A North Yorkshire woman hopes a giant blanket based on the last telegram sent by her grandmother before she died in a Nazi gas chamber will help to ensure people never forget the Holocaust.

Michelle Green, 70, of Harrogate, lost her Viennese Jewish grandparents, Gisela and Josef Schwarz and her uncle Kurt in the Holocaust.

Artist Laura Fisher has now woven a giant blanket as part of a display at Holocaust Centre North in Huddersfield as part of a free exhibition, Memorial Gestures, which will be there until July 27.

York Press: Last image of the Schwarzs together in 1938Last image of the Schwarzs together in 1938 (Image: Supplied)

The cotton blanket is a rendering of the telegram that Gisela, 60, had sent from Brussels where she was hiding from the Nazis with her son Kurt, 16, to Michelle's aunt, Aranka, and mum, Lili.

Aranka had escaped Nazi-controlled Europe and was living with Lili, in Victoria Avenue, in Harrogate.

York Press: Lili and 13 year old Kurt on the day of his Bar MitzvahLili and 13 year old Kurt on the day of his Bar Mitzvah (Image: Supplied)

Dated November 1943, it was the final communication Lili and Aranka received before their family was betrayed by a Nazi informer and sent to Camp Malines where Jews and Romani people were detained.

Translated from German, it reads:

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,


York Press: Wedding photo of Gisela and Josef Schwarz in Vienna, 1910Wedding photo of Gisela and Josef Schwarz in Vienna, 1910 (Image: Supplied)

Michelle, who before retirement was head of learning support at Ashville College in Harrogate, said: "Holding the blanket felt like hugging the grandma I never met. I really didn't expect to feel such strong emotions.

"Growing up in Harrogate in what was a very small Jewish community, I experienced antisemitism and felt very different to other people. I always felt I had to fight my corner.

York Press: Kurt, Aranka (middle) and LiliKurt, Aranka (middle) and Lili (Image: Supplied)

"I didn't have grandparents or cousins because they had been taken away from me. I felt the weight of history on my shoulders.

"When I worked as a teacher, I knew that simply speaking to my students wasn't enough. To really embed knowledge and make people feel, you have to get all the senses involved.

"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."

York Press: Lili with Michelle aged 4.5 monthsLili with Michelle aged 4.5 months (Image: Supplied)

According to records, Gisela and Kurt were detained at Camp Malines until April 14, 1944, when they were then herded onto a train to Auschwitz.

Josef also died at Auschwitz, having first survived three separate concentration camps.

Lili, a former fashion model, managed to escape to the UK in 1939, aged 21, after working for the Viennese Resistance, helping to release 10 Jewish men from prison camps.

York Press: Michelle Levey and her mum Lili SchwarzMichelle Levey and her mum Lili Schwarz (Image: Supplied)

She joined Aranka, a former fashion designer, in London, before they relocated to Harrogate.

The sisters waited tables at Betty’s tea rooms for several years before starting their own business in 1948, a kosher hotel called Manor Hotel, which they ran with Lili’s husband Henry Pollock until 1971.

The Schwarzs originally fled Vienna to Cologne after Kristallnacht in 1938, when Nazi sympathisers burned down synagogues and smashed windows of Jewish owned shops and businesses.

The family then paid to be taken to Belgium, but the country was occupied by the Nazis.