Obituary: Sonja Grossner, 1942-2020

Sheila Mosley and members of Leicester rs21 remember Sonja Grossner (1942-2020).

Sonja Grossner. Photo by Sheila Mosley

Leicester rs21:

Members of Leicester rs21 would like to express their sadness at the loss of our comrade Sonja Grossner. Sonja was a founding member of rs21 and would regularly make the 30-mile round trip to attend meetings and demonstrations in Leicester until the deterioration in her health prevented it. Her anti-fascism and commitment to peace were reinforced by her parents’ experiences in the workers’ movement in Germany. She was keen to keep memories of her mother alive and her house and garden were full of the sculptures and paintings that she had managed to recover. Sonja followed her mother in both politics and art: as an accomplished classical composer she often was able to marry the two, such as in a suite she wrote about homeless people. She will be sadly missed.

Sheila Mosley:

The following obituary was first published on the Facebook page of People’s Art Collective, Leicester and is reproduced here with the agreement of Sheila Mosley.

Sonja was the daughter of Margarete and Peter Klopfleisch who came originally from Germany, seeking sanctuary in Prague during WW2, and fleeing again in 1939 from Prague to UK as Hitler sought out the Communists. Sonja was born in UK in 1942, but in 1960 she returned to Dresden, then in East Germany, with her mother for a holiday. However, they were not allowed to leave and she stayed there until coming back to the UK in 1984. You can find more information about Sonja’s life online.

Sonja was a talented artist, composing music for orchestras and playing herself, writing poetry and creating artworks, and was well-known at Leicester’s New Walk Museum and in local poetry circles. She was a political activist, and she frequently spoke with passion for the right of women to have access to equal opportunities in the world of composing, music and art, where funding and support so often favours men.

Sonja was proud of her only daughter, Lorna who is also a skilled artist like the women in her family who have gone before her, and together they have made a great contribution to People’s Arts Collective activities since we began in 2014. The People’s Art Collective (PAC) arose out of the idea within members of Leicester’s Branch of Left Unity, of which Sonja was a founder member, that we should change the world through art, bringing ideas to life and challenging inequality with the aim of making the world a better place for all.

Sonja often spoke of her mother’s use of political thought in her artwork, which depicted many aspects of humanity including great struggle, and she wrote her mother’s life-story in the wonderful book The Troubles to Greet Beauty. A sample of Margarete Klopfleisch’s work is displayed in Leicester’s New Walk Museum amongst the German Expressionists.

Sonja and Lorna inspired PAC’s contribution to the Everybody’s Reading Festival on 8 October 2016 which took place in New Walk Museum with the theme of ‘Seeking Sanctuary – Walls’. People’s Arts Collective commissioned a play based on a piece of Margarete Klopfleisch’s story using theatre, poems, art, music and visual display. The play was written by Alison Dunne, actress: Hayley Thornton, music: Sonja Grossner. You can see this play here:


So we say farewell to an inspirational woman, and our thoughts are particularly with her daughter Lorna, her only surviving relative in UK, at this time.

Sonja wrote for rs21 about the life and work of her mother Margarete Klopfleisch: read here.



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