Marianne Golz was an Austrian actress and opera singer whose astonishing acts of heroism saved the lives of many Jewish refugees – including her own husband.
Born Maria Agnes Belokosztolszky to a Catholic family in Vienna in 1895, she was a talented performer who trained as a singer and ballet dancer. Adopting the stage name Marianne Tolska, Marianne toured Europe with an operetta troupe during the early 1920’s. She was married and divorced twice.
Marianne moved to Berlin In 1924, where she met Jewish journalist Hans Goldlust. They married in 1929, and Marianne considered Hans the love of her life. They adopted the name Golz because of the growing stigma against Jewish-sounding names. Together they moved to Prague in 1934, and Marianne started a new career as a theater critic.
Five years after moving to Prague the Germans invaded and Hans, a culturally prominent Jew, was promptly arrested. Marianne worked her rolodex, calling in favors and pleading with friends and associates to help free her husband. Marianne’s efforts found success; she saved not only Hans but his mother and sister as well, helping the family flee to safety in England.
Astonishingly, Marianne did not go with her husband and in-laws to England but chose to remain in Prague to help other endangered Jews. She formed a resistance group, recruiting members from across Czechoslovakia and Austria. Marianne hid refugees in her own home, and found safe havens among other resistance members. Marianne was in contact with the Czech government-in-exile in England, letting them know what was going on in Prague.
On November 19, 1942, Marianne was arrested by the Gestapo along with several of her colleagues in the resistance. She instantly confessed to illegally helping Jews, and insisted that the others arrested were innocent of the charges, leading to their release. Marianne was incarcerated in the infamous Pankrac Prison while her family desperately tried to secure her release. Marianne’s family finally found a lawyer willing to take the case and risk incurring the wrath of the German occupiers. Despite her best efforts however, lawyer Marie Schramek lost the case and appeal and Marianne was sentenced to death for her actions.
Marianne Golz was dragged from her prison cell and taken to the guillotine, where she was beheaded on October 8, 1943.
After her death, the letters Marianne sent from prison to her friends and family were published as a book. In the decades following, the story of her life was the subject of radio shows, magazine articles, and a play. In 1988 Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem honored Marianne Golz as Righteous Among the Nations, and an olive tree was planted in her memory.
For saving countless lives and paying the ultimate price for her bravery, we honor Marianne Golz as this week’s Thursday Hero.
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