On January 27 1945, The Red Army reached and liberated Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi death camps. Although the war would claim many more lives before the collapse of the Third Reich in May 1945, the date has been chosen by the United Nations to remember all of the victims of Nazi regime and its collaborators. Six million Jews, 200,000 Romani, 250,000 disabled persons who were considered ‘life unworthy of life,’ and 9,000 members of the LGBTQ community perished in the perverted Nazi pursuit of racial purity
The Holocaust was not the first case of genocide in history, let alone in the 20th century. Nor, tragically, was it even the last.
But despite humanity’s seeming inability to learn the lessons of history, we are fortunate that so many survivors of the Holocaust have continued to dedicate themselves to public education. They tell their stories with the hope that the dream of “never again” can be realized for all of us.
We were honoured to welcome Vera Schiff and Andreas Mayer to this very special webinar and welcome you to hear their stories and their reflections.
Andreas Mayer is the eighth Holocaust memorial service intern sent by the Austrian Service Abroad. He is placed with the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre from September 2017 through June 2018. Andreas was born and raised in Vienna. He went to a technical high school specializing in biomedical engineering and after graduating went on to TU Wien to study electrical engineering. He put his studies on hold for a year to complete his service at the Neuberger. Shortly before he had to decide to do either a military or civil service, he heard about the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service (“Gedenkdienst”) as a part of Austrian Service Abroad and ultimately chose this third option. Additionally to being educated by AHMS, Andreas prepared for his placement by volunteering for a Muslim-Jewish interfaith NGO as well as by visiting several memorial sites in Vienna, Berlin and Paris and former concentration camps in Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen and Melk. Andreas is looking forward to sharing his perspective with students and young adults during his stay in Canada.
The Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service (Gedenkdienst) is an independent alternative to Austria's compulsory national military service. Its participants serve at major Holocaust institutions. The first participant started in 1992 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. Since then, over 400 Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service interns have been working with major Holocaust memorial institutions in 23 countries worldwide. The intent of the AHMS is to recognize Austria's part of the collective responsibility for the Holocaust.
I was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. My family, Katz-Taussig, was a loving, close-knit clan of people. In May 1942, under Nazi occupation, we were deported to the concentration camp, “Theresienstadt,” where my parents, sister and grandmother perished. In spite of unimaginable odds I managed to elude the ongoing deportation to death camps in the East. In Theresienstadt, I was assigned to work in the camp’s hospital, “Vrchlabi.” Following the war’s end I found out that all my relatives were killed in different concentration camps. I am the sole survivor of our entire family.
After the war my husband, Arthur Schiff - also a survivor of the Holocaust - and I lived in Prague. Then, in 1949, we made aliyah and lived in Israel until 1961. Then, we moved to Canada. Here, I worked in my profession of medical technologist and specialized in Hematology.
We have two sons, David and Michael, both practicing physicians. We are blessed with six grandchildren. Following my retirement, I decided to commit to paper my memories in a book published in 1996, Theresienstadt- the town the Nazis gave to the Jews. This was followed up in 2004 with “Hitler’s Inferno- Eight Personal Histories from the Holocaust” and in 2005 I translated the small diary my mother kept in Theresienstadt under the title “A Theresienstadt Diary: Letters to Veruska”
In addition, I speak to schools and interested groups about our tragic past.. I am also a freelance interpreter at the office of the Attorney General, certified in the Czech, German and Hebrew languages.