Primary History

British History: Marianne Grant's trunk

  • Marianne's Travel trunk

    When Marianne Grant moved to Glasgow from Sweden in 1951 she brought a battered old suitcase trunk with her. The contents of her trunk told the amazing story of her survival of the horrors of World War Two.

    Marianne was born in Czechoslovakia in 1921 and she was Jewish. She was a painter and the pictures she painted told the story of how the Germans invaded her country, rounded up her family and friends and sent them to concentration camps. Many of them died there.

    When the war ended Marianne was sent with her mother to safety in Sweden and she took her paintings with her in her trunk.

    Later when Marianne fell in love with her pen-friend in Glasgow she moved to Scotland to marry him. Her trunk of paintings went with her.

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  • Nazi Germany

    In the 1930s the Nazi Party (also known as the National Socialists) became very powerful in Germany. At the time the country was very poor and unemployment was high.

    The leader of the Nazis, Adolf Hitler, blamed the Jews for Germany's problems. When he became the leader of Germany in 1933 he made life for Jewish people very hard. Their homes and shops were smashed and they were forced to wear a yellow star on their clothes so people knew they were Jewish.

    In one particular night in 1938 the windows of thousands of Jewish homes and shops were smashed all over Germany and in parts of Austria and Czechoslovakia. The night became known as Kristallnacht which in German means Crystal Night or the Night of Broken Glass.

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  • Marianne is arrested

    In 1939 Germany invaded neighbouring countries including Czechoslovakia. This was the start of World War Two. Hitler and the Nazis made life in these countries as hard for Jewish people as he did in Germany.

    In 1939 Marianne was only 18 years old. She lived in a Jewish area of Prague - the biggest city in Czechoslovakia. When Germany invaded Marianne and her family were arrested with other Jewish people and sent to special prisons called Concentration Camps.

    Millions of other people, many of them also Jewish, were sent to the camps from all over Europe.

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  • Marianne in the Concentration Camps

    Marianne spent time in two famous Concentration camps - Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

    Life in the concentration camps was awful and the prisoners were treated very badly. All of their belongings were taken from them, their hair was shaved off and they had little food to eat. Thousands of people died from starvation and illness alone.

    Nazi scientists at the camps also did terrible experiments on the prisoners. Many of these people died as a result. To record the results of the experiments the scientists used artists to paint them. Marianne was a good painter and this is what she was forced to do.

    Marianne painted the horrible experiments and also life in the camps. She painted people starving and dying and the terrible conditions. Sadly many of her friends and family died in the Concentration Camps.

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  • Marianne is rescued

    In 1945 Germany was defeated and World War Two ended. When the British and American soldiers arrived to free the prisoners of the camps they were shocked by what they saw. The prisoners were so thin they looked like skeletons!

    By the end of the war the Nazis had murdered about six million Jews.

    Marianne was fortunate to have survived. The Jewish community in Sweden invited her and her mother to live in Sweden. When she moved there she took with her all of her paintings from the camps in the big, battered suitcase trunk.

    It was with this trunk and its amazing contents that Marianne moved to Glasgow in 1951 to start a new life.

    It was over 50 years later that Marianne showed her paintings and told her story to the world. Her paintings and her old travel trunk are how available to see in Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow.

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Fun Facts
  • Marianne Grant was a relative of the famous Czech writer Franz Kafka.

  • After surviving World War Two Marianne moved to an area of Glasgow called Battlefield.

  • The nickname of the Nazi doctor Marianne was forced to paint for was the "Angel of Death".

  • The Nazis would not allow Jewish children to go to school or visit the cinema.

  • The Jewish district of Marianne's home city, Prague, was called Josefov.

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