Obituary

22nd February 2008 at 00:00
Marianne Grant (nee Hermann), a Holocaust survivor, has died, aged 86. Her testimony is studied by secondary students in Scotland in The Holocaust, a teaching pack for secondary schools (LTS, 2002).

Born in Prague, she was a relative of Franz Kafka. She lived alone with her mother after her father died in 1938. Four years later, she and her mother were sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto and concentration camp, and then to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they stayed for eight months. In 1944, they were transported to Neuengamme concentration camp. After working as a slave labourer in several of Neuengamme's satellite camps, Marianne and her mother were taken to Bergen-Belsen shortly before its liberation in 1945.

Marianne could have avoided the Holocaust completely, as she had been offered a place at art school in Jerusalem, but she refused to leave her mother. Her headstrong spirit was also displayed at Theresienstadt when, although never summoned for transportation to Auschwitz, she ran to the cattle wagons and jumped on to one to follow her mother who had been taken away. In the darkness, she searched for her mother until she found her.

Marianne's artistic talent and indestructible spirit contributed to her survival. She drew greetings cards for German soldiers to send to their families and was ordered by the notorious Josef Mengele to paint twins with particular markings on their skin, and to draw the family tree of one of the dwarf families in the camp. She later said of the meeting: "I was shaking. If I made a blob, I would have been finished. I knew I was painting for my life."

As Marianne spoke English, she became an interpreter to the army at Bergen-Belsen. Through this, she met and danced with Field Marshal Montgomery at a party at British headquarters. She painted the dead and the dying at Bergen-Belsen and, as a result, these will never be forgotten.

Throughout her life, Marianne had strong faith in God and in Judaism, although she admitted that there were times when she had her doubts. To her, the Holocaust was a time when "God was on holiday".

After the war, Marianne lived in Malmo, Sweden. She came to Glasgow, accompanied by her mother, to marry Jack Grant (now deceased), who became the cantor of Newton Mearns Synagogue.

Marianne's Holocaust Artwork Collection has been displayed at the People's Palace in Glasgow, and the City Art Centre in Edinburgh, and has been purchased by Glasgow City Council.

She was awarded the Freedom of East Renfrewshire in 2003, in recognition of her work with young people in teaching the lessons of the Holocaust. She is survived by her son and two daughters, four granddaughters and five great grandchildren.

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