Jewish author: ‘I dread to think what my parents would say of today’s rise in anti-Semitism’

Agnes Grunwald-Spier. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Agnes Grunwald-Spier. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Agnes Grunwald-Spier, 70, is a Jewish author who was born in Hungary and now lives in Golders Green. Her mother was saved from deportation to Auschwitz but they were later sent to the Budapest Ghetto. A former civil servant, she holds degrees in history and politics and Holocaust studies, and was a founder trustee of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

What brought you to Golders Green?

I found a flat with a large terrace which I really liked. I am not particularly observant but my paternal great-grandfather was a rabbi in Sopron in Hungary. His name was Emmanuel Grunwald. His soul would be pleased that I now live in such a Jewish area.

You have a day off to spend as you wish in the area, what would you get up to?

I’d probably have a good roam round all the wonderful food shops and delis and buy some goodies to enjoy on my terrace.

Is there anything about Golders Green which you would like to see changed or improved?

The paving stones near where I live are shocking and I had an awful fall a year or two back. Barnet Council did not take any interest. I also think the lack of free parking on one day a week is unfair.

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As guest editor of the Ham&High for a day, what one local issue would you most like to see reported?

I suppose it would have to be anti-Semitism – the problem of prejudice and intolerance has not gone away. I was a baby in the Holocaust in Hungary and was very fortunate to survive. My parents’ lives were bitterly scarred by the Nazis and I don’t have any siblings because my father wouldn’t bring any more children into this world after his experiences as a forced labourer. I dread to think what my parents would say if they were alive today and saw the rise of anti-Semitism again.

A film is set to be made about your life. Which actor would you choose to play you and why?

Helen Mirren – we are of a similar age and I think she gets inside the heart of the characters she portrays. I think she would be able to play me as the feisty person people tell me I am.

If you had to write your own epitaph, what would it say?

Not sure about this but I will tell you what others have said of me. A fellow trustee said to me: “You always say what everyone else is thinking,” and the chairman of a board I sat on said: “You have never learnt English reticence.”

Agnes Grunwald-Spier was in conversation with Paul Wright