Marianne Grünfeld: Reading University Student and Victim of the Holocaust

This post for Holocaust Memorial Day was suggested by Richard Keefe as a tribute to Marianne Grünfeld.  Richard sent me the article from ‘Reading Reading’ on which much of the post is based.

Marianne Grünfeld was a Horticulture Student at Reading in the 1930s. She had been born into a German family in Katowice, Poland in 1912 and referred to herself as an ‘Upper Silesian’.

She had relatives in England and arrived here in about  1936 to study for the Diploma in Horticulture at the University of Reading. There are some discrepancies over  exact dates but, according to the University Calendars of the 1930s, diplomas were usually two-year courses unless a student stayed on for an extra year for a distinction. Records of degree results show Marianne passing her Diploma (Division II) in 1938. I have found no record of further study.

degree result
Marianne’s degree result in the Proceedings of the University, 1937-38


Following her graduation, Marianne answered an advertisement in an agricultural journal and went to work on the Duvaux Farm at St Sampson on the island of Guernsey in 1940.

Her family and her employer were aware that she was exposing herself to danger by doing so, but she was happy there and never took the opportunity to return to England before the German invasion of the Channel Islands in June 1940.

Marianne had not declared that she was Jewish when she registered for an identity card, but one way or another, the authorities found out, and she was interrogated in 1941 and again in April 1942. Although her employer, Edwin Ogier, tried to intercede on her behalf he was unable to protect her. Together with two other Jewish women, Therese Steiner and Auguste Spitz, she was deported to Laval in the north of France where she was formally arrested and removed to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in July 1942.

None of the three women survived, although details of their deaths are not known.

‘Remember Marianne?’

In 1988 Marianne was remembered in an article in ‘Reading Reading’, the magazine of the University of Reading Society and the Friends of the University.

Cropped close-up
Image of Marianne, centre of middle row, with fellow students, 1939 (published in Reading Reading, Autumn 1968, p. 11 – University of Reading Special Collections)

The tribute had the title ‘Remember Marianne?’ and it recalled that she had lived in St Andrew’s Hall and been given the nickname ‘Grundie’. Her contemporaries described her as being:

‘… rather reserved – a strong character, who seemed to enjoy student life in her own quiet way, going to meetings of societies which interested her and generally just being one of the crowd.’


Carr, G. Marianne Ilse Hanna Grunfeld. The Frank Falla Archive, Guernsey. Retrieved 19 January 2024:

University of Reading. Calendar, 1937-38.

University of Reading. Proceedings of the University, 1937-38.

Wither, R. (1988). Remember Marianne? Reading Reading, Autumn 1988, p.11.

A Book Fair, a Children’s Author and a Map of the Campus

On the 7th July 1977, the University of Reading hosted the William Smith’s Children’s Book Fair. The venue was the Great Hall on the London Road Campus.

Details of this can be found in the archive of Christine Pullein-Thompson in the University’s Special Collections. Christine, together with her twin sister Diane and older sister Josephine was a children’s author, renowned for her popular pony stories. The Pullein-Thompson sisters were local to the area, having grown up in the village of Peppard in Oxfordshire where they lived in a house with its own stables. They were riding horses and writing stories about them from an early age.

Christine lived from 1925 to 2005 and was the most prolific of the three sisters, producing over 100 books with translations into 12 languages.

The Book Fair

On 12th May 1977 Granada Publishing Ltd., Christine’s publisher, wrote to her address in Middle Assendon, Henley. They had arranged for her to attend the Children’s Book Fair in Reading in July, and enclosed maps of the location of the University and the position of the Great Hall at London Road.

She was to conduct a ‘guess the weight of the pony articles’ competition, with Granada supplying 50 of her books as prizes. There would also be ‘further stock available for direct sale.’

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University of Reading Special Collections

The Map of the Campus

The plan of the London Road Campus in 1977 was new to me. I find it interesting because it is a previously missing link between the pre-Whiteknights maps of the 1930s and ’40s and my own memories of the site from when I joined the School of Education in 1987.

unedited original
Plan of the London Road Campus adapted for the Children’s Book Fair of July 1977 (University of Reading Special Collections)

This is also the first map I have seen that includes numbered buildings. And most of them bear the same numbers as today (L16, L19, L22, L33, etc.). This original numerical system counted in a roughly clockwise direction beginning with the Works Department in the top right hand corner and ending with Acacias (L43, the Senior/Staff Common Room), and L44, commonly known as ‘The Dolls’ House’.

If this numbering system seems less obvious now it is because many buildings no longer exist or are no longer occupied by the University – the Buttery (Building 34 between the Great Hall and L33) burnt down in 1982 and along London Road, the Old Red Building and Portland place have become private accommodation.

The ‘New’ Buttery that burnt down in 1982 (University of Reading Special Collections)

Some other adjustments had to be made too. For example, Fine Art Buildings 4.1, 6 and 7 are now, in 2024, occupied by Art Education and bear the single designation, L4.

Detail of the eastern side of the site. Today, Art Education is housed in Buildings 4, 4.1 & 7 (now L4)

In earlier maps of the 1930s and 40s, Buildings 4 and 7 had been separated by a garden and labelled Fine Art and Zoology respectively; building 4.1 that linked them had yet to be constructed. Buildings 3, 5 and 8 on the map have all disappeared.

L4 today
Art Education (L4), situated at the northern end of the East Cloister, January 2024

Other notable absences from today’s campus that must be especially salient for members of the Institute of Education are the two Food Science buildings between L16 and L19, and the Fine Art block between L16 and L22. The full extent of demolitions can be seen below.

marked in blue
The buildings marked in blue have since been demolished

Consequences of the move to Whiteknights

The purchase of Whiteknights Park by the University had been completed in 1947. Building on the site began in 1954 and in 1957 Queen Elizabeth II performed the official opening of the Faculty of Letters, now the Edith Morley Building.

The effect of the gradual migration of departments from London Road to the new campus can be visualised in the version below of the 1977 map. The site was now dominated by five departments:  The School of Education, Fine Art, Food Science, Microbiology and Soil Science.

coloured version
A version of the 1977 plan showing occupation by a small number of departments following completion of buildings at Whiteknights

The School of Education had been founded in 1969 through the amalgamation of the regional Institute of Education, established in 1948, and the University’s Department of Education. It is possible that at least one of the buildings labelled Fine Art was, in fact, devoted to Art Education. This was certainly the case in 1987 when part of the ground floor of L16 was occupied by Fraser Smith and his fellow Art Education colleagues James Hall and Richard Hickman.


Gillet, C. R. E. (1949). Reading Institute of Education. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 45-47). University of Reading.

Holt, J. C. (1977). The University of Reading: the first fifty years. Reading: University of Reading Press.

University of Reading Special Collections. Christine Pullein-Thompson Collection, Correspondence with Publishers, Granada: MS 5078/107.