John Grenville was born Hans Juergen Guhrauer in 1928 in Berlin. His father was Landgerichtsdirektor in Berlin.
He came on the Kindertransport in March 1939 and was sent to a Boarding School called Mistley Place Prep School, sponsored by an anonymous lady. He had a place in a public secondary school but the refugee committee decided that he should do an apprenticeship with a tailor in Leeds. John’s father, who had managed to get to the UK on a transit visa to the US and was working in a factory in Croydon, objected to this decision. John was thus sent to a technical school in Cambridge. While at that school he also managed to get his O-levels through a correspondence course (again the Refugee Committee objected to this). In 1942/43 he found a job as a laboratory assistant and started studying chemistry and physics. After a health problem at the lab, he became a gardener at Peterhouse College, while taking the intermediate London University Exam in History, Latin, and Economics, and German. He then worked as a teacher and studied at Birkbeck College and did his PhD in history at the LSE. After positions at Nottingham University and Yale, and Leeds, he became Professor of History at the University of Birmingham. He has written many books on European and American History and is Joint Editor of the Leo Baeck Institute Year Book.