Hermi and Shirley celebrate 70 happy years together

14 Feb 2021

Herman and Shirley Rothman celebrated 70 happy years of marriage together on Thursday 11 February. Their family and friends sent cards and gifts to them at their home at Jewish Care’s Selig Court Retirement Living in Golders Green and they received virtual video calls throughout, wishing them Mazel Tov (congratulations) on their special day.

Granddaughter, Yael, was able to visit them on the day, to play them some of their favourite songs. The couple share a great love of music and dancing. Hermi, now 96 used to play the violin and Shirley, 88, played piano and they always enjoyed singing and dancing together. They always enjoyed going to galleries, theatre and the opera together.

When asked what the secret to a happy marriage is, Hermi replied, “There’s no secret. It’s an open knowledge that two people love each other and want to spend all their lives, together (please G-d).”

It was on New Year’s Eve in 1948 that Hermi and Shirley met at a dance and fell in love. Shirley was 18 and Hermie was 27 when they married two years later. Hermi, who is now 96, arrived in England as a refugee on the Kindertransport from Germany in August 1939. He went to live at the now famous Gwyrch Castle in North Wales, where the TV programme ‘I’m A Celebrity’ was filmed last year.

As soon as Hermi was old enough he joined the British army. Janice, Herman’s daughter says, “As a refugee, my father was incredibly grateful for what the British did for him, they saved his life.”

In his book, ‘Hitler’s Will’, published in 2009, Hermie shares that he spoke perfect German and was posted to Westertimke and Fallingbostel Prisoner of War camps in 1945 to interrogate high-ranking Nazi war criminals. When papers were discovered sewn into the shoulders of a jacket belonging to Heinz Lorenz, who had been Goebbels' press secretary, he and a team of four others were responsible for translating the documents under extreme secrecy. They turned out to be the originals of Hitler's personal and political wills, and Goebbels' addendum.

Later on, as his book revealed, in Rottenberg hospital, Rothman interrogated Hermann Karnau, who had been Hitler's valet, to establish information about Hitler's death in the bunker.

When Hermi and Shirley met, he had no family in the UK and Shirley’s mum took Hermi under her wing. They married in 1951 and took a trip to Israel together not long after the wedding, to meet his parents and younger brother who Herman hadn’t seen 1939. They had escaped Berlin and arrived in Israel, having survived concentration camps, shipwrecks and more on their journey.

Together, Hermi and Shirley have two children, Jonathan and Janice, six grandchildren five great-grandchildren. Herman was Director of KKL, executor and Trustee Company for most of his career and Shirley worked as an antiques dealer. Hermi and Shirley were very active in their community as members of Beehive Lane Shul and became founding members of Clayhall Synagogue where they remained closely involved until recently. They helped others and also gave their time delivering Jewish Care’s Meals on Wheels to older people in Essex for many years.

Janice says, “They always felt that the community should be there to support one another. My mother taught me lessons about justice and equality that have stayed with me my entire life and my father is a lifelong socialist, caring about those who need our support in society. He believes that one of the lessons we should learn from the Holocaust, is how we should behave and carry ourselves with dignity – never taking justice into our own hands in a vengeful way but encouraging democracy, fairness and equality for all.

“They also have a great love of the arts which they have shared with us and passed down to their grandchildren. Previously, their feet hardly touched the ground with visits to the theatre and operas.

“My parents moved to Jewish Care’s Retirement Living at Selig Court last year just as lockdown started. It’s a wonderful place and though the pandemic has made life difficult, being there has been a lifesaver for them. There are hot meals readily available and people who care on hand at all times. To know that they’re well looked after is wonderful. You never think you’ll be that old where we’ll need that help and it’s wonderful that Jewish Care is there to do that for them today.”

Jewish Care Chief Executive, Daniel Carmel-Brown, says, ““I’m delighted to wish Hermi and Shirley Mazel Tov on their 70th wedding anniversary.

“They are inspirational members of our community and like many refugees who came to the UK and older people who now live at our Retirement Living apartments, Hermi showed great courage during World War II, so that we can all live in freedom today. It’s truly a privilege for us to support them and we wish Hermi and Shirley many more happy years of marriage together.”