Gertrude Granirer Flor, 97, of Abington, a pianist, music teacher, and Holocaust survivor, died Thursday, Aug. 1, of respiratory failure at her home.
Mrs. Flor was born in 1921 in Sadagura, Romania, which is now part of Ukraine. Her father taught her languages from the time she was a toddler, and her talent for playing the piano became evident at age 4. By age 6, she was giving recitals at local venues.
Gertrude Granirer’s life in Eastern Europe was shattered in June 1940 when the Soviets overran her town. Her father was taken away and never seen again. She recorded the story of her survival in a 1996 interview on file with the Oral History Project at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
“After my father was arrested, my mother knew what was to come. She told me, ‘Run, run for your life. Go wherever you can hide!’ ” she said in the interview.
Mrs. Flor ran for hours until she came to the apartment of friends of her parents. When she asked for shelter, she was turned away.
“Forgive us, we cannot let you in,” she said she was told. “They will come, find you; you have no permit to be here, and we will all be arrested.”
Next, she ran to the conservatory in nearby Czernowitz, where she had taken music lessons. Exhausted, she fell asleep on the floor of an empty room.
The next day, a young violinist who managed the building found her crying. She begged him to give her a job and told him the Soviets were after her and her family.
The man, Samuel Flor, said they should get married. He led her to the local registrar’s office, married her, and changed her name, thereby saving her life, she said in the interview.
Thus began a 56-year marriage and musical partnership. After the Soviets retreated in 1941, the Germans occupied Czernowitz. The Flors faced deportation, hardships in labor camps, and physical abuse.
At one point, the Germans needed a dentist to perform extractions on hospitalized German soldiers. Flor volunteered, and said he required an assistant — his wife. Together, they operated drills and performed procedures without letting on that they had no formal skills.
Once the Czechoslovakian army gained control, life improved. The Flors were accepted as army musicians. He played the violin, she played the accordion and sang for the troops.
Mrs. Flor eventually graduated from the Royal Romanian Conservatory, and the Flors would go on to perform as a violin-piano duo in Europe, North America, and South America.
The Flors immigrated to the United States in 1946. His first job was as a violinist in the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra. The couple lived in St. Paul; Aspen, Colo.; Vermont; and Philadelphia. “My mother often said that Americans were the most welcoming, humane people in the world,” said her daughter, Gloria.
While her husband performed in various orchestras, Mrs. Flor built a career accompanying singers, playing chamber music, coaching opera singers in diction, and teaching piano.
Her longtime friend Susan Jolley said Mrs. Flor was well-versed in literature, history, and languages, as well as music.
“She was a wonderful person who had an impact on so many people. Anyone she played with, she lifted up,” said Jolley, who was also her piano student.
After the Flors came to Philadelphia in 1965, she taught piano at the Settlement Music School, coached singers in French and Italian diction at Temple University, and accompanied many singers and instrumentalists on the piano.
Her husband was her most frequent musical partner. Their final performance was in 1995, when they played Kol Nidre at Temple Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia.
He died in 1996. Afterward, she continued to perform in the Philadelphia area. She lived in Abington, played the accordion for fun, and used her facility with languages to translate a Russian book into English.
Mrs. Flor is survived by her daughter, Gloria, to whom she was devoted. Gloria plays the trombone.