Queen’s Hatmaker, Holocaust Survivor Who Helped Jewish Women Escape Nazi-Occupied Austria, Dies in London Road Crash
The victim of a road accident in London last week designed hats for the Queen of England and also helped save Jewish women from Nazi-occupied Austria during the Holocaust, the Daily Mail reported on Friday.
Herta Groves, 96, was hit by a truck outside Wigmore Hall in central London after attending a concert last Wednesday. She was seriously injured and emergency services pronounced her dead at the scene of the collision an hour later. The driver stayed at the scene and was not arrested by police.
As a teenager in Vienna, Austria, Groves turned her middle-class family’s large home into a school for Jewish women so they could learn, and teach others, how to obtain work visas abroad as the Nazis took control of Europe. She was forced to leave her parents and sister and flee to the UK at the age of 19, the UK’s Standard reported. Her father later died from pneumonia after being forced at gunpoint to shovel snow by Nazi officials, while her mother and sister died in a Latvian concentration camp in 1942.
Upon arrival in the UK, Groves started her own business, called the London Hat Company, and designed couture hats that were soon known across the continent, the Daily Mail said. Her designs were exported throughout Europe and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth became one of her clients.
Groves, who was married twice in her lifetime, recorded her testimony as a Holocaust survivor in 1997 in an interview for the Shoah Foundation, a California-based research center founded by director Steven Spielberg to record testimonies of Holocaust survivors.
“I didn’t speak about the Holocaust to anyone, when I gave speeches it was mostly about hats,” she recounted. “The British gave us a chance to re-start our lives. We could rebuild everything here.”
She added, “The message is the Holocaust can’t be forgotten — it needs to be remembered for future generations.”
Her neighbor in St John’s Wood, a district in north-west London, told the Standard that Groves was “a lovely lady, fascinating to talk to. She was a very inspirational person and she will be missed.”