Obituary: Karla Kiniger, 92

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Karla Kiniger, a former teacher at Edinburgh’s Rudolf Steiner School, has died, aged 92.

Karolina Maria Anastasia Kiniger was born on November 4, 1921, in Hinterstoder, Austria. The eldest of four sisters, she grew up in the idyllic surroundings of some of Austria’s most beautiful countryside, but her studies at Vienna University were interrupted following Austria’s annexation by Germany and she endured forced labour under the Nazis, on farms in the Sudetenland and Galicia.

In 1946, she attended a lecture on anthroposophy, the spiritual science founded on the work of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, and began studying it. At a conference in Switzerland in 1953 she met one of the Edinburgh Steiner School’s founding teachers, Inez Arnold, and was interviewed for a teaching post.

Miss Kiniger began teaching in Edinburgh in 1954 and later became a class teacher for pupils aged six to 14.

In the early 1970s she took her class of approximately 36 on a two-month exchange visit to a Steiner school in Vienna. A formidable presence, she brooked no nonsense on the three-day train journey.

The trip was an extraordinary experience for the youngsters and much of their daily lesson concentrated on the Second World War. Their teacher was able to give them a personal insight not only into the history of the conflict but, having witnessed Hitler in real life, could describe his deep blue eyes and the inexplicable charismatic quality that allowed him to influence so many people in pursuit of his abhorrent aims.

Also during the 1970s she was asked to visit Russia, to meet others interested in anthroposophy. The movement was still underground at that time and much care was taken in preparation for her journey, one that she repeated regularly for another 30 years.

She took a sabbatical in 1974-75, travelling to New Zealand where she also taught. She returned to Scotland, via Russia on the Trans- Siberian Express, and set up the Steiner teacher training course in Edinburgh in 1976 with colleague Lawrence Edwards.

A stocky powerhouse of a woman, known for both her spiritual insight and clear opinions, her contribution to the school was enormous, practically and spiritually.

She continued to teach until about ten years ago and remained active in the Anthroposophical Society, locally and internationally. She also enjoyed a large network of friends and acquaintances and kept her sharp mind fully occupied with interests including reading, music, opera and scientific advances.

On her 90th birthday she was invited to address the entire Steiner School during assembly and did so without a microphone, her words leaving a deep impression on every pupil. She is survived by one sister, her nephew and nieces.