, 28, from New York City, discovered the handwritten note (pictured) - which was crafted more than 75 years ago - in a local vintage store, and was instantly drawn to it

Chelsey Brown, 28, from New York City, discovered the handwritten note (pictured) – which was crafted more than 75 years ago – in a local vintage store, and was instantly drawn to it

In the letter, a Holocaust survivor (pictured) - who lost almost all of her family to the war and fought hard to escape from the Nazis - described the 'unspeakably big pain' that the she was in

In the letter, a Holocaust survivor (pictured) – who lost almost all of her family to the war and fought hard to escape from the Nazis – described the ‘unspeakably big pain’ that the she was in

Ilse Loewenberg’s letter in full

‘Through the kindness of our liberators, I am able to give you a sign of life from me after so many years. 

‘Dad, Mom, Grete, Lottchen and Hermann: no one is alive anymore. 

‘My pain is unspeakably big. My husband, whom I married three and a half years ago, was also taken from me. 

‘When there will be a regular mail connection, I will tell you everything in detail.’

According to Good Morning America, the letter was written by a woman named Ilse Loewenberg – who had jumped out of a moving train near Ruda, Poland, in 1943 to escape the Auschwitz concentration during World War II. She then walked for three days straight until she got to Berlin, Germany. 

She joined an underground Nazi resistance group called Gemeinschaft für Frieden und Aufbau, which translates to the Association for Peace and Development.

However, in 1944, she was re-captured by the Nazis and held in solitary confinement for a year – until she was eventually liberated by Russian troops.

Ilse’s mom, dad, two sisters, and husband were tragically killed during the Holocaust. 

Her husband, Gerhard Grün, was shot and killed after he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Her sisters, Lieselotte and Margarete, as well as her mom, Hannchen, died in Auschwitz, while her dad, Simon, was murdered at Theresienstadt camp.

After she was freed, she wrote the letter to her only living family member – her sister Carla, who had moved to England before the war began – and described the traumas she had been through. 

‘Through the kindness of our liberators, I am able to give you a sign of life from me after so many years,’ Ilse wrote in the 76-year-old note in German.

‘Dad, Mom, Grete, Lottchen and Hermann: no one is alive anymore. My pain is unspeakably big.

‘My husband, whom I married three and a half years ago, was also taken from me. … When there will be a regular mail connection, I will tell you everything in detail.’ 

Determined: Chelsey decided to find out whatever she could about the person who wrote it - and was stunned by the author's powerful story

Determined: Chelsey decided to find out whatever she could about the person who wrote it – and was stunned by the author’s powerful story

The letter was written by Ilse Loewenberg (pictured) - who jumped out of a moving train in 1943 to escape the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II

The letter was written by Ilse Loewenberg (pictured) – who jumped out of a moving train in 1943 to escape the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II

Chelsey also obtained a document outlining what happened to the woman and her birth certificate

Chelsey also obtained a document outlining what happened to the woman and her birth certificate

In 1944, Ilse was re-captured by the Nazis and held in solitary confinement for a year - until she was eventually liberated by Russian troops

In 1944, Ilse was re-captured by the Nazis and held in solitary confinement for a year – until she was eventually liberated by Russian troops

Chelsey also obtained a document outlining what happened to the woman and her birth certificate.

Chelsey – who has a knack for re-connecting family heirlooms with their owners – then used MyHeritage.com to find some more info on Ilse and Carla.

She discovered that after the war, they both immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Forest Hills, New York, in 1948.

Ilse then re-married, and spent much of her time sending supplies back to Germany to the people who helped her survive the Holocaust. 

She never had any children, but Chelsey was able to find some extended family members through Ilse’s husband.

She got in contact with Jill Butler, who was the niece of Ilse’s brother-in-law. And when Jill got ahold of the letter, she said she was ‘thrilled beyond words.’

They corresponded over Facebook Messenger before hoping on the phone, where they talked for more than two hours. 

‘My whole family is truly in awe of all you have done for us,’ Jill wrote in a message to Chelsey, after receiving Ilse’s letter. ‘Almost everyone’s first reaction of, “Is this a scam?” quickly transformed into bewilderment.

‘We all loved our Great-Aunt Ilse and are thrilled beyond words to read her thoughts in her own handwriting after she emerged from the depths of the European inferno.

‘May God bless your noble work, and may you receive many blessings in return for all you do for families like mine.’  

Ilse, who was born in 1908, unfortunately passed away on September 11, 2001, but her death was not related to the terrorist attack against the Twin Towers.

After she was freed, she wrote the letter to her only living family member - her sister Carla - and described the traumas she had been through. Pictured is Ilse's birth certificate

After she was freed, she wrote the letter to her only living family member – her sister Carla – and described the traumas she had been through. Pictured is Ilse’s birth certificate

After the war, Ilse and her sister both immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Forest Hills, New York. Pictured is the document that Chelsey obtained describing what happened to Ilse

After the war, Ilse and her sister both immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Forest Hills, New York. Pictured is the document that Chelsey obtained describing what happened to Ilse

After the war, Ilse and her sister both immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Forest Hills, New York. Pictured is the document that Chelsey obtained describing what happened to Ilse

Using MyHeritage.com, Chelsey was able to get in contact with Jill Butler - the niece of Ilse's brother-in-law - who was 'thrilled beyond words.' Jill and Ilse are pictured together

Using MyHeritage.com, Chelsey was able to get in contact with Jill Butler – the niece of Ilse’s brother-in-law – who was ‘thrilled beyond words.’ Jill and Ilse are pictured together

'My whole family is truly in awe of all you have done for us,' Jill wrote in a message to Chelsey, after receiving Ilse's letter. Jill is pictured at her wedding in 1995 with Ilse

‘My whole family is truly in awe of all you have done for us,’ Jill wrote in a message to Chelsey, after receiving Ilse’s letter. Jill is pictured at her wedding in 1995 with Ilse

Powerful: Chelsey, who also lost family members during the Holocaust, said she found Ilse's story to be an 'inspiration'

Powerful: Chelsey, who also lost family members during the Holocaust, said she found Ilse’s story to be an ‘inspiration’

Chelsey is dedicated to finding items in local thrift stores and reconnecting them with their owners or the descendants of their owners - and has done so more than 200 times already

Chelsey is dedicated to finding items in local thrift stores and reconnecting them with their owners or the descendants of their owners – and has done so more than 200 times already

Going viral: She often shares the process on social media, where she has wracked up thousands of followers

Going viral: She often shares the process on social media, where she has wracked up thousands of followers

However, her family said they believe that she died that day because she ‘could not witness any more tragedy and suffering.’ 

Chelsey, who also lost family members during the Holocaust, said she found Ilse’s story to be an ‘inspiration.’ 

‘She’s a bit of inspiration for everyone to be better in life. After the war, Ilse actually sent supplies to the family that helped hide her in Berlin,’ Chelsey revealed.

‘She really is an example of doing good in a world or being kind in a world that isn’t.

‘Ilse still lives in the back of my mind every time I do a return because her story is so miraculous, She proves that we need to be kind and do good in a world that isn’t so kind.’ 

Chelsey is dedicated to finding items in local thrift stores and reconnecting them with their owners or the descendants of their owners – and has done so more than 200 times already. 

But she told The Post that she is especially drawn to items from the Holocaust – since they are often sold illegally for extremely high prices.

‘In the back of my mind, my heart just sunk, because ever since I started this heirloom-return journey, finding Holocaust documents has been a goal of mine – to find as many as I can,’ she told them, of the moment she found Ilse’s letter.

While chatting with In the Know, Chelsey said that returning Ilse’s letter was one of the ‘hardest projects’ she had worked on, and it took her three months in total – but it was worth it.

‘I think it was just really special for Jill to get these documents back,’ said Chelsey. ‘And it was special for me to get these off of the market.

‘Many [Holocaust] documents are sold underground or [at] auction for extremely high prices illegally – it’s totally illegal, but no one talks about.

‘I truly believe these items [should] go back to their rightful families. I don’t think people should be profiting off of them, and more importantly, I don’t think they should go to museums.’

She often shares the process on social media, where she has wracked up thousands of followers. 

She explained: ‘It does break my heart, because I’m sure that there’s a ton of items I could help reunite with her rightful families.

‘We shouldn’t be selling these items. It should be illegal. They should be going back to their families.

‘The reason why people connected with my heirloom returns on social media is because it shows that there is magic in the lives of average people.

‘We each have our own unique ancestry and story, and I think that’s what our world and generation needs right now.’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk