Holocaust scholar Elisabeth Maxwell dies at 92

Although her famous husband was Jewish and she was Christian, Maxwell devoted her life to Holocaust education and Jewish-Christian relations.

Elisabeth Maxwell 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Elisabeth Maxwell 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 of 92.
Although her famous husband was Jewish and she was Christian, Maxwell devoted her life to Holocaust education and Jewish- Christian relations.
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 again.”
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 world.”
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, Inc.
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.