LADY Margaret Kagan has died aged 86 at her home in Bradley.
Lady Kagan passed away peacefully at her Redwood Drive home in the early hours of Thursday surrounded by family, following a battle with lung cancer.
In the 1960s and 70s, she and her husband, millionaire textile tycoon and socialist Lord Joseph Kagan, became personal friends with Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
They were part of his much talked about inner circle and appeared regularly in national newspapers and gossip columns.
Harold Wilson was often photographed in his famous Gannex raincoat, made at Lord Kagan’s Elland factory, which was demolished last month.
Lady Kagan’s rollercoaster life story reads like the script for an adventure film. But whatever life threw at her, Lady Kagan never lost her indomitable spirit or her passion for life.
She continued to have a personal fitness trainer into her 80s and her slight figure could be seen walking the suburban streets around her Bradley home on pleasant evenings as she took her exercise.
A highly-intelligent woman with a keen sense of humour, she spoke several languages and helped her husband to run the Kagan textile empire.
She has been described by those that knew her as an inspirational woman of great humility.
She spoke out about the dangers of prejudice and of the bravery of the people who saved the lives of persecuted people during the Holocaust.
She has left a number of written and video interviews about her early life under Nazi occupation.
Lady Margaret Kagan was born Margarita Shtromaite to Jewish parents on July 12, 1924, in Riga, Latvia. She grew up in Kovno (now Kaunus), Lithuania.
When the Nazis invaded Lithuania in 1941, many Jews fled. Her family stayed behind as her younger brother Alik was away at a children’s camp and they wouldn’t leave him behind.
Two years later she met Joseph Kagan and they married after a whirlwind romance. To avoid capture, the two of them and Joseph’s mother hid in the attic of a local factory in the Kaunus ghetto for nine months, aided by a Lithuanian who risked his life to help them.
After surviving the war, they made their way overland to England where Joseph’s family were already involved with textiles.
They founded the Gannex empire with £8 and a Nissen hut. The family, who lived in Fixby for many years, bought Barkisland Hall in 1967 for corporate entertaining.
Lord Kagan, who died in 1995, was stripped of his knighthood after admitting theft and false accounting, although he retained his peerage. However, there was considerable public sympathy for the man and his wife who had survived the Nazis and built a textile empire in Yorkshire through enterprise and hard work.
Lady Kagan leaves two sons, Daniel, a state representative for Colorado, USA, and Michael and a daughter Jenny.
A funeral service takes place at Huddersfield Town Hall at 1pm on Friday, April 8, followed by burial at Rose Hill, Birkby.
A full obituary will appear in Tuesday’s Examiner.