Genealogist and Holocaust scholar Dr. Elisabeth “Betty” Maxwell, wife of former
British MP and publisher Robert Maxwell, died in France on Thursday at the age
Although her famous husband was Jewish and she was Christian,
Maxwell devoted her life to Holocaust education and Jewish- Christian
In 1988, she founded Remembering for the Future Conferences,
which brought together academics, survivors and the public to discuss issues
posed by and following the Holocaust. She wrote a threevolume set together with
John K. Roth about the Holocaust, titled Remembering for the Future, and an
autobiography, A Mind of Her Own.
Maxwell’s daughter, Isabel, remarked
that it was “her work as a genealogist, first of her own family and then of my
father’s, that led her to uncover the full scale of his loss – some 300 members
of his extended family perishing in the Holocaust.”
According to Isabel,
her mother’s “devoting the rest of her life to work on the Holocaust and to
Judeo-Christian dialogue arose out of her profound need as a Christian to
comprehend how such an event as the Holocaust could have happened in Christian
Europe in the middle of the 20th century, and then to ensure through
dissemination of the facts and teaching, that it could never happen
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, a friend of the family, called
Maxwell an “extraordinary lady who gave birth to nine children and devoted her
whole life to humanitarian aid with a particular interest [in] the commemoration
of the Holocaust, as a landmark in the history of not just the Jewish people,
but all humanity.”
According to Olmert, Maxwell was “one of the righteous
gentiles who loved Israel and was proud to be involved in Israel and Jewish
affairs all her life.”
Olmert told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that he
was “fortunate enough to have visited her only a week ago and to express to her
how appreciated she was by many Israeli and Jewish people across the
Born Elisabeth Meynard on March 11, 1921, in La Grive, France,
Maxwell studied law in the Sorbonne in 1939-1941, until her studies were
interrupted by World War II. She married Robert in 1945, and she got a
bachelor’s degree in modern languages from Oxford University, where she later
became a doctor of philosophy.
Maxwell held several positions in the
British Labor Party’s North Buckinghamshire constituency, where her husband was
the elected MP from 1964 to 1970.
Her husband, born in pre- World War II
Czechoslovakia, fought in World War II in the Czechoslovakian Army and the
British Pioneer Corps.
After the war, he worked in publishing. He was an
MP for six years in the 1960s and then returned to the publishing business,
buying the British Printing Corporation, Mirror Group Newspapers and Macmillan,
He died in 1991 after falling overboard from his yacht, and his
publishing empire collapsed soon after.
An outspoken and generous
supporter of Israel, he was buried on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives and eulogized
by thenprime minister Yitzhak Shamir.
Elisabeth Maxwell is survived by
seven children (two others died) and 13 grandchildren. She requested to be
buried in a private funeral ceremony in France.
Memorial services are to
be held for her in London and New York.