Vera Schiff discusses life in Prague in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust and the realization that she was the sole survivor of her family.
Vera Schiff (neé Katz) was born on May 17, 1926 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Vera grew up in the Letná district of Prague with her parents and elder sister Eva. Her father, Sigfried, held a high position in the Ministry of Finance and her mother, Elsa, was a homemaker.
Following the German occupation in 1939, numerous anti-Jewish measures were introduced that dramatically affected daily life. Vera and her sister were no longer allowed to attend school, her father was dismissed from his job, and their monetary assets were frozen.
In May 1942, under Nazi occupation, Vera and her family were deported to the concentration camp, Theresienstadt, where her parents and sister perished. Vera was assigned to work in the camp’s hospital, Vrchlabi where she remained until liberation in May 1945. Despite several close encounters Vera had managed to avoid deportation to the killing centers. Yet upon liberation she discovered that all her relatives were killed and that she was the sole survivor of her entire family.
After the war Vera and her husband, Arthur Schiff – also a survivor of the Holocaust – lived in Prague. In 1949, they made aliyah and lived in Israel until Vera, Arthur and their two young sons immigrated to Canada in 1961. They settled in Toronto and Vera worked as a medical technologist and specialized in hematology.
Following her retirement, published her my memoirs titled, Theresienstadt- the town the Nazis gave to the Jews (1996). This was followed up in 2004 with Hitler’s Inferno- Eight Personal Histories from the Holocaust and in 2005 she translated the small diary my mother kept in Theresienstadt under the title A Theresienstadt Diary: Letters to Veruska. Her other literary works include The Theresienstadt Deception (2012), Bound for Theresienstadt (2017) and Lost to the Shoah (2020).
Vera was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of New Brunswick- Saint John, NB in 2012, as well as a second Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops BC in 2020. These were awarded in recognition of her commitment to Holocaust education and contributions to Holocaust literature.
On every corner I remembered a person; a relative or a friend. And everybody was gone.
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