Obituary: Rabbi Hugo Gryn

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The Independent Online
Hugo Gryn was a survivor, writes Martin Gilbert. He survived Auschwitz, where his younger brother was murdered, and he survived the final horrendous death marches of the Second World War, at the end of which his father perished at his side. When the war came to an end he was himself very near to death. But he went on to devote half a century to life: to the celebration of life in all its forms.

Coming to Britain at the end of 1945 with a group of young fellow-survivors, he was from the first days in Britain a leader and a guide. He was always active in seeking the reconciliation of those who were tormented by religious, social or racial divisions (as a young rabbi in the American south, he was an early activist in the American Civil Rights movement, and a friend of Martin Luther King). He was always at the side, and on the side, of those hundreds - and indeed thousands - of people who sought his advice on personal problems.

He was non-judgmental, encouraging each individual to find his or her path. He always made the time (despite his many pastoral duties as a rabbi) to talk through the knottiest problem, whether of faith or morality; indeed, he had a depth of understanding that also made him alert and receptive to needs and demands that might seem trivial to others, but which he understood to be essential to his interlocutor.

To those who turned to him, he became a focus for hope. He combined wisdom born of wide experience (including rabbinical and social work in India) with humour. Above all, he drew from his personal experience and religious knowledge a humane approach to life that set him above the shibboleths of any one creed or philosophy. Those who were wont to hear him on the radio, to watch him on television, to listen to his sermons, to join the animated Friday night gatherings in his family circle, or to share his jokes, will treasure the memory.