Harrogate woman unveils art with final message from family killed in Holocaust
by
Last updated Jun 15, 2023
Artist Laura Fisher-with Michelle Levey and the holocaust note blanket
Laura Fisher and Michelle Green with the blanket

A Harrogate woman has unveiled a giant blanket embroidered with her family’s final message from the Holocaust.

Michelle Green’s grandparents, Gisela and Josef Schwarz, and her uncle Kurt were all killed in a Nazi concentration camp.

With the help of artist Laura Fisher, Michelle has created a piece of artwork to commemorate their communication to their family. She said:

“Holding the blanket felt like hugging the grandma I never met. I really didn’t expect to feel such strong emotions.

“The blanket dominates the room from floor to ceiling and it won’t let you ignore it. It makes you think about a telegram that was once written and had so much love poured into it – a last vestige of hope that a family could one day be together again.”

The Red Cross telegram was sent to Michelle’s aunt Aranka and was the last message they received from her family still in Nazi-occupied Vienna. Translated from German, it read:

“Dearest children,

“(I’m) very worried. Last message in March. Thank God we are well. Hope you are. Message from Papa (received).

“Millions of kisses also from your brother,

“Mama.”

The message was dated November 1943. Shortly afterwards, the family was betrayed by a Nazi informer.

They were held at Camp Malines until the following April before being herd onto a train to Auschwitz.

Michelle’s mother Lili managed to escape to the UK via Belgium and join her sister Aranka in London. They survived the Blitz before relocating to Harrogate after hearing it was “the most beautiful place in England”.

The sisters waited tables at Bettys tea rooms for a number of years, before starting their own business in 1948, the Manor Hotel, which they ran until 1971.


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Michelle, now 70, went on to be head of learning support at Ashville College in Harrogate. This experience taught her that hearing people speak isn’t necessarily enough to embed knowledge.

That understanding inspired her decision to make the blanket.

Artist Laura Fisher created the giant woven blanket as part of an artists’ residency at Holocaust Centre North in Huddersfield. It is on display at the centre until July 27, along with a number of other artworks as part of a free exhibition called Memorial Gestures.

It is open from Monday to Thursday from 10am to 5pm.

Laura said:

 “When I first visited Holocaust Centre North, I was initially overwhelmed and the scale of the tragedy felt incomprehensible.

“I remember feeling a pit in my stomach, like nothing I could do would possibly be enough. How could I create art that would make those affected feel seen, cared about, witnessed?

“I hope the work I have created as part of Memorial Gestures helps others to understand the depths of what was lost during the Holocaust-what was stolen from families whose lives were irrevocably changed.”


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