Written by Professor Geoffrey J. Giles (1969, History) about Elisabeth Stopp (1911-1996).
Elisabeth Stopp was a distinguished Germanist, and possibly the first female Fellow of St. Edmund’s. Certainly, in the 1969 college group photo, she is the only woman among the 43 men present. A person of great warmth and firm opinions, she quickly took me under her wing when she learned that I had arrived at Cambridge with a B.A. in German from UCL, and even more so when I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in German history.
On a Sunday afternoon in December 1973, Elisabeth invited me and the young German Lektor from Caius for tea at her flat. Actually, she and her husband Freddy lived together in two identical flats on Hills Road near the Catholic Cathedral, which they had combined into one. The flat they lived in was filled with the ample libraries that one would expect to see in the home of two highly respected scholars. But that did not prove big enough, and the second flat was jammed even more with books and journals, for which there was no room in the first one. Even the kitchen and all its cabinets and cupboards provided a home for the overflow from their libraries. With a chuckle, Elisabeth pulled open the door of the gas oven to reveal it loaded with back numbers of the Times Literary Supplement! She was a charming hostess, and we much enjoyed the conversation. But as time went on, Elisabeth, with something of a twinkle in her eye, kept on urging us to have yet another biscuit from one of the plates on the coffee table. And another! As the plate emptied, our jaws dropped when we saw that the plate was proudly decorated in the German national colours with a large swastika in the centre! This brought peals of laughter from Elisabeth, who of course had no sympathy for the Nazi Party, but enjoyed her little joke largely at my expense, knowing that my doctoral research focused on the Third Reich. How did such an item come to enter the Stopp household? Well, it transpired that Freddy had been an officer with the British army in Berlin at the end of the war. Passing by the ruins of Hitler’s chancellery one day, he engaged with a Soviet soldier on guard at the entrance and exchanged a packet of cigarettes for this souvenir from the Führer’s dinner service! I have often wondered what happened to that plate after both the Stopps’ deaths.