Vera Slyomovics describes her liberation experience.
Vera Slyomovics (née Hollander) was born in 1926, in Bustino, the former Czechoslovakia. An only child, she and her parents had a comfortable life. Her parents operated a textile business and her family had lived in the region for generations. Vera recalls that relations between the Jewish and non-Jewish residents were friendly and respectful.
In September 1938, when the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia was annexed by Germany, Vera remembers that the mood of the country changed. Relations with ethnic Germans deteriorated, and a sense of uncertainty for the future affected daily life. With the advent of the Second World War, the region Vera lived in was taken over by the Hungarian army, and Jewish life continued to deteriorate.
In 1943, Vera was hidden for a period of time in the tower of a church, but the isolation became unbearable. She left her hiding place and rejoined her parents. In 1944, Vera and her parents were deported to a ghetto where living conditions were deplorable. Within a few days, the family was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Unknown to Vera, her father perished in the Mauthausen concentration camp. Most of her extended family members perished in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
In January 1945 after being in Auschwitz-Birkenau for approximately one year, Vera and her mother were among those surviving inmates who were forced on a Death March. As the death march moved into Germany, Vera, her mother, and three other women managed to escape. They made their way to an abandoned labour camp, and a few days later were liberated by the American military. Although by this point, Vera’s mother was very ill, she received medical care and mother and daughter survived. Now liberated, Vera was certain that her father had survived. The discovery that her father perished in Mauthausen, deeply affected Vera.
In May 1945, Vera and her mother returned to Prague. Eventually, Vera resumed her studies while her mother recuperated in a sanitorium. Two years later Vera married Joseph Slyomovics, who served in the British military. After they married, the couple moved to Austria to escape the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia. From there, Vera and her husband immigrated to Montreal. Their son Peter was born in 1948 in Austria, and their daughter Susanne was born in 1950 in Canada. In 1968, Vera and her family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Vera Slyomovics’s full testimony is part of the Canadian Collection of Holocaust survivor testimonies. It is preserved in the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive and accessible through the Ekstein Library.
We survived it, we survived it, we survived the war. We made it, but how many made it?
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