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