IN the grim surroundings of a Nazi concentration camp, Marianne Grant painted Disney characters on the walls of the children’s block.

She was ordered to draw fairytale books for the children of an SS guard, and create an oil painting for his wife.

And when notorious doctor Josef Mengele, who carried out hideous experiments on inmates, called her to his hut, she was instructed to draw several of her fellow prisoners, including twin girls with certain skin markings on their bodies.

“He paced up and down in his high leather boots without a word,” wrote Marianne, years later. “I was shaking. If I had made a blob or mistake, I would have been finished...I knew I was painting for my life.”

Painting for My Life: The Holocaust Works of Marianne Grant is the title of a powerful and moving new book published by Glasgow Museums.

Glasgow Times: Inside the Bodenbacher Barrack. Pic: (c) the family of Marianne Grant

It is the first full catalogue of her works, and, as Holocaust Memorial Day (January 27) approaches, a timely reminder of her courage and hope in the face of unimaginable adversity.

The book has been written and compiled by Dr Joanna Meacock, Curator of British Art for Glasgow Museums; art historian Peter Tuka; Holocaust education specialist Dr Paula Cowan; Deborah Haase, Honorary Curator and Project Director at the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre in Glasgow; and Geraldine Shenkin, Marianne’s daughter, who carries on her mother’s work in Holocaust education.

“Marianne Grant’s Holocaust artworks, words and memorabilia are a unique record of the Holocaust,” says Deborah Haase. “Her artworks were made between 1938 and 1945, when Marianne endured the Nazi occupation of her country, forced labour, the concentration camps…until she was ultimately liberated from Begen-Belsen. How did she survive in the midst of such terrors? She painted when she could, creating extraordinary artworks that give us, first hand, her intimate insights into the Holocaust.”

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Marianne was a Czech Jewish artist born in 1921. She and her mother survived the war, and went to Sweden on a Red Cross ship. In 1951 Marianne married Jack Grant, (born Jaakov Horst Grodszinksy), a German Jewish refugee living in Glasgow. The couple lived in Battlefield, with their three children. Marianne sadly died in 2007.

Glasgow Times: Marianne and Jack on their wedding day 1951. (c) the family of Marianne Grant

“Once she started to speak about her experiences, Marianne was determined her story was recorded accurately,” adds Deborah. “She went on to speak at Holocaust Memorial Day events and to schoolchildren.”

Dr Joanna Meacock says Marianne’s skill lay in “seeing beauty in small things, despite desperate circumstances”, particularly when painting in the children’s block.

She adds: “Marianne’s art was about creating as happy and supportive an environment for the children as possible…this was hard when the children’s barrack was directly opposite the infirmary, with a clear view of not only the railway platform with its daily arrival of transports and people lining up for selection, but also of the crematoria chimneys ...Yet Marianne’s artworks are full of colour and hope.”

Glasgow Times: Painting for My Life cover.

Painting for My Life: The Holocaust artworks of Marianne Grant is available from Kelvingrove, Glasgow Museums online shop and Waterstones.