By Gilly Carr
Marianne Grunfeld was born in Katowice, Poland, on 5 December 1912. She was born to Małgorzata Margarete Grunfeld née Öttinger and Hugo Grunfeld. Her niece Janina Gering née Grunfeld-Weingrun emigrated with her parents to Romania and survived, eventually emigrating to Durban, South Africa. Marianne’s brother Walter later published his memoirs under the title Rückblicke [Looking Back], which is available online.
Marianne Grunfeld came to England in 1937 to study horticulture at Reading University. In 1939, on completion of her studies, after responding to an advertisement in an agricultural journal, Grunfeld obtained employment at Duvaux Farm in Guernsey, the home of Edwin (‘Ted’) Ogier, a former member of the States of Guernsey (the island’s parliament).
Grunfeld’s file in the Aliens’ register at Guernsey Archives shows that she was registered in the island on 20 April 1940 to be employed as a land worker, attending cattle. Grunfeld was Jewish but she did not register as a Jew in accordance with the First Order relating to Measures against the Jews, registered in the Royal Court of Guernsey on 23 October 1940. She was, however, later uncovered as a Jew. It has been suggested that she was denounced, but no evidence has been found to support this hypothesis. She may have been identified from her surname or her presence on a list of aliens.
On 17 April 1942, Marianne Grunfeld was interrogated by the German authorities for the second time in 12 months. She was warned, this time, to get ready for deportation. Ted Ogier, her employer, tried unsuccessfully to appeal, obtaining a letter of introduction to the Feldkommandantur from John Leale, the President of the Controlling Committee. The Reverend Douglas Ord, who kept a diary during the German occupation of Guernsey, noted on 18 April 1942 that ‘a friend [presumably Ogier] stopped me outside Grand Lodge, the Civilkommandantur [sic] to vent his rage and sorrow. He had gone to appeal for a girl employee who is only just within the forbidden degrees of Jewish birth and is to be carried off. The officials listened to the arguments but were powerless to resist the inhuman decree of the Nazi Frankenstein.’
Therese Steiner, Auguste Spitz and Marianne Grunfeld were deported to France on 21 April 1942. On their arrival they were expected to find their own accommodation. There is some confusion and competing accounts as to what happened to the three Jewish women before they were rounded up, but it seems that by 4 June 1942 they were all living in Laval (c. 140km from St Malo, where they had arrived in France), at the Hospice Saint-Louis, run by an order of nuns. Steiner found employment with the nuns as a nurse, but Grunfeld and Spitz were unemployed and in the care of the nuns.
The Jewish Star Order came into effect on 7 June 1942 and all three women were compelled to wear them. On 15 July, Therese Steiner and Auguste Spitz were arrested in Laval; Marianne Grunfeld was arrested the following day. They were taken first to Angers where the testimony of a survivor recalled that those rounded up were deprived of their possessions and herded into the small rooms of a seminary, 25 to 30 to a room, and locked in. On the day of their deportation, 20 July 1942, they were taken by lorry to the railway station. At 8.35pm, the three Jewish women were among the 824 Jews loaded into the cattle trucks of convoy No.8. The train was routed via Drancy, where 28 Jews were unloaded due to complications over establishing their nationality, and arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp on 23 July. We do not know how long Therese, Auguste and Marianne survived; eyewitness testimony regarding the occupants of convoy No.8 varies.
Neither Therese Steiner, Marianne Grunfeld nor Auguste Spitz survived the war. Of convoy No.8, 18 men and two women survived.
A radio documentary was made by BBC Radio Guernsey for Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 to commemorate the three Jewish women deported from Guernsey; it can be listened to here.
Information taken from Cohen (2000) and International Tracing Service records.
Marianne Grunfeld, Occupation Registration Form, Guernsey Archives.
Marianne Grunfeld, Aliens’ registration file, Guernsey Archives.
Cohen, F. 2000. The Jews in the Channel Islands during the German Occupation 1940-1945. Jersey: Jersey Heritage Trust.
ITS files from the Wiener Library for the study of the Holocaust and Genocide, references: 23615639, 52752958, 91054352, 107903805.