Inspiring headteacher to Miliband brothers and Sienna Miller has died

Few lives so encapsulated the mammoth historical and political changes during 20th Century Europe as that of Claire Rauter, who has died aged 87.

As a child she fled Nazi persecution, in her adolescence she swapped ideas with London’s �migr� intelligentsia, and in adulthood she made it her life’s work to bring Steiner’s humanistic educational approach to the masses.

While her childhood was marred by friendships broken by anti-Semitism, and playdates cancelled by frightened parents, Mrs Rauter was intent on creating a loving, tolerant environment at Primrose Hill Infants, where she was headteacher from 1964 to 1989.

It was not for nothing that ex-pupils, including Labour leader Ed Miliband and his brother David, still refer to the Princess Road school as “Claire Rauter’s Primrose Hill”.

Born in Vienna in 1924 to Jewish parents, Mrs Rauter and her younger brother Freddy boarded a train out of Austria 15 years later.

Theirs were just two of the thousands of lives saved by the Kindertransport, laid on to rescue Jewish children as war clouds gathered across the continent.

In London, she was taken in by Hollywood actress Constance Cummings and her husband, the Labour MP and playwright Benn Levy.

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She stayed in their Chelsea home, which was designed by the Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius.

Mrs Rauter found her vocation in teaching and began her career in Aberdeen, where she worked with renowned Austrian paediatrician Karl Konig, who had set up Camphill Estate, a groundbreaking new community to teach and care for people with special needs.

She returned to London in 1947, and lived with husband, Ferdinand, and two children, Andrea and Peter, in Carlton Hill, St John’s Wood.

She once again grew close to her parents, who had eventually escaped to England.

It was at Primrose Hill Infants, where she became headteacher at the remarkably young age of 39, where her most lasting impact was felt, including by actress Sienna Miller and the Miliband brothers.

And her support of the Glenilla Arts Foundation, which put on a series of chamber music concerts in Hampstead, helped to launch the career of pianist Piers Lane among others.

While she rarely spoke of her early years in Vienna, memories of the destructive ethno-religious divisions were ingrained in her.

At Primrose Hill she took a stand against a new government edict and refused to register the ethnic origin of her staff.

Claire Rauter died of pneumonia on December 21 and is survived by daughter Andrea and four grandchildren.

Her funeral is being held at the Golders Green Crematorium in Hoop Lane on Friday, January 6, at 2pm. Family flowers only but donations can go to Freedom from Torture or Refugee Council.